NL could owe Europe tens of millions after missing Customs payments
The Netherlands will likely pay tens of millions of euros to the European Commission due to problems caused by bookkeeping at the Customs office, and remittances not made to the European Union. At first, the Netherlands paid 10 million euros, and will make almost 88 million euros available, subject to change. The final amount can increase significantly due to the high interest charged on these types of payments.
The Commission found that the controls at the Customs office was "unsatisfactory" with regard to import duties, which the Netherlands largely has to pay to the EU, Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra wrote to parliament. The reliability of Customs' accounting was questioned not only by the European Commission but also by the European Court of Auditors. "The Cabinet is aware of the current shortcomings and is working on a solution," wrote Hoekstra.
This "in particular" concerns cases in which Customs have corrected declarations when investigating fraud, and additional charges which were imposed on companies. In some cases, it did not manage to collect these payments on time. According to the European Commission, the Netherlands has "not sufficiently protected the EU's financial interests" in some cases by "not acting spiritidly." The European Commission, therefore, believes that the Netherlands itself is responsible for paying the amounts.
The government admits that things went wrong in 12 case files. The Netherlands already paid 9.9 million euros, and later could possibly owe another 19 million in default interest charges. This amount is so high because it concerns the period from 2013-2014 and has thus accrued interest for many years. There is still disagreement regarding four files.
Nevertheless, the Netherlands is already making 87.6 million euros available to prevent default interest from rising further. This can already cost the country between 100 million and 150 million euros. But this amount "is only due if the principle is also due."
The situation will only become clear later. Hoekstra did say that the Cabinet is already working on improving Customs' bookkeeping capabilities. According to the caretaker minister, introducing "automated payment administration" is an essential step in this. The delayed IT project is now in its final phase and will be completed next year.
Reporting by ANP