The childcare allowance of more than three hundred parents was incorrectly stopped by the tax authorities and had to be repaid. It is possible that there are many more parents who have been affected. What exactly is the issue about? And can State Secretary Menno Snel of Finance save the situation?
After the Bulgarian fraud in 2013, politicians knew for sure: stricter checks should be made for fraud with allowances. Special teams were therefore set up at the Tax Authorities.
In Finance, there is already talk of the tension "between services on the one hand and fraud prevention on the other". A few years later, that balance has been broken, as the stricter approach now leads to innocent victims.
That starts in 2014 at the Eindhoven childminder agency Dadim. The childcare allowance of 302 parents who brought their children between 2012 and 2014 to host parents affiliated with Dadim will be stopped.
Cases emerged "that could indicate organized abuse," Snel writes to the House of Representatives. Some of the children were not present and the administration was not in order. As a result of the fraud investigation carried out by the tax authorities, there were many questions, but not enough to start a fraud investigation.
"I have had many crying and angry mothers at my desk"
In some cases, this involves tens of thousands of euros that must be repaid. Parents are forced to take their children out of daycare, leaving studies and full-time jobs stranded. The financial consequences are disastrous for many families.
Some parents appeal against the decision of the Tax Authorities, in some cases the tax authorities get the same from the judge, but communication with the parents is bad from the start. It is requested to provide documents that show that the childcare allowance has been received correctly, but parents who respond to this get caught in an official mill.
That logically leads to frustration. "I have had many crying and angry mothers at my desk here about what happened to them," Ahmet Gökçe of Dadim told RTL News. Together with Trouw , the TV channel came up with many revelations in the allowance issue.
Gwendolyne Santos is such a parent who lost her allowance because she was suspected of fraud. After years of legal battle with the tax authorities, she was finally found right by the judge on Friday. She says to RTL News : "It was a very stressful year that I finally got rid of. But nobody can give you back that time."
See also: Fast: No compensation for parents' childcare allowance 'unimaginable'
Snel: 'Tax authorities suffer from tunnel vision'
In general Snel, with a sense of understatement, says about the course of events: "In the process since 2014, the necessary things went wrong." There is "tunnel vision" in the department. In the words of Snel "too much work is being done from the fight against fraud and too little from services." The Minister therefore wants to amend the Supplementary Benefits Act, which is applied here, over time.
In the last week before the recess, Snel acknowledges that the Tax Authorities have acted "unlawfully". "That [the Tax Authorities] has in any case not complied with its own laws and regulations."
Meanwhile, Snel is prepared to suspend all pending childcare allowance fraud cases and admits that it is inconceivable that this will end without compensation.
These judgments only come after the Council of State and the National Ombudsman had blamed the Tax Authorities. A final decision on how to deal with fraud cases will only come after a committee led by former Vice-Chairman of the Council of State Piet-Hein Donner has considered this.
State Secretary Snel must answer these questions about unlawful acts by the tax authorities todayAvatar
Fiscus also struggles with the appearance of ethnic profiling
The question is whether this is also enough to limit the political damage. In particular Pieter Omtzigt (CDA) and Renske Leijten (SP) have gotten involved in the case and do not intend to let go.
Nor does it help that, at the request of Omtzigt and Leijten, Snel refuses to share reports and investigations with the MPs so that they get a better insight into what exactly is going on and where things went wrong. Or that, according to Trouw and RTL News, the Tax Authorities already knew in 2015 that they had no case against the victims, but nevertheless continued to sue for years.
And then there is the appearance of ethnic profiling. Until now, allowances from parents with a migrant background were mostly stopped. Quickly rejects this way of working "strictly", but whether his service has indeed been guilty of this depends on the forthcoming outcome of the Dutch Data Protection Authority.
New chapter in the ongoing issue of childcare allowance. Why have not all documents been examined in a special audit for this, @PieterOmtzigt and I asked. New research shows why: it stated that there was no reason to judge fraud.Avatar
The tax authorities are struggling with a persistent cultural problem
So quickly, two studies in the making have to wait and see. There has been considerable criticism of the Tax Authorities many times, for example after the failed reorganization of a few years ago. The service operated too much on its own and there is too little contradiction at the top of the department, researchers concluded at the time.
A recent investigation into the culture of the tax authorities paints a not much better picture.
"You should not be too critical of your colleagues", is a thought. And: "Make sure the ministers don't get in trouble," are ingrained habits if we can believe the latest findings.
Regarding the latter, Snels' officials certainly do not succeed.
See also: Audit department investigation: Cultural problem at the tax authorities