Are you awake at night worrying about your pension pot, high interest or your non-existent will? Fortunately, there is the Good with Money article series to help you get rid of your financial headaches. This time: How do you avoid having to pay back a lot of money after receiving benefits?

About 5.6 million families in the Netherlands receive one or more of the four benefits: care benefit, housing benefit, child-related budget and childcare benefit. But more than one and a half million times, households received excessive amounts and had to pay back (part of) the money afterwards, according to figures from the tax authorities for the year 2018.

The excess benefits are mainly due to the way benefits are calculated: applicants have to estimate how much they will earn in the coming year. This is not always easy, for example if your income changes every month (which is often the case for temporary workers and self-employed workers).

Refunds from the tax authorities sometimes arrive in the letterbox years afterwards and this is a great surprise to many. How do you avoid such a bad message?

"As soon as something changes in your situation, you can lose the right to benefits in one fell swoop." Fleur Kroonbergs, financial planner

Check as soon as something changes

"Always check yourself whether you are actually entitled to the benefits you receive. As soon as something changes in your financial situation, you can lose the right to all benefits in one fell swoop", says Fleur Kroonbergs, recently elected financial planner at the year.

Kroonbergs advises to put at least one date per year in the agenda on which you go through the figures. "The Tax and Customs Administration also has a good online tool." Is something changing in your personal situation? Think in particular of income, how many people live in the household, how many hours they work, how high the rent is and the hourly rate for childcare. If these things change, it often affects your benefits.

Kroonbergs does not think it is very strange that citizens have to check this themselves. "People apply for three of the four allowances themselves (only the child-related budget is paid automatically, ed.). Then it is logical that you keep an eye on whether you are really entitled to that money if you start to earn more, for example?"

"You can easily report changes to the tax authorities on mijntoeslagen.nl." Spokesperson for the Tax and Customs Administration

'Prevention is actually very simple'

According to a spokesperson at the Tax Authorities, it is "actually very simple" to prevent you from receiving too many (or few) allowances: "You can easily report changes to the Tax Authorities on mijntoeslagen.nl or via the app for childcare allowance."

Apparently it is not that simple for everyone. One in five households that received a benefit in 2018, according to figures from the tax authorities, now has to repay money.

What should you do if you discover that you receive too much allowance? Report your new situation to the tax authorities as soon as possible. Sometimes over or under payouts can be offset against upcoming payments during the rest of the year. This way you avoid a surprise invoice when the year is over.

In any case, keeping a finger on the pulse is best. Ultimately, you can never know exactly in advance whether you will receive a surcharge that is too high, because the surcharges are calculated on an estimated income. Kroonbergs: "That is why it is better to keep an eye on how much allowance you are entitled to. If you are no longer entitled to allowance, you can put that money aside for when the tax authorities reclaim the money."