Locals faced with medieval tax to pay for castle renovations

The owners of a medieval castle east of Utrecht are pressing ahead with plans to make dozens of locals pay towards the upkeep of the property – using a local tax dating back at least five centuries.

Several people living in the village of Kamerik have been sent final demands for the payment, known as the ‘dertiende penning’ or ‘13th penny’, local farmers union official Joop Verheul told the Telegraaf. Verheul says 30 people in the village have been given bills totalling over €1m.
One man, 67-year-old Nico Weesjes, told the AD he had been asked to ‘cough up’ €18,500 but has no plans to pay the tax. A foundation has already sprung up to fight the levy.
The letters have been sent by the trust which runs Kamerik’s castle Renwoude, owned by a Dutch noble family. The trust plans to use the money to renovate the castle, parts of which date back to the 13th century.
The tax dates back to the time when the area around Utrecht was uncultivated. People who wanted to buy land had to have permission from their feudal overseer and pay him a percentage of the purchase price.
That right still exists today in several places near Utrecht although it will be abolished in 2015 after a long campaign by protestors.
‘We need money to renovate the castle. People who have to pay know all about it,’ the trust’s treasurer A. Met told the AD last week. ‘If you buy land or a house, the notary tells you about it.’
Joke Birnage of the anti-tax group says the trust is operating outside the bounds of decency. ‘Every buyer is told the charge has not been levied for years, which is wrong-footing people,’ she said.
The organisation is also angry about the ‘arrogance’ of the castle trust. ‘They are impossible to get hold of, they refuse to talk and then send bills which no-one can meet,’ Verheul told the Telegraaf. ‘It is hard to believe this is 2012.’
Illustration: Utrecht city archive

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