Sunday 12 July 2020

Tax office to be broken up in wake of child benefit scandal

Photo: Joep Poulssen

The finance ministry had decided to break up the tax office in the wake of the child benefit scandal, which saw hundreds of people branded as cheats and wrongly forced to pay back thousands of euros.

Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra told MPs in a briefing at the weekend that the sections of the department which deal with means-tested benefits and customs issues are to be separated from tax gathering.

The department’s director general has also been let go.

‘Some of the necessary changes to improve the tax office can be realised short term but others will take years,’ Hoekstra said in his briefing. The changes, he said, are necessary to ensure that the public fully trusts the tax office, because of its crucial role.

The reorganisation is the second to hit the department within five years. In 2015 the service was overhauled in an effort to improve the use of IT and to attract younger workers.

But that project led to thousands of older workers leaving to take advantage of the generous compensation package.

Pieter Omtzigt, the CDA parliamentarian who exposed the child benefits scandal and demanded help for the duped parents, said the decision to break up the department is ‘sensible’, given the tasks it has been charged to carry out.

He also welcomed the decision to appoint two independent guardians who will investigate reports of problems within the service, act as confidants to whistleblowers and who will have full access to the files.

The scandal led to the resignation of tax minister Menno Snel. He is set to be replaced by two junior ministers because the size of the job is too large for one person.

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