The tax office has taken a very tough line on suspected benefit fraud for far longer than thought, broadcaster RTL Nieuws said on Friday, based on an an analysis of ‘thousands’ of official documents.
The recent childcare benefit scandal, which brought down the government, was said to date back from the new approach taken in 2013, after it emerged that Bulgarian gangs were committing organised housing and other benefit fraud.
But in reality, officials have operated an ‘if in doubt, say no’ strategy since the current system of housing, childcare and healthcare benefits was introduced 15 years ago, the broadcaster said.
The strategy is made clear in official directions for tax officers and in letters, and included the development of an ‘exclusion list’ for people suspected of committing fraud. The instructions do not appear to have been checked legally, RTL’s sources suggested.
People who ended up on the list lost all their benefits and remained on it, the documents show. There was an ‘automatic continuation’, one document dating from 2007 said. In addition, people whose names had been ‘tagged’ were not informed, so they were unable to counteract the accusations.
The finance ministry said in a reaction that the strict interpretation of the law had ‘far reaching conesquences’ for some claimants.
‘It is exactly for this reason that the cabinet has decided to compensate [childcare benefit scandal victims] for the entire period, dating back to when the benefit was introduced in 2005,’ the ministry said.
Some victims of the childcare benefits scandal told DutchNews.nl that their problems with unreasonable behaviour from the tax and benefits office began years before 2013.
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