Thursday 29 September 2022

Tax office also guilty of direct discrimination, experts say

Photo: Joep Poulssen

Discrimination experts have slammed the cabinet’s admission of ‘institutional racism’ at the tax office, saying it does not go far enough and should have included recognition that there was direct discrimination, reports.

Tax minister Marnix van Rij said the fact that innocent people were put on a secret list of suspected tax fraudsters was not a ‘matter of policy’ but was done ‘unwittingly’ and ‘not done in bad faith’.

Instances of direct discrimination- which unlike institutional discrimination is punishable by law –  would have to be ‘ascertained by looking at comparable individual cases or groups’, the minister said on Monday.

However, inclusion in the list was based on risk factors including having a second nationality, donating to mosques and submitting unusually high healthcare bills, it emerged earlier this year.

‘It was all there in tables made by civil servants, hardly an unwitting act,’ national coordinator against discrimination and racism Rabin Baldewsingh told the news platform.

Human rights council College voor de Rechten van de Mens said institutional discrimination does not necessarily point to bad faith or racism, but that this makes no difference to the consequences for the victims, many of whom faced huge financial and emotional problems as a result.

‘The cabinet needs to be open about the mistakes that were made. If this has legal consequences it will have to accept that,’ the organisation said.

Hanneke Felten, researcher at institute for social issues Movisie, said the ‘culture change’ proposed by Van Rij does not go far enough.

The tax office should be accountable to a external authority about their policy, for instance to the national coordinator against discrimination and racism or the human rights council, Felten said.

‘This means the tax office will not be able to act arbitrarily but will be checked it treats everyone equally,’ she said.

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