Government to cut time limit for 30% tax break from next year

Plans to cut the time period when expats qualify for the 30% tax ruling from eight years to five will come into force on January 1 next year. The new time limit will apply to new and existing beneficiaries of the tax break, the finance ministry said. The rule, which allows employers to deduct tax on up to 30% of the income of staff recruited from abroad, was designed to encourage companies to import skilled workers and offset the cost of relocation. The change was included in the coalition agreement negotiated by the new government last November, but the timetable to implement it had not been specified until now. Research by the finance ministry last year found that around 80% of expats were no longer applying the 30% rule after five years. Some 60,000 people currently benefit from the tax break. This, the finance ministry said last June, cost the treasury some €755m in 2015 and €902m in 2017. Rules To claim the ruling, expats have to earn around €53,000 a year (or €37,000 after the 30% has been deducted) and must have lived at least 150 kilometres from a border with the Netherlands before moving here, effectively ruling out Germans and Belgians. The report said Indian nationals are the most likely to use the ruling, followed by British, American and Italian expats. Criticism Employers' representative body VNO-NCW said the new time limit would make the Netherlands less competitive in the race to hire top talent. 'We're going to need that talent as our labour market becomes more restricted,' said a spokesman. 'An earlier assessment found that the benefits to society outweighed the cost to the public finances. The ruling is part of the financial setup that is important to the Dutch knowledge economy. Now that other countries are introducing similar rules it is going to be increasingly important to attract talent.' Problems Tax advisor Lennart Suurmond, who specialises in helping expats apply for the ruling, said people who have made major financial plans on the basis of the ruling – such as buying a house or other commitment – will be faced with a difficult situation because of the time reduction. Someone who moved here in 2014 and has just bought a house is going to be a lot worse off next year because of the sudden change, he said. ‘The difference in income can be huge,’ he said. ‘I hope the government will come up with a solution for people who will be hit hard by the change.’  More >

Speed up gas free homes say builders

The building sector has said that the government plan to phase out gas in homes for heating and cooking must be speeded up. At present the aim is to ensure one in four Dutch homes no longer relies on gas by 2030 and that all homes should be gas free by 2050. According to builders’ association NVB Bouw, whose members build three quarters of new housing, the process must be speeded up and not a single new home should be fitted with gas connections from next year. At the moment builders can still opt for gas which the association says is tempting because homes relying on heat pumps for energy are significantly more expensive to build. NVB Bouw advocates a ban on gas and a transition scheme for builders who already have projects in the pipeline. A ban would create a level playing field for the sector, the association says and will make building gas free homes cheaper in the short term. ‘Some 60,000 homes are built each year in the Netherlands. If all these would all be built using gas free systems we would create leverage and prices would go down quickly,’ NVB Bouw chairman Piet Adema told the AD. Home owners According to Adema, the builders are ready to take on the job but the association of home owners Eigen Huis is not happy. ‘A precipitate move to make homes gas free must not happen at the expense of quality,’ spokesman Hans André de la Porte told the paper. De La Porte says homes are now ‘patched up’ with a heat pump or a balanced ventilation unit. ‘But what is needed is a radically different approach, including new blueprints.’ Eigen Huis also said there are not enough experienced technicians to install the equipment. ‘Buyers invest big sums of money in their homes. But what we see is sloppy work and home buyers are angry,’ the AD quotes him as saying. The government plans to wind down gas production by 2030 in a reaction to the earthquakes caused by years of gas extraction in the province of Groningen. In Amsterdam and Utrecht new housing developments are already gas-free.  More >

VDL joins 'biggest eye on the sky’ project

VDL ETG Projects, part of the diversified industrial VDL Groep, has been awarded a contract to build the support structure for the main mirror of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) in northern Chile, the Eindhoven-based company said in a statement  late Thursday. The European Southern Observatory will build the world's largest telescope in the Atacama desert at an elevation of over three kilometres. The support structure consists of 798 individual support structures for mirror segments, which together form the telescope's main mirror which has a diameter of over 39 metres. The project will be completed in 2024. The order is worth several tens of millions of euros, the company said. VDL comprises 94 individual companies and is owned by the Van der Leegte family. ESO Director General Xavier Barcons and VDL Groep President and CEO Willem van der Leegte signed the contract for the order on Thursday at the headquarters of the ESO in Garching, near Munich. Van der Leegte said this marked the first time an astronomy-related contract of this size has gone to a Dutch party. The ELT is the same size as a football stadium. The ‘eye’ of the telescope is nearly as large as half a football field and will capture more light than all other existing large, professional optical telescopes combined. The ELT will enable new scientific discoveries related to planets, the composition of nearby galaxies and the deep universe. The design was created in collaboration with the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), with support from the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA). The main mirror with adaptive control system will form the largest-ever telescope for visible-light observations. With 15 member states, the ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far.  More >

Heineken: sales down in Europe

Amsterdam-based brewer Heineken sold more beer around the world in the first quarter of 2018. Sales in Europe were lower, even in the Netherlands, but demand for the beer increased elsewhere, particularly in Asia, the brewing giant said in a trading update on Wednesday. Total first-quarter sales volume was 4.3% higher than the year-earlier period. Heineken ascribed this to an early Easter holiday and less-than-robust sales in the 2017 first quarter.  Growth was slightly higher than the 4.1% increase analysts forecast for the company. Heineken's biggest (11.3%) sales increase was in Asia, followed by 6.1% in the Middle East and 6.8% in North and South America. Heineken booked net profit of €260m in the first quarter, lower than the €293m in the year-earlier period due in part to the effect of the low dollar exchange rate against the euro. Heineken expects to book a charge of  €115m for exchange rate fluctuations for full-year 2018.  More >