SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The chairman of a committee investigating a heavy-handed anti-fraud campaign by the tax office says thousands of families will eventually be entitled to compensation.
Piet-Hein Donner has already said the tax department should pay compensation to some 300 families who faced financial ruin after being wrongly accused of fraud. ‘They lost their jobs, had their wages sequestered,’ Donner said at the presentation of his committee’s findings.
‘You can never make up for that. This is the problem with compensating for damage, so you will have to be generous.’ The tax office stopped the child benefits of over 300 families after wrongly accusing them of committing fraud.
Most were dual national families, who not only lost benefits but were ordered to pay back money stretching several years. Donner’s investigation said officials had been far too strict in their interpretation of fraud and that the families should be repaid all the cash wrongly clawed back.
In addition, thousands of other families are likely to be in the same position, Donner said. They too have the right to compensation, he said. Asked if he felt real fraudsters could go unpunished, Donner said: ‘that is likely to be no more than a few’.
Last Friday, tax minister Menno Snel halted the claw-backs of a further 8,500 families who had also been accused of wrongly claiming child benefits pending further investigation.
Ministers are due to discuss the report’s findings at Friday’s cabinet meeting. The investigation was started after a daycare centre in Almere and childminding agency in Eindhoven reported their concerns to the Dutch privacy watchdog AP.
The agency had noted that a tax office worker was keeping records about dual national parents, while the daycare centre realised half its parents lost their subsidy, almost all of whom had foreign backgrounds.
The tax office has denied using nationality as a basis for deciding to investigate fraud. In 2014, 230 families were left in serious financial trouble after the tax office stopped their child benefits overnight because of ‘indications of fraud’.
They were also forced to pay back the cash. Last year, officials admitted that fraud was involved in just 27 cases.