The tax authorities demanded surcharges to pay for fraud hunting


The report of the Donner Committee showed this month that nearly 10,000 parents fell victim to a ‘biased’ fraud approach by the Tax and Customs Administration. Another 20,000 parents fell victim to a harsh all-or-nothing policy. Both groups were in serious financial difficulties due to wrongful recoveries of tens of thousands of euros in childcare allowances.

Our research now shows that there has been a ‘Business Case Fraud’ since 2013: the extra money that was allocated for this at the time also had to be retrieved from citizens.

In concrete terms, this meant that the costs for extra civil servants and new ICT (for making ‘risk models’) had to be ‘recouped’. The approach was based on pre-booked ‘revenues’ and ‘savings’ by recovering surcharges.

Moral corruption

A spokesman for State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen (Supplements) says that there are ‘no indications’ that fraud teams or employees were judged on the proceeds. Also, insofar as ‘we have been able to verify’, there would be no bonuses or special rewards for officials involved in the fraud hunt.

Earlier research showed that proponents of a tough approach within the service could quickly make a career and that internal criticism was suppressed.

The Donner Commission, which investigated the allowance affair, previously said that the fraud hunt involved ‘institutional bias’, that people were suspicious in advance and actually had no chance of fair treatment.

In the final report, Donner even calls the financing of the fraud hunt “a form of moral corruption”. The government was given an ‘institutional interest in cutting as many benefits or benefits as possible’. This approach put citizens’ interests in a ‘nearly automatic squeeze’ for years, according to the committee. After all, achieving the proceeds was ‘task setting’: it had to be achieved.

Intensive control

How the fraud policy worked in practice is shown by management documents of Toeslagen, owned by RTL Nieuws and Trouw. In the summer of 2018, that service warns that the ‘minimum revenue from the Fraud business case (25 million euros) will not be achieved. That is why the ‘risk selection’ is being tightened: the service is going to monitor thousands of people with supplements very intensively. The way in which these groups of people were dealt with – a “differentiated approach” officials called – should “generate a higher yield”.

The fact that the Tax and Customs Administration was keen to achieve the financial goals is also because the service would otherwise have to make cuts itself. The Tax and Customs Administration received extra money from other ministries to tackle the fraud and would have to ‘compensate’ it itself if the targets were not met.

SP wants clarification

SP Member of Parliament Renske Leijten, who assists many affected parents, now wants to know exactly how the ‘business case Fraud’ has worked and what the consequences were for people. In the past, the government did not want to clarify this. “It is very sad that targets have been worked with, because that leads to the risk of being biased and insufficiently careful. Detecting fraud should not depend on the yield.”

A spokesman for State Secretary Van Huffelen confirms that the Tax Authorities have worked in this way since 2013. Last year we stopped sending money in advance. The ministry says that “the number of unwanted applications” and “fraud found” decreased.

According to Van Huffelen, ‘collecting an amount of fraud cannot be the objective’: “The core must be that people who are entitled to it receive supplements, that unintentional mistakes in applications are prevented and that fraud is tackled. Without a financial objective. ”

How are things going with duped parents?

A first group of about 300 parents around a childminder agency in Eindhoven has received compensation. They may get a little more. Some 9,000 other parents who have been duped in other fraud investigations may also be compensated. In addition, there are about 20,000 parents who were unreasonably harsh; they do not receive compensation, but may receive part of the collected surcharges back.

The ‘recovery operation’ will take at least a year, because all files must be completed after 15 years. In the near future it will also become clear what the role of the secret ‘blacklist’ on which people ended up. An investigation by the Dutch Data Protection Authority must also show whether ‘second nationality’ played a role in the fraud approach. For the time being, the House of Representatives is not debating the case as a result of the corona crisis, but will continue to monitor the settlement of the affair in writing.

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