The ‘Toeslagenaffaire’ saw the Dutch tax service persecute innocent, mainly dual-national people, for benefit claims they were entitled to
Translated by Thomas Ansell
It brought down the last Rutte government (but not the next one!), and now it has been revealed that 263 people in Leeuwarden alone were wrongfully pursued by the Dutch tax office, which was trying to recoup child benefit payments from innocent victims. Two months ago, only around 150 people had come forward, reports the Omrop Fryslân.
In essence, the Toeslagenaffaire saw large numbers (up to 26,000 parents) of people being pursued by the Dutch tax service, with many being made to pay back all child benefit they had received between 2004 and 2019. Often, the affected families had made small errors on their claim forms, or had been misled by local help bureau. The tax services’ response to these small errors was completely disproportionate, pursuing families through courts and imposing huge pay-back orders. This led to families losing their homes, having to sell their belongings, and suffering serious psychological problems.
Last year the Donner commission reported on the scandal, saying that there was institutional bias at play (large numbers of the victims were dual-nationals), and that each family unit affected could claim up to 30,000 euros compensation. The families had been pursued as part of a campaign to stop people from illegally claiming benefits, intended to appease anti-immigrant sentiment in the Netherlands.
A series of special help teams have been set up in the wake of the scandal to help victims, including the Leeuwarden-based Toeslagenaffaire 058. The Leeuwarden team have managed to speak to 198 people so far, to ascertain their situation and work out a plan to help them if needed.
Around fifteen percent of the Leeuwarden-based victims have had to ask for extra financial support from the Gemeente, mainly to help pay off debts. Around one third of all Frisian victims of the Toeslagenaffaire live in Leeuwarden, with over 400 families affected across the Province.