Certainly everything went wrong with the IRS in the payment affair. But it was really the stubborn Ministry of Social Affairs that struggled with a solution that saved many duped parents problems. At least, if we have to believe former senior tax officials.
Follow the interviews below via the tweets of reporter Leon Brandsema.
They spoke on Wednesday on the third day of the questioning in the parliamentary inquiry in the House of Representatives. Peter Veld (as former Director-General of the Tax Administration from 2009 to 2015) and Gerard Blankestijn (Director of the Supplements section from 2011 to 2018) terminated a similar story.
That story focused on a major part of the problem in the payment affair: the harsh recovery of surcharges, even if parents made a small mistake. Thus, the failure to pay an own contribution of 100 euros could in practice result in parents having to repay 10,000 euros in surcharges.
Both Veld and Blankestijn questioned that already about ten years ago. “I raised it,” Blankestijn said in his research. Veld had even given an opinion to then Secretary of State Frans Weekers (Finance): “It would be better not to recover the entire childcare allowance in these matters.”
Why did the committee want to know why that harsh approach remained? Social Affairs — which makes the law and policy around childcare allowance — was a problem, the answer was. According to Veld, it was the wish of Social Affairs to do it this way. That ministry felt supported by caselaw which approved the treatment.
The MPs thought that Veld and Blankestijn were very easy to get rid of it. “You are making yourself very small”, sighted Femke Merel Van Kooten-Aians against Blankestijn. “I am small too, because I am unable to change the law,” he replied. Blankestijn and Veld also emphasised a new attempt, now under Secretary of State Eric Wiebes, to soften the approach. But again it died in Social Affairs. “Stubbornness,” Veld called it. Blankestijn: “I have had a feeling of impotence from that. But if the story is always that there is no room, it stops once.”
The interrogations with the two men were sometimes difficult and lasted considerably longer than the scheduled two hours. The MPs sometimes hoped for the flawed memories of Veld and Blankestijn. Where they still had a keen mind how Social Affairs is struggling, they sometimes had more difficulty in reproducing how the Tax Administration itself used a hard approach.
For example, Veld received a report in which it stated that former director Taxes Hans Blokpoel had said that all surcharges wanted to have shut down for fraud cases, including the good. Blokpoel had denied having said such a thing in his own interrogation on Monday. Veld couldnt bring it to mind: “I have a good memory, but I dont have that good.”
However, the gentlemen apologized for the mistakes they had made and with which they have suffered many parents. For example, they talked about leaving cases on the shelf for a long time, losing evidence and not providing sufficient legal protection to parents. Blankestijn: “It was really hard when you stack all that on top of each other.”
Commission President Chris van Dam was left behind to ask whether Veld and Blankestijn could not have done more to stop the hard recoveries. “I feel that a lot of doctors have looked at it, but the patient has died in the meantime,” he said to Veld. On Thursday, the committee will be able to call for an answer to the public servants. Then (former) top civil servants of Social Affairs join.