NL: New crisis at tax office as benefits scandal drags on

THE HAGUE - An internal crisis is brewing at the Dutch tax office over its handling of compensation for the victims of the benefits scandal. Many parents falsely labeled as frauds and cheats by the office during the years-long scandal may not be eligible to receive the compensation they are entitled to before the Cabinet-set May 1 deadline, newspaper Trouw reported.

The UHT was a department set up last December to implement the compensation payouts. It was tasked with providing an initial payout of 30 thousand euros to parents who were unfairly labeled as fraudsters. Three months after the UHT was formed, it was already dealing with growing pressure in the last months as the workload piled up on its workers, internal conflicts plagued the office, managers disregarded their direct reports, and many staff members began to depart as burnout became increasingly frequent.

"In recent months, almost all work has been halted to get this 'political prestige project' done on time. What that means for parents or lawfulness of what the Tax and Customs Administration is doing, seems completely irrelevant compared to that goal," the newspaper reported about the internal workings of the Belastingdienst.

As a result, it is now clear that almost half of the 24,500 victims who registered for compensation before 15 February of this year are not yet considered entitled to it, according to the tax authorities. Additionally, parents who were previously told they would qualify are now commonly being rejected. Moreover, the staff also fear that people will falsely try to claim the compensation even in cases in which they did not qualify for it.

The organization’s personnel, who work as direct points of contact for parents involved, are now commonly leaving, the newspaper claimed. They feel their voices are not being heard within the organization, because the management is doing everything possible to fulfill the Cabinet's political promises.

Trouw reported that lawyers are also leaving UHT on a large scale because their advice is not being heard. Resignations are becoming common among the top management personnel within the organization, with the fourth highest management official stepping down on Friday over health concerns. Other departments of the Belastingdienst are now also reluctant to transfer staff to UHT, because they return completely burnt out.

Alexandra van Huffelen, the State Secretary for Finance, was warned several times since the beginning of this year that the implementation of the scheme was not well-planned and could cause issues. Even after several ministers approached her about this, she decided to stick to the original May 1 deadline.

In response, Van Huffelen said that she is convinced that "a good balance between speed and cautiousness has been maintained," Trouw concluded.

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