NL: Social benefits system should be abolished, says tax inspector

April 24, 2023  –THE HAGUE – An estimated 150,000 households are in financial distress every year, because they have to pay back benefits disbursed for care, healthcare, rent or other benefits, said Bart Snels in an interview published on Monday in Trouw. The officials who implement the policy are not the problem, he said. They work hard and try to do “the right thing.” The problem is the benefits system itself. 

This system should therefore be abolished as soon as possible, said Snels. He is an independent Inspector General at the inspectorate for taxes, benefits, and customs, and a former GroenLinks member of parliament. 

“We ask the impossible of people, and have placed all financial risks with the citizens. We affect people’s social security with the benefits,” he said. He indicated that there a “very high” recovery of benefits happens every day, “because people have not reported something on time, which they should have done: because something has changed in their income or the composition of the household.” 

Snels was appointed by the Cabinet at the beginning of last year. The Inspectorate where he works was established after the tax office’s benefits scandal, an issue which led to the resignation of the previous Cabinet. The problem with the benefits system is that people are expected to be able to predict whether something will change in their household in the coming year, Snels said. 

“But you don’t know if you’re going to get divorced, start living together, or if your partner dies. You don’t know if one of your children will suddenly have to return home, [or] start working and therefore have their own income. But all those changes have direct consequences for the entitlement to benefits.” Anyone who does not pass this information on to the authorities in time will be faced with bills from the government demanding refunds of large sums. 

“It is important that people no longer get lost in complicated schemes or have to deal with high refunds,” said a spokesperson for Aukje de Vries the Cabinet’s state secretary for benefits policy. De Vries previously expressed the ambition to replace the benefits system with a new system. 

De Vries is still working out the plans for this and will send them to the Tweede Kamer before the summer holidays. 

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