Den Haag (the Hague) is a funny city. Hardly any of the Dutch know it and its many (admittedly, often well-camouflaged) charms. It's the seat of the Dutch government (and one of the most expensive cities in the world). One of my many adventures there was at one of the ambtenarenpaleizen (officialdom palaces), this time the Tax Collector's. A rough-hewn gypsy type, at first sight owner of a car junkyard had just passed a stack of bank notes through the window, and the Man told him he was a hundred guilders short. The customer (as these guys, with enormous chutzpah affect to call us these days) exploded in rage: in a loud voice he exclaimed So you tell me it's one note short, huh? Well, you'd better count them once again or I'll pull you out through your little window!
Then he turned around to address the assembly of fellow-victims, awaiting our turn to give up hard-earned cash. The blood suckers! The very last drop they squeeze out of you and then they have the nerve to tell you have to pay more, yet! We all seemed to agree with his feelings. The Man recounted the notes, and I still don't know whether he merely felt it wiser to announce this time it came out correct, but he did.
Some people come out with the ridiculous observation that taxes are not collected at gun point, even as they seem to be - it's a social contract you accept by the luck of being born. No judge in the world would accept the legality of such an agreement
Two things in life are certain: Death and Taxes.
But you were looking for my story of the fight with the Tax Person. Boy! Must you have been bored.
welcome, dear customer to our well-maintained facilities
After we had been living in Curaçao for over 6 years without ever hearing from the Man, I judged it would be wiser to go there on my own and fill out Income Tax forms. I'm still sorry about that rash decision, knowing many people here who have never paid any income tax in their lives.
It was years later when the Belasting Accountant Bureau wanted to see my administration. They came by and the guy took the whole lot with him, something actually illegal; it took him over a year to return it all. I'm sure he never even looked at it. Again some years later, they made up their minds and sent us ridiculously high assessments. We went all the way with bezwaarschriften (appeals), went by their place time and again to explain things, and they finally lowered the assessments a bit. Not enough by far, and the only course left was to the Judge of Hof van Beroep.
We were rather short of funds in those years and one of their problems was they just couldn't believe a makamba (honky) could make it on that sort of money. Well, we did, but they stuck to their guns.
One of the things they routinely do in a process like this is use delaying tactics. They just don't submit the documents necessary for the proceedings. After so much time the court decides to go ahead regardless, you get your copy the day before the court assembles—if you're lucky. The result was that we came in court in 1992 on a case dating from 1978. Now it may well be true that one who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client, but as the Tax Person was not represented by a lawyer either, this worked out well. And to tell the truth, the amount I would have had to pay a lawyer would have been much more than I stood to win from the game.
It was a public secret that the proud new Tax building, an insane design anyway, had many troubles with the passing of hurricane Joan in 1986. This brought a year of over 1200mms of rain (average 550), flooding their basement so they had lost their archives. But even if this had not been the case, it became obvious pretty soon that nobody there had ever even looked at our declarations. They had just filled out the assessments with whatever amounts took their fancy.
My main complaint during all the procedures was that it was impossible for me to build my case, as there was no way I could figure out what the assessments were actually based on. This was a truly Kafkaesque situation, no kidding. The judge agreed with me and ordered the Man to send me copies of all they had worked from.
Amazingly, what with the cellar flood and all, we did get an enormous stack of paper, containing nothing new. I was then invited for a talk with our future P.M. Etienne IJs. I have to admit he made the impression of really having looked at all that paperwork. Anyway, he made me an offer, a deal. If I would drop certain of my claims, we could work out a compromise.
I refused this, as I wanted a clear verdict so we'd know where we stood in the future. He told me only then that the judge had already ruled in another case this compromise was obligatory, without us having to give in anything.
Okay. So, first they offer me a deal I've got coming anyway. Then, they admit they were trying to pull a fast one on me. Just what you'd expect from a smart politician.
At one of the court sessions, the judge really started lambasting IJs because he came as bad as totally unprepared. I felt almost, but not quite, sorry for him. After all, he belonged to, and was representing, the outfit that had made such a sorry mess; even if it wasn't really his fault; nobody there knew a thing. He made the impression of being close to tears when remarking the judge could show more respect for his person, getting the snappy come-back that he would be shown respect if and when respect was due.
To end the awful suspense, we won on all counts but one. And that was because the Hof van Beroep at that time consisted of three judges who came down from Holland. Now, it's a full-time job! But then, they travelled back and forth between sessions. At one of those address changes, they lost our file on that year, and requested new copies. As I had spent a fortune on copies already, I figured I'd just give them the substance, but as it turned out that was not enough.
It took us almost as many years to get back the money we had been forced to pay on those high assessments; this while the receiver asked and advised us repeatedly to appeal. As a matter of fact, we had to take a licking because the AOV (old age pension) administration was such a mess and we just hit bureaucracy like it was a concrete wall.
Also, their trick these days is to assess you for a ridiculous amount, and to deduct money that should come back to you, from those assesments. Because of this, they collect much more than is their due. Inevitably, in a few years this will backfire, leading to even more future money problems for the government.
P.S. Did you ever hear about a government with a savings account? Don't be ridiculous... But they do charge tax over your interest!
The Tax Palace The largest part of it is mainly occupied by an enormous vide (which means empty). All this space has to be airconditioned. The building is exactly the same age as our modest wooden house but in deplorable condition. This is how they take care of your money:
Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for. And the taxpayer's cause is about as lost as they come. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle - Lucifer's Hammer
The bloodsucking leeches of the Internal Revenue Department. They've more than is good for them already and would only spend it. P.G. Wodehouse - The Luck of the Bodkins
Paga pa Pais gana (Pay so the country gains) Netherlands Antilles Minister of Finance Ersilia de Lannooy (2004 TV program)
But what can you do? After all, we democratically voted for taxes! Even if nobody remembers doing so
All this has cost much more money and effort than it was worth; to the court, the Man, and us. At least, the final upshot was that they now accept our declarations without daring to fudz with them.
However, this does not apply to the omzetbelasting (purchase tax), where they fined me all out of proportion to the amount they figured I had to pay. Processes Pending. August 2005: Some lady wised up and got rid of all that nonsense in one fell swoop. She not only promised - she did! At least for the omzetbelasting.