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Who to trust, the tax office?


We are a bit surprised over the years by the trust people put in one phone call with the tax office call center. Who to trust, the tax office?

Who to trust, the tax office ?

We are every work day asked so called short questions. “Arnold, I have a short question!” Then half an hour later we say goodbye on the phone up for the next short question. So we are in the short question business.

To be able to answer short questions like: Hi, I just divorced, moved to the Netherlands, purchased a house and now my father died. Will my ex wife be involved.  Or, I can move to Dubai for work tomorrow, but my wife living in the house we own won’t come with me.  Is that bad?  Very bad.

You need an education and experience. The education alone does not help you, as real life can be different. Even worse, sometimes the answer is not tax driven!! Is that exciting? Very exciting.

On a daily basis we get into a conversation about taxation. We respond how it is and should be and to the disappointment of the tax payer, that is not all that exciting. Basically it comes down to making the calculations and then based on that outcome do the suggestion. The calculations show that tax is due and we can only recommend to file.

Not everybody is as excited about tax as we  are, so what often happens to our surprise, they call the tax office. We cannot check how much information the tax office is provided with, but then the tax office gives an answer. That one answer is instantly trusted, regardless if that civil servant has no tax degree, and the first line call center persons have no tax degree.

Who to trust, the tax office?
Who to trust, the tax ofice?

Can you trust the tax office?

No, you cannot. The tax office is very clear in its communications: we do not give fiscal advise. That implies you can ask them for fiscal advise and they do reply to you, but the reply is more an obvious reply.


Recently we had a US couple that owned still a Dutch property and they are about to sell for EUR 500.000 profit the house. The question was, should we have filed income tax returns over the past 4 years, as we have not.  Our response was, provide us with the details like address and debt, then we can calculate for you. We only charge the tax return that actually needs to be filed and the one that actually needs to be filed is the one on which you are due income tax.

Instead of providing details the same question was asked more times, as if we would respond differently. And then out of the blue we received the respond. “Well we called the tax office and the tax office said there was no need to file.”

That was a surprise. The rule is that if you have not been invited to file, but you know you are due income tax, you are obliged to file within 14 days from the official deadline, being May 1 of the year following the tax year. More a surprise was the sudden given that no tax was due. As everybody knows, the so called WOZ value that is the base of the calculation sky rocketed over the years to absurd amounts. This couple also expects to get a EUR 500.000 profit. How then is it possible not to be due tax on an annual base?

As the tax office had spoken, no more need of our expertise.

Has the tax office actually spoken is the question?

There is indeed a telephone number you can dial to contact the Dutch tax office. For international issues that is +31 55 538 538 5. You can speak English. You can ask questions you have, but you cannot ask for advice. The response is that they do not give advice, only after the tax return has been filed.

The person of the tax office you speak with will answer you as good as they can within their ability and within the limitations of their system. However, this response does not stand in court, cannot be part of your defense in a tax audit and is not a definite answer to any of your question.

Tax is exciting

We think tax is exciting. We also think you should file the tax return you are obliged to file. If you are indeed not due any tax and you are not invited to file, we will not file for you and not charge you. Still often a US national still wants you to file, as the Dutch tax return is part of the US tax return.

Trusting one phone call with the tax office? We always recommend to call 4 more times and take the answer that was replied to you the most. That does still not need to be the correct answer.



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