Can you (exclusively) rely on the website of the Dutch Tax Authorities and the Tax Information Line, or rather not?
The website of the Dutch Tax Authorities contains a lot of information on the tax legislation and regulations in the Netherlands. Apart from the website, you can also call the Tax Information Line for many questions and issues. However, does this mean that you can rely on this information when dealing with (legal) procedures against the tax inspector?
Website Dutch Tax Authorities:
To give an example, the court had to rule on the issue of whether a woman who was renting a houseboat could also receive housing benefit. The website of the Tax Authorities contained information from which the woman deducted that a person renting a houseboat would also be eligible to receive housing benefit. The Tax Authorities, however, concluded otherwise based on the law and they decided that the woman had to repay the received housing benefit. After her statement of objected had been rejected, the woman appealed to the court.
During the court case, the woman appealed to the principle of legitimate expectations. The woman believed that, based on the information she had found on the website of the Tax Authorities, she could be assured that she was entitled to the housing benefit. The judge, however, ruled that the website of the Tax Authorities is only meant as an instrument and the information it provides is, therefore, not leading. As the judge ruled, in order to appeal to the principle of legitimate expectations, it is required that ‘a concrete and unambiguous assurance must have been given by the administrative body by a competent person, from which judicial valid expectations can be derived’. In short, the woman didn’t have a leg to stand on because the website of the Tax Authorities is only an instrument and the information on the site is not leading. This meant that the housing benefit had to be repaid.
Tax Information Line:
As you are a smart entrepreneur, I can hear you think: ‘so then I just call the Tax Information Line’. Unfortunately, this will be pointless. This is because the Tax Information Line is only intended to provide general information so no rights can be derived from any information or assurance. Sadly enough, this has already been confirmed by jurisprudence several times.
Although, there are exceptions, of course. This shows, for example, in a ruling by the Noord-Nederland District Court. The issue pertained to the issue whether the owner of two vintage cars was eligible for a transitional scheme. This transitional scheme ensured that the owner of the cars would have to pay less vehicle tax. In this case, the court ruled exceptionally that the taxable person could appeal to the principle of legitimate expectations successfully. In order to appeal to the principle of legitimate expectations, it was important that the incorrect information that was given was not so clearly in violation with the law to the extent that the man should have realised that the information was wrong. Apart from that, the criteria for the so-called ‘disposition requirement’ had to be met. This requirement was based on the fact that the man incurred damages to a different amount than the chargeability of the tax. Because the man was not an expert on tax regulations, the court ruled that he could not have recognised the incorrectness of the information. Ultimately, the man incurred damages because the situation resulted in him having to pay the normal vehicle tax rate instead of the more favourable rate for vintage cars. In my opinion, however, this ruling should rather be seen as ‘the exception to the rule’.
Therefore, you are wiser to rely on your trusted AAme consultant than on the website of the Tax Authorities and/or the Tax Information Line.