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Tax research propaganda

26 oktober 2017

This summer the Belgian media (De Standaard) reported that the "Tax authority is prioritizing the fight against fraud with elite horses". This messages was also picked up by the Dutch media (see  http://www.horses.nl/algemeen/fiscus-opent-jacht-op-fraude-toppaarden).
 
According to the reports, the FIOD set up the "workgroup elite horses" with the authorities of Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg, to investigate fraud with elite horses. Inspections would have already been executed, and several investigations are ongoing.
 
The sector is warned.
 
The question is why the (ongoing) investigations by the tax authorities are so actively announced to the public. It is a method that has also been tested in the past by the Dutch authorities (for instance the "Schuimkraag" action in the catering industry and "Goudtand" in the dental sector). The tax authorities have the legal obligation of confidentiality, and the authorities should handle the privacy of citizens and businesses prudently. This also applies to the Dutch tax police (the FIOD). With the  announcements of ongoing investigations and proud mentioning of the tampering with sales, the reputation of a whole sector gets slanted this way. This shows little respect for this sector and the authorities do not seem to take its economic importance very seriously.
 

The announcement of inspections from an investigation point of view also seems less productive. The targets after all now are "prepared".

 

Perhaps the tax authorities aim to achieve a deterrent effect with the media reports. The idea might then be that the industry has been warned, and whoever dares to color outside these lines is being addressed roughly.
 
Announcements like this however, may also have something to do with an urge to score. To show how well the tax authorities are doing, both nationally and internationally.
 
The international element makes more sense when considered that the institute of the "workgroup elite horses" originates from a Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Benelux of 22 November 2016. This Recommendation calls for cooperation between the Benelux countries and North Rhine-Westphalia to address trade-off irregularities with elite horses. The Dutch authorities more often tend to act as the "virtuous boy in class" – especially in an international context – and likes to show that it is ahead with the fight against fraud.
 
The Recommendation also states that the Benelux countries strive for a consultation with the horse sector and that they want to involve them in creating an optimal economic climate for the sector. This doesn’t show up in the media reports. Is the tax authority even looking for a partnership?
 

Entrepreneurs in the horse industry avail to take the message of the tax authorities seriously and should prepare themselves for inspectors who are interested in detecting fraud and less likely interested in building a partnership.

 

 

Would you like more information? Contact Peter van Hagen and Mariëlle Boezelman: +31 (0) 88 520 22 66.