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The Dutch tax authorities refuse to speak to me in English on the phone. Is that allowed?

Question: 

Is it generally acceptable or is it even legal the fact that the employees at the tax office refuse to speak in English? I have tried to call them and they won‘t reply back in English as they keep saying that they are allowed to continue the conversation only in Dutch.

Answer:
 
Yes, it is indeed true that the internal guidelines of the telephone helpdesk of the tax authorities forbid their employees to answer questions in English. Even the people behind the special helpline for non residents are not allowed to speak English. That is very strange indeed and not in line with the international attitude in the Netherlands but it is done to prevent misunderstanding between the caller and the employee of the tax authorities. That doesn‘t make sense, I know. You can write them in English and they will reply, but in Dutch, sometimes in English depending on the person. At a local tax office they may talk to you in English, but not the general helpdesk. Their conversations are monitored, so they will really not speak English.

The Court of Justice already ruled that one can‘t claim rights based on the communication on the website of the tax authorities or what they say to you on the phone, but even that argument doesn‘t convince them to speak English. Not even the question whether they received your tax return will be answered in English. How difficult would that be to answer in English? Luckily not all government organisations refuse to speak English.

When the tax authorities call the taxpayers "clients", they should also have a client minded approach and offer a client service in English. It could just be an option in the menu: Do you want to speak with somebody in English? Let‘s hope it will change in the future and that expats get the same service as Dutch residents.
 
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Comments (9)
Comment by rhys on Wed, Oct 9th, 2013 at 9:31 AM
yep same thing happened to me...you need to get a dutch person to call up on your behalf. my tax returns still haven‘t been paid to me yet...4 months late and all i managed to get out of them was that i had to wait. so definitely get someone who can speak dutch to phone for you to get some useful information...or you may be waiting a very long time
Comment by hans on Thu, Feb 6th, 2014 at 12:27 AM
How many English/French/German tax authorities would agree to answer me in Dutch? I
Comment by bloemers on Fri, Apr 25th, 2014 at 6:36 AM
Waarom heeft de belasting Limburg buitenland geen e-mail adres ??telefoneren van uit Indonesie is verschrikkelijk duur !!!!!!!!
Comment by arjan enneman on Thu, Jun 5th, 2014 at 8:37 AM
Beleid van de belastingdienst is om niet te communiceren per email. Andere optie zou zijn om hen per brief te informeren.
Comment by Simon Hubbard on Thu, Apr 9th, 2015 at 10:06 AM
I agree that any government office on important items and especially any regulated item such as tax should have the discussion in the language of the country. This includes paperwork. I am English and although the language is widely spoken in the Netherlands any expat has to get used to this. Other business such as Ziggo, Essent for utilities will talk to you in English, but any legally binding contract will have to be in Dutch. Only other company is WML for water who refuse to speak English even on simple questions. Its hard for an expat to start with, but using work colleagues, your company HR department etc does work until one becomes semi proficient in Dutch.
Comment by Liz on Sat, Aug 29th, 2015 at 8:09 AM
#hans Foreigners here are not asking to be answered in their own language! that would be far from reasonable, most of us are asking to be answered in English, which like it or not is an broad international language; and yes, in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and France you can be answered in English if you do not know any of the official languages! Even though the supreme court of Holland has ruled out any liability to the tax department in case of misunderstanding, the tax department keep using this excuse for not speaking English when asked to.
Comment by Lauren Comiteau on Wed, Oct 12th, 2016 at 8:08 PM
There is a Tax Office for Foreigners where people will speak English to you. The number is: +31 (0)55 5385 385.
Comment by Arjan Enneman on Mon, Oct 17th, 2016 at 1:07 PM
There is indeed an international helpline, but we were told that they are not allowed to speak English either, which seems very strange. But you have the biggest chance there that they actually do speak English to you.
Comment by Nasim on Tue, Mar 7th, 2017 at 2:40 PM
I have called today to SVB and a woman spoke with me in English first and then she connected me to a man that was related to the area I live. The man refused to speak with me in English. I searched on their website and I found the information in English. I called again to SVB and the man pick up the phone again and I told him there is not anything written on your website. You should not refuse speaking with me in English. I told him I can give you my klantnummer and you send me the letter I need. But he continued in dutch. Some of Dutch people expect every one lives here knows their language even in small cities they expect you know their city language. I am so much angry at this moment.
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