The fight against tax fraud in Belgium will no longer be considered a top priority for authorities in the 2022-2025 period, according to a leaked copy of the new National Security Plan.
Tax fraud has been downgraded from receiving “special” attention to “permanent” attention, reports De Standaard, putting it on the same level as the fight against counterfeit and “general nuisance.”
“I choked on my coffee when I read it,” Ahmed Laaouej, group leader for the PS party, said in reaction. “The proposal is unacceptable. This is a signal to the tax fraudsters that they can go ahead.”
A change of focus
The priorities that will be receiving special attention in 2022-2025 include traffic safety, domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking, illegal migration, radicalisation, social fraud, terrorism and the fight against drugs.
The PS party sees the special prioritisation of social fraud specifically as a provocation. The National Security Plan is made jointly with Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) and Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) and would be effective as of 1 January.
Normally its announcement is more of a formality, but this time it has sparked political controversy and calls for adjustments from many of the coalition parties.
Bizarre keuze vanuit de politietop: geen prioriteit meer voor fiscale fraude. En hetzelfde voor zware milieucriminaliteit. Dat gaat in tegen het regeerakkoord. @PlatteauEva en ikzelf vragen aan ministers @AnneliesVl en @VincentVQ om bij te sturen. https://t.co/OyjcjaakgL
— Stefaan Van Hecke (@SVHecke) December 14, 2021
“A bizarre choice from the top of the police force: no more priority for fiscal fraud, and no priority for serious environmental crime either,” tweeted Green MP Stefaan Van Hecke, repeating the assertion that this goes against the coalition agreement.
Recent tax scandals
The fierce reactions are partly due to the fact that the fight against tax fraud plays a huge role in supplementing the budget – the Federal Government is counting on €200 million this year, €400 million next year, €700 million in 2023, and €1 billion in 2024 from recuperated tax.
Verlinden’s cabinet tried to explain the difference between “special” and “permanent” attention as one of approach, not priority. But the federal police say that no innovations in the fight against tax fraud are planned.
Because the National Security Plan is not yet officially finalised, it is possible it will be amended to address the concerns of various political parties.