Blunders at FPS Finance prevent firing of tax cheat

Blunders at FPS Finance prevent firing of tax cheat
Credit: BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

In a distinctly Belgian story of bureaucracy and red tape, SPF Finance has been unable to dismiss a senior civil servant who had avoided paying taxes, Belgian newspaper De Tijd reports.

Tax authorities were slow to dismiss the employee, and let the disciplinary procedure reach the statute of limitations and failed to follow legislation on the use of language, leading the Council of State to annul the dismissal.

The tax-avoiding employee was dismissed last year, but the case is reported to have dragged on for several years. The senior civil servant and her husband went before the Antwerp court of first instance in 2016 to contest charges of tax avoidance.

Two years later, the court ruled against the couple, ruling that the couple had indeed avoided paying their taxes, opening a criminal case against the civil servant. This ultimately resulted in the dismissal of the civil servant on 1 September 2021.

However, the story did not end there. The official once again appealed the decision before the Council of State in October 2021 and ultimately won her case, using a series of loopholes and technicalities to reverse her dismissal.

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The Council of State ruled that FPS Finances should have started disciplinary procedures against the employee as far back as 2015, instead of waiting for the outcome of the 2018 judgement. As a result, the statute of limitations for the dismissal had been exceeded.

In a similar rookie move, FPS Finances had not respected Belgian law on the use of language during the proceedings, leading the dismissal to be considered “irregular.” When contacted by De Tijd, a spokesperson for SPF Finances said that it will comply with the judgement of the Council of State.

It would seem that the civil servant fought the law, and won.


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