Tax authorities make public apology in press and on TV for breach of confidentiality
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Tax authorities make public apology in press and on TV for breach of confidentiality


The federal finance ministry has today published an admission of guilt in seven Flemish newspapers, as well as on the Flemish TV channel Canvas.

The ministry was ordered to publish the document after the Court of Appeal in Ghent found it guilty of a breach of confidentiality during the investigation of a company’s tax affairs.

The breach took place during the making of a VRT documentary series De Fiscus (The Taxman) in the autumn of 2016. The ministry had allowed the film-makers access to the workings of tax inspectors, and when inspectors visited a company as part of an investigation, they were equipped with bodycams.

When the programme was shown in December 2016, the court heard, it contained footage which would have allowed anyone familiar with the company to identify it. Despite the fact that the TV crew and inspectors had not mentioned the company by name, faces were blurred out and voices disguised, the footage still contained enough detail to identify the company.

The Court of Appeal held that by filming that footage and allowing it to be included in the documentary, the ministry had been guilty of a breach of confidentiality.

The finance ministry has decided not to contest the ruling before the Cassation Court, spokesperson Francis Adyns said.
“The finance ministry did not wait for judgment to be served before organising this publication,” he said.

“Please note, this in no way implies a confession of fault by the ministry. We are obliged to publish the text, but that does not mean that the obligation imposed by the court is in line with our understanding.”

The document appeared today in the form of a paid advertisement. As such, it does not appear on the newspapers’ websites.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times