Belgians furious at German tax bills for forced labourers
Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders vowed Sunday to tackle the German authorities over "morally indefensible" tax demands Berlin has issued to Belgian survivors of Nazi forced labour programmes.
It is shocking, he said, that people who during World War II were forced to work by the Nazis have now received tax demands from the authorities related to the compensation eventually paid for that work, the Belga agency reported.
Several dozen former victims of the forced labour regime imposed by the Nazis during their occupation of Belgium have complained of receiving the letters, according to reports in Belgium's newspapers this weekend.
They had expressed their astonishment at having received from the German tax authorities letters retroactively claiming tax on pensions paid out since 2005 -- sometimes for several hundred euros.
The German government had not confirmed the demands Sunday.
Thousands of Belgians were among the 13 million people conscripted into the Nazis' forced labour programme. It was only in recent years that Germany finally compensated them.
Reynders said that this new problem with the pensions paid to former forced labourers had come about because of a new German law on taxing pensions paid to people living abroad.
He said he had contacted his German opposite number Wolfgang Schaeuble on October 20 about the general implications of the law, but had yet to get much of a response.
With the most recent revelations on its effect on former forced labourers, he said he would raise the issue again on Monday to try to find a solution -- and if necessary at a November 30 meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels.
Germany's EVZ Foundation set up in 2000 to handle compensation payments for surviving victims of the programme wound up in 2007. It had paid out 4.4 billion euros (5.9 billion dollars) to 1.66 million people in nearly 100 countries.
© 2011 AFP