Zalm considered resigning after tax gaffe
20 February 2006, AMSTERDAM — Financed Minister Gerrit Zalm said on Monday evening he had considered resigning after his claim the property tax (OZB) in 62 municipalities exceeds the legal maximum was proven to be largely wrong.
20 February 2006
AMSTERDAM — Financed Minister Gerrit Zalm said on Monday evening he had considered resigning after his claim the property tax (OZB) in 62 municipalities exceeds the legal maximum was proven to be largely wrong.
*sidebar1*Local authorities rounded on Zalm on Monday after he said on a television programme at the weekend that the residents of the 62 districts he listed should hold off paying the tax.
As evidence emerged on Monday Zalm had got his sums wrong, the minister said he regretted the "suggestion" citizens should not pay the tax.
His comments stemmed from "personal motivation and irritation", Zalm admitted. He is the leader of the Liberal Party (VVD), which has campaigned for years for the abolition of the two-part OZB. The users’ portion of the tax was scrapped on 1 January this year but the portion paid by the owner remains.
"If the information isn't right, then you have got it all wrong," the deputy prime minister conceded in an interview with the news service NOS.
Zalm told current affairs programme NOVA he had considered resigning because of his inaccurate remarks.
"It would have been better if I had refrained [from calling on people not to pay the tax] and instead explained to people about the possibility to lodge an objection to an excessive OZB tariff," Zalm said.
He admitted a hurried investigation on Monday confirmed his calculations about excessive OZB charges were not "absolutely unequivocal".
The Liberal Party played down the gaffe. Education Minister Mark Rutte, manager of the VVD's local election campaign, said the mistake will not have a real impact on the party's electoral support.
The Christian Democrats (CDA), the VVD's main partner in the government coalition, also moved to bury the issue quickly. Maxime Verhagen, the CDA's parliamentary party leader, hailed Zalm's "magnanimous acknowledgement" he had gone too far. Verhagen accused Zalm on Monday of getting the issue totally wrong.
The opposition parties demanded Zalm answer questions in parliament about the affair.
The association of local authorities (VNG) demanded on Monday Zalm issue a public apology for his call not to pay the tax.
The VNG said on Monday there were "a number of cases where there was no justification for municipalities to be on the list".
The rest of the cases related to minimal rounding off of figures, the VNG said. It has demanded Zalm apologise and several municipalities have warned they will seek compensation from the Ministry of Finance if residents heed Zalm's call not to pay.
The association of provincial authorities (IPO) also expressed amazement about Zalm's comments. Only seven local authorities are in breach of the rules governing increases in property tax, the IPO said.
The seven are Aa en Hunze (Drenthe), Cranendonck (Noord-Brabant), Skarsterlân, Tytsjerksteradiel, Vlieland (Friesland), Vlist en Wassenaar (Zuid-Holland).
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news