Are you ready for 2006?
A new year has dawned and with it a batch of major new laws and regulations have come into force in the Netherlands.
Doctor, what’s the prognosis?
If you spent your holidays ploughing through the reams of information available about the new universal health insurance system, or basisverzekering, you may already be in need of intensive care.
As of 1 January 2006 the two-tier public-private healthcare system was replaced by basisverzekering for everyone. It is obligatory for all residents of the Netherlands and you are free to choose one of any number of health insurers who all offer a coverage package similar to the public ziekenfonds.
You have until 1 March to decide whether you want to stay with your current insurance company or opt for another. Although the basisverzekering will be more expensive for those used to the ziekenfonds, most insurers currently offer discounted premiums to attract new customers.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, most people are worried the new system will lead to chaos; the insurance companies and the medical profession don’t seem too confident either. Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst is the only person to date to give his new scheme a clean bill of health.
Despite comprehensive brochures issued by the insurance companies and information on the web provided by the government and independent agencies, evaluating which company offers the best deal for your specific circumstances is far from easy; we are all supposed to obtain a doctorate on the ins and outs of Dutch healthcare before we can even think of catching a cold.
Expatica will be running articles to help you on the road to recovery.
For those with some Dutch (and the stomach for it), the government has provided information at www.denieuwezorgverzekering.nl
The government aims to get people back to work
Small wonder, perhaps, given the need to digest all manner of regulations that up to one million of the country’s 7.5 million workforce have been off sick in recent years. They have been claiming a pension for a works-related disability, known as the WAO in Dutch.
No more. The government wants to change the focus from what people can no longer do to what they can still do. Voila, as of 1 January 2006 the WAO has been replaced by the WIA.
This stands for Wet werk en inkomen naar arbeidsvermogen (WIA), the law on work and income in accordance to the capacity to work. In a nutshell, the WIA is designed to protect the income of people who are totally incapable of work due to an injury or illness sustained in the workplace.
People who are judged to be 70 percent incapacitated will have to seek employment for the other 30 percent, and so on.
From 1 January 2006 employees can choose every year which savings system to be a part of: spaarloon or levensloopregeling.
The former allows a person to save a percentage of his or her wages tax-free. Under the latter, an employee can save up to 12 percent of the gross annual income for leave from work. The idea is that workers will use the time, for example, to go on a special holiday or for educational purposes.
Once a year all municipalities in the Netherlands are obliged to organise a “festive” naturalisation day to welcome new Dutch citizens into the fold. The local council in The Hague has led by example; it has already served blocks of cheese with a Dutch flag on a cocktail stick to illustrate the joys of Dutchdom to people as they were presented with their Dutch passports.
There is some good news here. The user’s or tenant’s portion of the property tax (ozb) is abolished as of 1 January 2006. In typical Dutch fashion, homeowners and landlords had, until now, to pay both a user and owner’s portion. Watch out though, municipalities are working hard on ways to recoup the lost funds.
The 8 percent levy on charitable gifts has been abolished too – thanks to lobbying by soccer legend Johan Cruyff.
The way in which the tax for company cars is calculated has changed. From now on, employers will take account of the employee’s monthly salary when calculate the tax. The tax reimbursement for business travel in a private car increases from 18 to 19 cents per kilometre.
The duty on strong alcohol (spirits) falls by about 15 percent, back to the 2002 level.
A reduction in the tax burden is reason enough for a party. But don’t combine this with your driving. The fines for road traffic offences have increased:
This could land you in jail for a long time
– Not wearing a seat belt will cost you EUR 75 instead of EUR 45
– Driving through a red light increases from EUR 95 to EUR 130
– The old fine of EUR 90 for drink driving increases to between EUR 220 and EUR 480 depending on the seriousness.
People involved in a fatal car accident when drunk now face up to six years behind bars. The penalty used to be a maximum of three years. Injuring someone while drunk behind the wheel of a car will cost you up to 3 years instead of 12 months.
The gap between the maximum sentences of 20 years and life for the most serious crimes narrows. Judges will be able to impose sentences of 30 years from 1 February.
The statute of limitations on murder disappears completely this year, while the time limit within which offences which carry a penalty of 10 years or more must be prosecuted is extended from 15 to 20 years.
There is also bad news for the pirates of the Caribbean and lovers of the Golden Age: duelling and privateering, legalised piracy of enemy ships during times of war – have been abolished.
Contrary to popular opinion, the law against issuing bogus bomb threats is still very much in force. In fact the maximum penalty for the types of fake bomb alerts that have plagued the Netherlands in 2005 has risen from 12 months to four years.
Back to the cars
From 1 March children shorter than 1.35 metres must sit in an approved car seat or raised seat when travelling in a car. Why not cut down your travel time and get someone else to do the driving?
From 1 January the taxi diploma is obligatory. This means when you get into a taxi, the driver must know the way to your destination. Handy if you have been benefiting from the reduced duty on spirits!
Is there an important change we have missed? Write to [email protected]
[Copyright Expatica 2006]
Subject: Dutch news + Life in Holland