The blue lined letter dropped on the doormat around noon. There was no mistake about the sender. The blue meant one thing: it was sent by the tax-office.
The letter said, in more complex wordings; dear sir, according to our information you are in arrears concerning your taxes. You owe us the amount of twentythousand dollars for income gathered with work done in Rotterdam five years ago .
I was twenty-six, a student in history and had never been in Rotterdam, except for a one time visit to a tourist-attraction when I was fourteen.
How to deal with that monstrosity that is the tax office?If that creature thought you owed it anything and got it’s claws into you, it was not going to let go.. In other words: if they thought something existed, then you had to proof to them that it did not. How do you proof that something does not exist?
The first reaction was a reflex one. I bought myself a bottle of Glenfiddich and emptied it by half. It did not help at all with tax problem, but it cushioned the shock; first by making me roaring drunk and next by giving me a splitting headache.
So how does one get into a situation like this?
The first to call was the tax office. Why did they think that I had worked in Rotterdam and five years ago at that?
The man at the other end of the line was quick to answer. It was because this workagency had told them. It was located in Rotterdam and was an intermediate between companies looking for short time employees. Their speciality: plumbers.
The next logical step was to call the work agency and hope it had not disappeared in the meantime. I was lucky: it hadn’t.
It took two reconnections to get hold of the man in charge of the financial records. I explained to the man that I was a student of history and was unlikely to qualify for the work, whatever kind it was. He agreed with me on that one and asked me to wait while he retrieved the relevant documents. After a few minutes of silence, he started to talk again. He said that he was sure it was very unlikely I had done the work, because the work involved required a skilled and experienced plumber.
It was even more interesting when the told me the name on the papers. It was my fathers name. Which would logical as my father was a skilled and experieced plumber. He had died the year before, however. His specter loomed over me. Was I going to need his signature to get this problem fixed?
The financial man asked me how I got confused with my father? Then he answered the question himself. Because of the social number. It was mine, not my fathers. This is how the tax-office linked it to me.
So was it easy to change it afterwards?
Well, said the man, that is no problem. I change the number to your fathers and resubmit it with the tax office.
Yeah, won’t be any problem. Then the taxdebt would be reassigned to me dead father.
I was very happy that this guy could do it that easily.
I asked him if he needed my fathers social number, but he said that he had already found it.
With that I took my leave.
A week later I got another blue letter confirming that I was no longer in arrears.
Did my father fill out this long social number deliberatly to avoid taxes and thus potentialy incriminate me? Or was it just a mistake? Considering it the social number consists of code made up out of twenty numbers and letters I think he did it deliberately, thus dragging me into his tax evasion scemes.
The second thing I found scare was how easily one could changed numbers and reassign debt. Apparently it just takes the right social number and you have just saddled a person with a debt. Of course it the truth would be found out easily, but imagine that the company who had send the information to the tax office had gone bankrupt in the meantime and without my father it would probably require a lot of effort to make the tax office change it mind.
There will never be a clear answers.