The Tax Authority specifically targeted Islamic organizations when investigating fraud with gifts and donations, NRC reports based on a ruling by the District Court of The Hague that will be published on Wednesday. According to the court, “it cannot be ruled out” that the Tax Authority discriminated. The court, therefore, declared an investigation into the As-Soennah mosque in The Hague invalid.
The As-Soennah mosque filed this lawsuit. In 2018, the Tax Authority revoked its ANBI status, which entitles donors to deduct donations to the institution from their taxes. The mosque argued that the Tax Authority investigated it because of its Islamic nature.
The mosque was able to substantiate its argument, the court ruled. Documents submitted showed that the Tax Authority had “increased interest” in “donations to mosques” and that mosques were “already seen as a fraud risk themselves.” The Tax Authority refused to provide documents about its selection criteria. So the court cannot rule out that the tax office investigated the mosque because of its Islamic background, which is discrimination. The mosque will get its ANBI status back, the court ruled.
It is the first time a court accepted alleged discrimination by the Tax Authority in a tax case, the lawyers representing As-Soennah, Najad Idrissi and Touria Khidous, told NRC.
Despite winning the case, As-Soennah is dissatisfied that the Tax Authority refused to disclose the reason for the investigation. “The judge also failed to get honest answers to our questions,” the mosque’s board said. “The answers are important not only to us but also to our donors. This is a violation of a fundamental right.”
The Tax Authority told NRC that it couldn’t comment on the ruling “because of confidentiality” and was considering an appeal.
According to NRC, the Tax Office department that specifically targeted Islamic foundations, assuming that they commit large-scale donation fraud, is the Combiteam Approach Facilitators (CAF). The same team unjustly accused thousands of parents of fraud in the benefits scandal, often targeting them due to dual nationality.
The CAF started investigating donation fraud in 2015 under the suspicion that scammers were claiming taxpayers’ money back for donations they never made. In a memo released for the As-Soennah lawsuit, the CAF wrote that this form of fraud would occur “in particular” within the “Islamic community” and not so much in other faith communities.
Investigation into the benefits scandal also showed that CAF specifically investigated donors with dual nationality because a suspect allegedly told them that this type of fraud “has been a common practice in certain populations for years.” Donations were automatically considered a fraud risk if they came from “allochtonen” – the Dutch word for Netherlands residents with dual nationality or with at least one parent who has dual nationality
The CAF didn’t substantiate this assumption but did launch several investigations into Islamic foundations. Multiple mosques lost their ANBI status, though the Tax Authority couldn’t tell NRC exactly how many.