Tax inspectors can't access dossiers

Belgium's VAT administration is facing an uphill struggle to process sales tax returns filed by Belgian companies. The tax service is unable to access its dossiers because of a computer problem.

A short while ago the department started to scan all new dossiers. In this way tax inspectors should be able to view the returns on their computer screens. Three months after the introduction of the new procedure teething problems remain and the dossiers cannot be accessed. Trade unions now fear that as soon as all the documents have been taken away to be scanned tax inspectors will be twiddling their thumbs.

The unions speak of the umpteenth incident and have seized on this issue in order to criticise the major reforms that are being undertaken at the tax department.

Trades unionist François Goris: "We are concerned about the management of the department. A few months ago our computers were contaminated by a virus. Last week it emerged that Belgian customs had handed too much money to the European Union. No changes are made at management level. We're puzzled by their evaluation."

The unions have announced strike action and are seeking greater clarity about the reforms before the month is out.

Belgian Finance Minister Steven Vanackere (Flemish Christian democrat) intends to examine the issue. He has expressed understanding for the staff concerns, but insists on the need for the reforms: "Protests against reforms should not prevent us from making our administration more efficient."