12,000 Belgians ordered to pay zero euros

12,000 tax payers received a letter sent by the Belgian tax man urging them to pay a fine of zero euros. An error in an automatic search engine caused the problem.

"The amount mentioned below still hasn't been fully paid. If this doesn't happen within 8 days, then we will take the necessary steps which will involve an extra cost." This was the message that some 12,000 Belgian tax payers received in a letter sent to them by the Belgian tax department.

Small detail: the "debt" totals 0 euros. But still, the Belgian state is threatening to get this money back, if needed through an attachment of earnings order.

The Belgian Finance Department confirms the news, which was published by the newspapers of the Francophone group Sudpresse. "The letters were sent on the basis of an automatic search in our data banks", says spokesman Francis Adyns. "Because of a mistake made in the search engine, letters have been sent ordering people to pay 0 euros." The necessary measures have been taken to avoid similar incidents in future, Mr Adyns went on to say. The whole operation cost 6,500 euros.

If you would be among the "debtors", you can rest reassured: those receiving a letter will not have to pay their "debt".