Going Dutch and Paying Taxes

by Elias Blum

Readers of this blog might not know that I have relocated from Scotland to the Netherlands, primarily for work reasons. This move actually took place some months ago and I’ve had an opportunity to get used to Dutchness – the weather (better than Scotland), the food (worse than Scotland) and the culture (quite similar to Scotland, in lots of ways, but disorientatingly different in others).

On the whole, it’s a great country. Things work. Public transport is excellent. The streets are clean and safe. There’s a healthy, balanced lifestyle. People treat one another as equals. I’ve seen fewer beggars in months in the Hague than I would see in a day in Edinburgh or Glasgow.

I’ve even had my first experience of voting in a Dutch election. As an EU citizen resident in the Netherlands, I can vote in municipal and European elections, as well as elections for the local ‘waterschap’. The waterschap is the body that is responsible for maintaining the dikes and the dams that keep the water out of the country – and they are also some of the oldest democratic institutions in the world, with a continuous existence going back to the middle ages.

One of the things that there is in the Netherlands, though, is quite a lot of tax.  It’s going to be a slightly lean month, because I’ve got a 760 Euro tax bill to pay to the municipality and to the waterschap. But I really don’t mind. In a just and fair society (which the Netherlands pretty much is), where corruption is minimal and where the common good is the principal object of public affairs, paying tax is an honour not a burden. Taxes are an opportunity to contribute, in some small but tangible way, to the common good in which we all share.

Thanks to good governance and a relatively high quality of democracy, I don’t feel I’m being robbed by a distant or wasteful state that wants to spend money on, say, nuclear weapons. Instead, I feel glad that I’m doing my bit towards maintaining a decent society.

I just wish the mega-corporations and the super-rich, in the UK and elsewhere, felt the same. If they would adopt a less selfish and more civic attitude towards the payment of taxes, we could all be better off.