I worked in South Africa for my current employer in my current position for my current boss doing the same job as I do today paying into the South African tax system. My daughter went to the best schools and the majority of my friends considered my family as affluent. I worked hard but travelled a lot. My manager offered me an opportunity to move to Europe. At first, we decided to stick to South Africa but then my daughter was invited to spend 7 weeks in Netherlands for cycling. We joined her as she was still only 15.
In these 7 weeks, we started to experience a little bit of the Dutch culture. In my country, if I spoke my mother tongue Afrikaans in a public place, I would be frowned upon and even ignored. Yet, in the Netherlands, people smiled and responded with positively. They insisted that we speak Afrikaans with them. This was weird to us as a family … for the first time in many years I felt some pride being Afrikaans.
One day we stepped onto a bus in Geleen. I struck up a conversation in my broken Dutch, actually Afrikaans, with the bus driver and I mentioned to him we might want to move to Holland. He made a very striking comment- “Dus je komt naar huis”. This struck a very deep emotion within me and for the first time since I was a teenager I felt like I belonged somewhere. Little did this middle aged man driving a bus know what an impact he would have on me and my family. As I got to know more people over these initial 7 weeks, I started to experience some cultures that seemed familiar to me as a kid. Your word is your honour. You could walk into a shop, order a bicycle, and they would prepare it for you without payment. The word of a stranger…
We arrived and received “the government’s word” that we would receive a 30% tax break for 8 years from arrival date. I decided to enter my daughter into a private school. She was 16 and about to finish high school. I did not want her to change her curriculum a 3rd time in 3 years in a 3rd language (Afrikaans – English – Dutch). We thus had to enter her into at least an English school and options were few and far between and quite an expense. We funded her schooling with the savings from the 30% tax break.
We soon realized that, after high school, we would have to pay full price for her studies. Being highly skilled expat means that my daughter does not qualify for any help from the government for her studies. We have to pay as if she is a foreign student even though we pay taxes in this country. She also does not qualify for help from our country as she is not studying in our home country. A double whammy. It was a hard pill to swallow as most other students had assistance from the Dutch government, but not us. For the first time. I felt a little isolated and not really part of the system.
We decided to bite the bullet and take my bonus every year and pay for her university fees and then use the 30% money to pay for housing in Amsterdam. She is now in her second year in university here in the Netherlands. Despite living here in the Netherlands, we do not qualify for government support for her education. Our family spent over 22,000 euro in year 1 to cover university fees, accommodation, travel, and food. These costs are not tax-deductible. Despite these huge costs, I see the positive in this. She will not have loans to repay when she completes her studies, and has she realized that we have no cash to waste so she really ‘puts her head down’ to finish as soon as possible.
She will be finishing year 2 in August of 2019, which will again be over 20,000 euro in costs for us. And now, we get this news that we will lose the 30% tax rule. We have been living an average lifestyle since arriving in Netherlands. After doing the math to understand what this loss will mean, it is clear that it will deplete my family’s savings by the time my daughter finishes university and put us in a financially precarious position.
This ruling will have a severe impact on my family. This money is not used for pleasure, in our case we do not go on long holidays but we are funding a person’s future – a person that will stay in this country and, in turn, will contribute to its economy. I ask the government the following: please honour your word like the rest of the citizens in this country do.