back to article Dutch tax office deletes 730,000 tax returns

Early tax return filers have been punished rather than rewarded by the Dutch tax office, as a computer glitch meant all their information was deleted. At least 730,000 people will now have to resubmit their 2007 tax returns. No backups were made of the electronically-filed returns, and the only information to survive was the …


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  1. Aitor

    Aging systems?

    Aging systems can be difficult to adapt to new procedures, slow, and experience low uptime. But they just don't delete data.

    And.. what about no backups? This can only be incompetence.

  2. Lee Willis

    It's OK

    HMRC will have a backup on a DVD on someone's desk I'm sure ....

  3. Karl Lattimer


    Surely this is misreporting, it must be Britain it must, only our government is that stupid!

  4. dervheid
    Thumb Up


    And we thought HMRC were a bit clumsy!

    Funny how it's being blamed on a "computer glitch."

    "early birds probably still have a copy of their electronic tax returns."

    They hope!!

  5. Jeroen Wijnands

    does this fit the slogan?

    The tax office advertises with the slogan "leuker kunnen we het niet maken, wel makkelijker" which translates as: "We can't make it any nicer but we can make it easier"

  6. Pat

    Isn't Excel good!

    So that's the social security numbers for the link file , and Save, no wait, dammit, I meant Save_As


    It was the computer wot done it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    no marketing companies?

    This would never have happened in Britain seeing as they're probably already sending everything submitted online to Phorm anyway! And I'm sure Phorm could easily send a backup on DVD via royal mail...

    Next day special delivery for an extra £4.50?

    Yeah, lets splash out a bit!

  8. Sceptical Bastard

    Upstaged by Holland

    Bloody Dutch stealing our thunder! These sort of utter fuck-ups are exclusively Britain's speciality!

    Maybe we can deploy to the Nederlands tax office some of the 37 'Data Guardians' recruited by HMRC? (Knowing our track record with government IT projects, I bet the recruiters poached the 'Guardians' from PC World or Dixons)

    Seriously, though, what is it that governments find so hard about IT projects?

  9. Jamie

    No penalties.

    Funny how they lose the data and then state that there will be no penalties. Bet if someone had thier computer crash around the deadline so it did not make it on time they would not be so forgiving.

    Anarchy for all, let the government boffins burn.

    Long live Guy Fawkes.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    suprised you were allowed to report this

    Schadenfreude aside, stories like this are probably the worst thing for HMG ...since most people would have given the Dutch authorities a much higher confidence rating than our own home-grown muppets, the thinking is going to be "if *even* the Dutch mess up on this scale, what hope is there for the UK ?"

  11. Gerrit Tijhof


    "Most Dutch taxpayers do not have to submit their tax returns until 1 April and the early birds probably still have a copy of their electronic tax returns. "

    Ah, go through that whole thing AGAIN, like most people haven't got anything more fun to do. And most people are as likely to have a backup as the dutch IRS seem to have.

    What excuse is there to NOT have a backup? Pray enlighten me!

  12. Anne van der Bom

    Not deleted

    According to what I've read about it, the tax returns were not deleted, they were 'unusable'. Meaning to me that they were never correctly stored in the first place. If that is the case, the backups also contain faulty data, rendering them useless.

    Paris, 'cos I always wanted to cheer up my post with her image, like all the others do here on The Register, and this is by far the best looking picture of her.

  13. TeeCee Gold badge

    @It's OK.

    They did have, but unfortunately they've lost it.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    I call B$

    They haven't lost anything. The Dutch Tax Office didn't have enough in the budget to pay off the Lichtenstein Mole, so they've cooked up this revenue "black op" to get hold of resubmissions, against which to check for discrepancies, then tax audit mismatching cases to their heart's content!

  15. Ryan Barrett

    It's not that bad..

    The problem only effects people who've filed electronically. To do that you install a (windows) program, which builds and installs your tax return.

    Once you're done you can submit it.

    With the paper forms you're only sending them the summary information, i.e. a single sheet. The detailed calculations you must keep. I assume it's the same for the electronic program.

    So you need to keep a copy of the data, at least until you receive the confirmation letter in the post over the summer. All these users need to do is to login to the software and resubmit.

    Now, if you've deleted your tax return information, then it's really your own fault.

  16. Richard Tobin

    Do they have to resubmit?

    Presumably there's a law requiring you to submit a tax return, and they've done that already. Is there a law requiring you to submit it again if the tax office loses it?

  17. Fluffykins

    If you've complied with the law and submitted

    Bill 'em for your time for the resubmission

    And for storing the backup

  18. Dennis

    Thank god for paper!

    I'm so glad i didn't fill it in electronicly. Never DEPEND on technology. Just use it to do things faster! If you depend on computers for everything, computers in a way WILL take over the world...

    I just filled it in on paper, made a black\white copy and send it in.

    I guess i can assume mine isn't affected :)

    By the way, what happend to the Open-standard for dutch government? Guess they still use windows...

  19. tom

    schtop schtop

    These backups are not ready yet...

  20. Alan Wijntje

    Aah international fame

    Yeps even we dutch are capable of messing things up beyond all recognition (and even backups can't help us now!?).

    And being one of the ealy birds I'm not amused.

    But to be fair on the Dutch Tax Office.

    They do offer the tax software for Windows, Linux and OSX so at least we still have that to be proud off.

    Now where did I leave my backup........

  21. Frans B

    But that is a LOT of files to backup

    I've just checked my PC (I *do* make backups), and a single tax return file is slightly under 20 kilobytes large.

    So these 730,000 take up a grand total of 15 GB. I guess a spindle of about 10 DVDs should be in the budget for some ad-hoc backups ...

  22. Harry

    "No backups were made"

    And henceforth, the process of operating a major computer system without proper competence will presumably be known as "GOING DUTCH".

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Dutch Law

    Dutch Law is very restrictive on backup/data retention,

    From recollection all states records must be able to be destroyed within 24hrs, following the ease by which people were rounded up in the second world war, the dutch have implemented systems that they can destroy all this data quickly. This obviously includes the back-ups of this data, which may go a long way to explaining this problem.

  24. Remy Redert

    Choice of OS

    As already pointed out, they offer the program for Windows, *nix and mac OS.

    And yes, by default the program saves the data and as it takes up very little disc space I doubt that anybody bothered to delete the thing after submitting their info.

    The data was not lost or deleted. It was corrupted because of a software bug as and when it came in. They didn't notice until they started checking the data apparently.

    Don't worry, the HMRC still holds the record for now.

  25. Rippy

    @Gerrit - Unforgivable

    > What excuse is there to NOT have a backup? Pray enlighten me!

    You clearly haven't worked in the Civil Service:

    1. We didn't budget for that.

    2. That was the Facilies|Operations|Development|Integration|Catering (choose one or more) responsibility.

    3. Developing the Flash intro for the client software ran over-budget, so they grabbed the backup budget.

    4. We were told that the privacy laws forbade keeping the data for more than 45 minutes.

    5. Certainly we backed it up. We used the backup software supplied by the Minister's son-in-law's firm. We've never had it restore anything successfully yet.

    6. We had to anonymize the data before we backed it up.

    7. We encrypt all backups, and the clerk with encryption the key was run over by a garbage truck|was hired by Phorm|has Alzheimer's (choose only one).

    You see? there are a wealth of excuses, some of them not even used yet.


  26. Jan

    Staff circulation

    I remember reading a long article on the rather disastrous effects of implementing a certain way of organizing staff. One of the things involved was a forced staff rotation with roughly a 3 year frequency on various management levels. So once someone has has become adequately experienced in a complex subject he/she is rotated away. Guess what stuff like that does to the continuity of your organization or IT.

    My best guess is that we're now seeing in the Netherlands the interesting after effects of some rather disastrous decisions implemented roughly 2 to 3 years ago resulting in the knowledgeable people moving out. 2-3 years is how long it usually takes for systems to crumble and die without proper supervision.

  27. Ton Smits

    over 600

    Today, Dutch tax-office officials admitted that there are over 600 different sopftware-programs being used by the it-departement, most of them more than 10 years old...

  28. Craig Newbury


    <Dr. Evil>Crazy Dutch Bastards</Dr. Evil>

  29. James Pickett
    Thumb Down

    Who was the contractor..

    ..EDS or Crapita?

  30. Gerrit Tijhof
    Thumb Down


    "Today, Dutch tax-office officials admitted that there are over 600 different sopftware-programs being used by the it-departement, most of them more than 10 years old..."

    Oh, that's cool. They cóuld've stated they use >400 programming languages, thát would be a bit remarkable...

  31. Regis

    It's not that bad

    For the Dutch Tax office this is obviously quite an embarrassement, but for the taxpayer whose tax return has been lost this is only a minor issue:

    I am a Duch tax payer, and the way you file an online tax return in Holland is by downloading a little application.

    Once you have filled-in everything, you type your password and send the data over.

    The good thing is that the program used to do so automatically backs up the tax return on your computer. So all you have to do is run the program again and send the data once more, not that bad at all really.

    The only people that would experience some annoyance would be those that deleted the data after they had send it (never a good idea in any case).

  32. Jorge Olguin Avalos
    Gates Horns

    Err.. some missreporting?

    Who do I have to suit? The info was not erased... It was re-reouted to my inbox.. and now is about to overrun... I can't send any more emails!!!! damnit.. I'm lost!!! how could I survive in this modern world? and you tought you have troubles!!! Imagine... me with my email box fullfilled!!!! Help!!! any hacker would tell me how to get ride of this usefull information????!!!

    ps. just being ironic

  33. Anonymous Coward


    "The Dutch tax office has been struggling with IT problems since last year, when 400,000 companies had to resubmit payroll details because of a software fault."

    There are 400,000 companies in the Netherlands?...

  34. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    records destruction

    From recollection all states records must be able to be destroyed within 24hrs

    Yup, I've got a system for records destruction at the surplus I work at... a beefy paper shredder than can shred disks & CDs, and a sledgehammer for rapid hard disk destruction. 24 hours? No problem 8-)

    (In all seriousness, though, hard disks are 3-pass erased there unless they are faulty -- up to 32 IDE disks at a shot, and 3 6-8 disk SCSI enclosures for 3 different types of SCSI disk sleds. A machine is sitting waiting to be hooked up if we start getting SATA disks.)

  35. fluffels
    Paris Hilton

    sod that

    if they delete mine, there's no way i'm rushing to do it again. they can bloody wait.

    incompetent arses.

    paris, because while she's incompetent, i'd love to meet her arse.

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