International employees in occupational groups that are in short supply on the Dutch labour market should also be accommodated, write the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (VH), the trade union VAWO and various other organisations in a letter sent to the State Secretary for Finance Menno Snel on Wednesday.


At present, expat employees receive a 30% tax break for a period of eight years. This adds to the appeal of Dutch research universities, research institutes, universities of applied sciences and university teaching hospitals for international candidates. One in three scientists associated with a Dutch university comes from outside the Netherlands, reported VSNU last year. This amounts to some 10,000 researchers.

However, the coalition government intends to make cuts in this scheme. As of next year, the term of the tax benefit will be reduced from eight to five years – without any transitional arrangement. The signatories are concerned about this plan. They worry that in the near future, international scientists will leave the Netherlands by the wayside. “Particularly in the case of more senior academic positions, the 30% scheme allows universities to compete in the international marketplace. When world-class researchers start looking elsewhere, this will significantly affect our academic output,” according to the letter.

Reputation damage

The organisations call on State Secretary Snel to reconsider the measure. If it nevertheless proves the only viable option, the government should at the very least set up a transitional arrangement for expats already living in the Netherlands. The current tax break may very well have informed these employees’ decision to move to the Netherlands – leaving them with a nasty surprise. This will damage the Netherlands’ reputation as a host country, warn the signatories.

Many expats are upset about the intended austerity measure: the petition ‘a deal is a deal’, launched by United Expats of the Netherlands, could already count on over 27,000 signatures.