The international bursary students, under 30 years, in the Netherlands are exempted by the Dutch law from the obligation to pay social insurance (amounts up to 33% of your income). If you want to access the legal document, click here and scroll down to article 20. Instead, the international bursary students are generally asked to pay around 3% of tax on their income, depending on their appointment. Note that, not all bursary students are expected to pay the same taxes, so make sure to clarify this with your PhD coordinator. Below you find certain situations when exemption is no longer applicable.
Disclaimer: Please note that GRIN has collected most of this information through the notifications of actual taxation problems that Groningen PhD Candidates have encountered over the last few years. Be aware that taxation of bursary scholarships – due to the fragile legal status of the phenomenon of the bursary PhD – currently is a complex topic to which perfect answers cannot always be given. We are not taxation specialists. You may want to check with for instance Tax Globalizers (https://taxglobalizers.com/en/home) as well for more information.
You may also want to keep in mind that a national ‘experiment’ involving bursary PhD Candidates is currently being negotiated by universities, the Ministry of Education and national political parties in Dutch Parliament. If agreement is reached, this may bring new changes for bursaries as early as 2015.
Hereby some frequently asked questions regarding taxation.
1. When is the deadline to send in my tax assessment?
The Belastingdienst (Tax Office) has set the annual submission deadline on April 1st.
2. How do I fill in the tax assessment form?
If you have been asked by the Belastingdienst to do a tax assessment, you are obliged by law to fill in the online tax form. If you are not sure how to do it, follow the instructions on our website page. Please read the instructions extremely carefully.
3. I am 30 years or older.
As explained above, international students under 30 are a category of people who do not need to pay social insurance to contribute to the Dutch social welfare system. This provided the students stay in the Netherlands only for the purpose of pursuing their studies. Once 30 years or older, you will be required to pay a higher tax on your income.
The University Council and the Board of Governors of the University tried to facilitate the international students of 30 and above by increasing the gross allowances for bursary PhD’s, those older than 30 as well as those younger but with different numbers.
Starting from the 1st January of 2013 the bruto allowance of bursary students was set at:
- < 30 year: € 1.699 per month
- >30 year: € 2.625 per month
The increase in salary is meant to counterbalance the increase in taxation expected from the Tax Office.
4. I am getting married to a Dutch citizen.
When you decide to get legally married to a Dutch citizen your tax situation as a bursary student changes radically. This because after the marriage you are no longer in the Netherlands solely for the purpose of your ‘study’ id est PhD project.
As the legal partner of Dutch citizen, you have access to Dutch social benefits, when necessary. This was not the case until your marriage, according to the law. Therefore, according to the law you have to pay more taxes under the principle of collective participation in social welfare. The tax you have to pay is collected by the Dutch Tax Office to pay for the Netherlands social welfare system. Payment is mandatory for all, primarily for those who work, with a range of exceptions.
To our knowledge, there is not much room to object to the decision of the Belastingdienst to increase the amount you have to pay each year. If you want to object, you must convince them that your marriage does not mean that you fail to meet this requirement for exemption. This may not be easy however.
5. I am going to cohabitate with my Dutch partner.
The Dutch TAX law considers ‘registered partnership’ as equivalent to marriage. Note, that the registered partnership is not the same to marriage in all aspects of Dutch law, particularly regarding children. Concerning the tax office, if you have a registered partnership (geregistreerd partnerschap) the high tax bill is applicable to your situation (the same as marriage; see point above). If you are not going to have a registered partnership, then it is important to find out if you are going to be fiscal partners or not. If yes, this will have consequences for your taxes.
6. I am a bursary student but the Tax office considers me an employee.
During the winter of 2012, some bursary PhDs received pressing retroactive taxation demands as announced in a letter from the Tax Office that said it had decided to consider these bursaries to be employees. Which automatically obliges these bursaries to pay all kinds of extra taxes that are normally part of the salary arrangements for employees (but without mentioning the benefits that this should bring upon this extra taxation). However, the University Board of Governors contacted the Tax Office after which these bursaries did not have to pay these additional taxes.
7. I am a bursary PhD and have been offered a job upon graduation
This situation requires careful deliberation and planning. Accepting and starting a regular job as an employee in the same fiscal year in which the PhD graduation occurs may trigger taxation of the already received scholarship income in the same manner as a salary is taxed. This can get quite expensive. Unfortunately GRIN has been notified of quite a few cases in which this has happened, so the risk is a real one, for instance for all who aim for a post doc contract in Groningen. A perfect solution to this problem is to start the new job on January 1st, but that may not fit many schedules. Our advice is 1.) to be really careful with the timing of graduation and new commitment if this is within your power to do so and 2.) to talk these things through with old and/or new supervisors to make sure that this problem is not just your personal burden and to find out in time what can and cannot be done to avoid unpleasant surprises in blue enveloppes.