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Dutch industry-wide plans fight tax move

The Dutch pensions body for in-dustry-wide schemes has called upon the new secretary of state for pensions, Hans Hoogervorst to ad-dress suspicions that private pension schemes could soon enjoy the same tax privileges as industry funds.

Such a move, they fear, could jeopardise the future for labour market schemes and prompt employees to take increased risks with their pensions provision.

Karin Bitter, policy supervisor at the VB industry body said: We are currently lobbying the new Dutch cabinet, because we believe the government is intent on blurring the tax boundaries between private and in-dustry schemes. This will invariably lead to people opting out of safe, cost-effective pension arrangements with-in their industry, to personal plans with much greater danger for their future."

Bitter explains that issues such as the taxation of pensions after retirement, which it is mooted could be switched to a progressive tax on premiums for employeesand employers, also needed improved clarification and debate by the new minister.

In the recent Dutch cabinet reshuffle, Klaas de Vraes was named as the new minister for social security, with Hoogervorst stepping in to replace Frank de Grave for the pensions position.

A spokesperson for the Dutch ministry of social security said: "Both ministers will be following the same policies for social security and pensions as their predecessors, and no pensions issues were on the agenda when the Dutch parliament reconvened in mid- September."

But Erik van Dijk at Amsterdam-based Palladyne Asset Management, part of UAM investment, also believes there are many grey areas in the pensions spectrum that the new ministers must clear up.

"Issues about the different defined roles of pension funds, asset managers and insurance companies are very much a hot topic at present, and need looking at. For example, the insurance community is aggrieved that pension funds are selling insurance products, with reasonable logic. However, extending the argument, many insurers are investing and running the money from some life insurance policies, which is pension fund and asset manager territory," he says.

Van Dijk is certain the last word has not been spoken in this debate, and feels the government must start outlining parameters within which all three can operate.

Rob ten Wolde of the OPF pensions body for company schemes, said: "At least one of the issues surrounding pensions will be cleared up within a month. Hoogervorst has asked pension funds to give private schemes a character that keeps them within their domain.Otherwise, the door will be opened to insurance companies in an area that is increasingly resembling their own business." Hugh Wheelan"

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