Admin, admin, admin.

Yesterday was an admin day for me. By ten in the morning I had conversed in English, Dutch and Norwegian, and found out some useful information.

We’ve been doing our taxes and getting in a right muddle with the Norwegian forms. So yesterday we went into the Skattekontoret in the centre of town and ended up in an interview room chatting to the local tax expert. Halfway through the conversation the gentleman realised that we’d been resident in Norway for less than 183 days in 2010. This realisation brought with us a significant advantage in that we now do not have to add details of income etc in the Netherlands to the Norwegian forms. That saves us a lot of work and means we should be able to submit the forms this week.

I also phoned the Belastingdienst in the Netherlands. Despite having a one hundred page instruction leaflet accompanying the one hundred page tax form, we’re still confused every now and again by the M-biljet.

One example is that you have to fill in details in section 61 about capital and both fiscal partners have to put the total capital on both forms. We found this a bit strange, so I made a note of it. I turns out that, although the instructions for section 61 don’t mention this fact, later on in section 63 you have to fill in how the capital is divided between the two financial partners. I would have expected a note somewhere in section 61 saying something like “see section 63 for division of capital”.

This lack of clarity and cross referencing means that you have to read all the instructions for the sections that are relevant for you BEFORE you start filling in the form. I suppose the only comfort is that we won’t need to do a full tax return again for the Dutch tax authorities.

That is, until we receive our miniscule state pensions at retirement age. Something to look forward to eh?

Another thing I investigated was the rules regarding our driving licences. We both have Dutch driving licences: I simply swapped mine under EU rules whilst Damae, with her Canadian driving licence had to take a full driving course and Dutch test. The first time she failed as she didn’t drive aggressively enough for the examiner’s liking. This was not so much of a surprise if you compare the way Canadians drive with the way Dutch people seem to drive. A new driving instructor and a few hundred guilders more in lessons and she passed.

Under the current EU/EOS rules we could carry on using our Dutch licences in Norway, until they expire. Or we could swap them now for Norwegian licences. The former option would save us some money in the short term, although there is one problem. If we were to lose a licence or have it stolen then we would have to apply for a Norwegian licence anyway.

Now it takes at least a couple of weeks to swap an EU driving licence for a Norwegian one and you have to hand in your EU driving licence at the start of the process. Or in the case of a loss of a driving licence we’d have to contact the RDW in the Netherlandsfor proof that we’d had a valid Dutch licence (echtheidsverklaring). This of course would take some time too. In the intervening period we’d get a Norwegian temporary licence that is ONLY valid in Norway.

Given this information we’ve decided to swap our driving licences this coming autumn in an organised way, rather than waiting until our Dutch licences expire or for us to lose one of other of them. We have no plans to travel by car outside of Norway in the autumn but we will swap our licences one by one so at least one of us will be able to drive outside of Norway at all times.

That will reduce our administrative links with the Netherlands and make it easier for us to get a duplicate driving licences should we need to.

Finally, I hope to be able to bring my old tatty Citroen Dyane to Norway in the summer. I have to sort administrative things such as insurance for the journey and maybe export number plates in Holland and/or Norway. I sent an email to my insurance broker in the Netherlands and am awaiting a reply. I’m not hopeful that it will be the reply I’d like but that’s not the point. If you know what the rules are, then you can follow them. Driving round in an uninsured car is not an option.

At least once the Dyane is registered here in Norway I won’t have to worry about such things again.

Trying to contact KPN ‘Customer Service’ whilst abroad

KPN is a hard company to get hold of even when you are in the Netherlands. It is impossible to find a customer service email address on their website. So you have to phone their customer service uses a 0900 number (10 eurocents/minute) which costs over Eur 1-30/minute when using a prepaid mobile. It is not possible to use Skype to phone Dutch 0900 numbers.

So if you have no landline and only a prepaid mobile it will cost you a fortune for a simple five minute wait in the queue and a five minute conversation with a customer service agent.

It is worse from abroad. Not only can you not phone KPN using Skype you can’t phone KPN using a Norwegian prepaid mobile phone. Aha but you can use ‘Mijn KPN’ to do all sorts of useful things. Yes. Except you can’t change your address details to a foreign address*.

I’m obviously missing something here, but isn’t this against all those nice EU rules about freedom of movement of goods, services and people. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why you might want to use a Dutch company’s services whilst not being a registered resident of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. So why on earth does the ‘Mijn KPN’ website not allow this**.

 I digress. The good news is that I have found a way to get to the KPN ‘Customer Service’ line from Norway. I phone the main switchboard phone number +31 70 3434343 (using Skype prepaid), explained my problem and was put through to ‘Customer Service’ straight away.

Not that it helped much but hey at least it was possible and didn’t cost a fortune***.

*It is not just the website. KPN Netherlands simply does not accept a foreign address from you for any reason.
**KPN is not the only company with this limitation, we had the same problem with ‘Mijn FBTO’ earlier in the year. At least FBTO will accept a foreign correspondence address although they will ignore it and still send letters to the Dutch address.
*** Actually most companies in Holland use 0900 for customer support. Even the dole office uses a phone line that you cannot use from Skype and costs Eur 1-30/minute from a mobile. That’s really useful when you are unemployed.

Customer service is so bad in the Netherlands that the present govenment has promised to ‘talk to companies’ about the problem. That’s a good example of swift and decisive action from the new government .

The article in Dutch
The article in Googleze-Dunglish (you don’t need to understand any Dutch to appreciate how badly Google Translate does with Dutch to English translations)

The article mentions a campaign by the Dutch comedian Youp van’ t Hek after his son had a rough deal from T-Mobile. Google translates “het ‘legaal naaien van klanten'” literally. It should read something like “the legalised screwing of customers” (-by companies)