January 8, 2011

New tax law encourages both marriage and divorce

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:04 am

Since 2001 tax forms have had a checkbox that allowed two people living together to declare a ‘fiscal partnership’, a relationship just for tax purposes. It appears (I never looked it up before), that if you and somebody else declare a fiscal partnership you get certain tax breaks, such as mortgage interest deductions for the highest earner.

This year the law has changed. It is no longer enough to declare to the tax people that you and Bob are partners, you and Bob need to have some legal status to confirm this. A wedding certificate is good, as is a registered partnership (civil union) or a notarized ‘cohabitation agreement’. The latter is used for non-intimate relationships (think father-son) and sometimes for uncommon intimate relationships (think polyamorous). What also works is owning a house together or having children together. Couples who never got around to making it ‘official’ now have a decision to take.

Interestingly, married couples who are estranged may wish to explore the possibility of a divorce under the new tax regime, Elsevier reports. You see, this new fiscal partnership is obligatory. It is harder to get into, but you cannot opt out either. One reason for such a divorce could be if each partner owns a house, so that they both can get their own mortgage interest deductions.

Another way to become fiscal partners is to have a partner recognised by one’s pension fund.

The people that may be inconvenienced the most by this measure is those who refuse to divorce for religious reasons, even if they no longer live together—a situation called ‘separated from table and bed’ in Dutch, and legally recognized as such, just no longer by the tax people.

(Photo by Eunice Chang, some rights reserved)

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April 10, 2010

Oldest family-owned company of Amsterdam may leave the city

Filed under: Food & Drink,History by Branko Collin @ 5:09 pm

Spice trader Van Eeghen, founded in 1662, has put its Amsterdam office up for rent. According to Parool, the oldest family-owned company of Amsterdam is even considering leaving the city.

Van Eeghen is housed in the Sweedenrijk building on Herengracht 462, smack in the middle of the Golden Bend, an extension of the Herengracht created in 1663. Prospective owners were encouraged to buy double lots, with the result that the city’s most affluent would build their little palaces there.

“Nothing lasts for ever,” Willem van Eeghen (14th generation) told the paper. Most of the company’s activities take place in Canada these days, and only 20 people work at the Amsterdam office. The first two floors are now for rent for 250 euro per square metre, per year, which I am guessing is a steal for that location. If the right offer comes along, the company will even consider moving out altogether.

Perhaps the neighbourhood isn’t what it used to be. To the right of Van Eeghen is lawyer Bram Moscowicz, whose nickname is ‘maffiamaatje’ (mob buddy), and two doors to the left is a subsidiary of internet mogul Yahoo, supplier of dissidents to torture chambers since 2005.

According to Wikipedia, the oldest still existing company in the Netherlands is Brand (beer, 1340), although that example neatly displays the major flaw of that list: these days Brand is merely—nomen est omen—a brand of Heineken’s.

The image is a detail of Berckheyde‘s famous De Bocht van de Herengracht, painted in 1671. Sweedenrijk is in the middle of the frame, with Moscowicz’ slither attached to it. As you can see, the lot to the left was still unoccupied that year.

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February 9, 2010

Bicycle Mania Photo Contest winner

Filed under: Bicycles,Photography by Branko Collin @ 1:58 pm

Last week Marc van Woudenberg won the Bicycle Mania Photo contest with this picture.

Van Woudenberg publishes a photo blog about cyclists in Amsterdam called ‘Amsterdamize’. My favourite photo of his is this one, from a series about biking in the winter. That back tire is almost flattened by the peer pressure.

The winning photo, called Family Cycle Train, can also be viewed on Flickr and distributed using a Creative Commons license.

If you were wondering, yes, this is a fairly common sight in the Netherlands.

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