Less-educated workers also eligible for 30%-ruling
A German national living in Germany joined a Dutch company as a pipe-fitter on August 1, 2007. The company’s request to apply the 30%-ruling was rejected by the inspector. According to the Hague the decision was justified because an experienced pipe-fitter is not considered to possess specific expertise as established in the 30%-ruling. The Court considered the fact that pipe fitting is a trade which can be learned at lower or secondary vocational education level, and maintain that it cannot be said that the training is highly qualified or specialized. The fact that there is a shortage of experienced pipe-fitters on the Dutch labour market and that the clients of the company demand a high technical ability of pipe-fitters do not mean that the man possesses specific expertise when either taken on their own or together. The company appealed against the Court ruling.
Attorney-General Niessen, delved into the question of whether the Court had applied the correct measures in assessing whether the man possessed specific expertise. The A-G considered the Court’s opinion that the training is not specialized incorrect given what was established about the training programme during the proceedings and the fact that such training does not exist in the Netherlands. However important training which does not require an excellent intellectual level are for the economy, a recurring lament from leading people in the industry is that too few young people opt for technical training beyond the vocational school level. In the rulings which preceded the current 30% regime, a highly qualified or specific education was assumed. Under the current ruling, it can no longer simply be said that a college level minimum is required. The rationale of the ruling does not suggest this either, according to the A-G. The implication that a lower educated person does not fulfil the condition of specific expertise seems acceptable to the A-G, but each case must be assessed on its merits. Furthermore, according to the A-G someone who has several professional qualifications is not necessarily an “expert” in their field. This is particularly so now that the ruling is also applied to professional footballers. A-G Niessen concludes that the Court has started from in incorrect assumption of the law. According to the A-G, from the established facts it follows that the first pipe-fitter indeed possessed the required expertise, so that the company is eligible for the 30%-ruling. Conclusion: The appeal is validated.