If earnings have become subject to an attachment
If an employee’s earnings becomes subject to an attachment (i.e. an attachment of earnings), employers must take the ‘beslagvrije voet’ (attachment-exempt threshold) into consideration. This is the part of an employee’s wages (s)he is still entitled to. On January 1, 2021, the ‘Wet vereenvoudiging beslagvrije voet’ (Act on the Simplification of the Attachment-Exempt Threshold) went into effect. This Act regulates that the employee no longer has to provide details him-/herself and that the bailiff or debt collector must use the same means of calculating the ‘beslagvrije voet’ for each attachment.
The purpose of the ‘beslagvrije voet’ (attachment-exempt threshold) is to enable people in debt to still purchase and pay for basic needs, even if their earnings have become subject to an attachment. This is why there is a part of earnings which is exempt from attachment: this way, not all money can be taken away to pay off a debt. The part of earnings above the attachment-exempt threshold, i.e. the part that can be seized, will be withheld by the employer and paid directly to the bailiff or debt collector. This payment is used to pay off the employee’s debt.
The new Act was necessary because the calculations of the ‘beslagvrije voet’ frequently result in a threshold which set too low. This is the case for an estimated 75% of all attachments issued. A ‘beslagvrije voet’ which is set too low can have drastic consequences, because it could result in the employee in debt having too little left of his/her earnings to cover subsistence. Under the old rules, which were in effect until December 31, 2020, a lot of details necessary for the calculation of the ‘beslagvrije voet’ still had to be provided by the debtor him-/herself.
The sheer size and complexity of details which had to be provided has increased over the last couple of years: nowadays, most debtors have more than one source of income and they often also receive benefits and allowances. And that is the problem: the debtor would frequently not, not completely, or not in time provide the details needed.
A transition period of one year
Employees whose earnings have or will become subject to an attachment after January 1, 2021, will have to deal with a ‘beslagvrije voet’ calculated according to the new rules. For attachments imposed before that date, a new ‘beslagvrije voet’ will be calculated. For those attachments, a transition period of one year applies. In 2021, the employee can request a recalculation of the ‘beslagvrije voet’. The coordinating debt collector will be the point of contact for the employee and employer.
Moreover, the bailiff or debt collector would have to calculate the ‘beslagvrije voet’ for each attachment individually by hand, based on the details provided. In case of multiple attachments, an employer will most likely apply the lowest attachment-exempt threshold when paying the bailiff or debt collector, so as to avoid a reproach from the creditor that (s)he is not cooperating. This would often lead to a situation in which the employee in debt did not have enough earnings left to cover subsistence.
The new Act makes things easier, especially for the employee. For employers, little changes. Let’s look at the changes:
Uniform, automated calculation
Since January 1, 2021, the details necessary to calculate the ‘beslagvrije voet’ will be provided automatically by the ‘Basisregstratie Personen’ (Personal Records Database), abbreviated at BRP, and the ‘polisadminstratie’ (record of pensions plans) by the UWV. This means employees will have to provide fewer details themselves. The details from the BRP and UWV will from now on allow a bailiff or debt collector to calculate the ‘beslagvrije voet’ in a uniform way through a calculation module.
Height of the ‘beslagvrije voet’
The ‘beslagvrije voet’ is based on the taxable earnings or an employee. As of January 1, 2021, at least 5% of the total net earnings of a debtor must be used to pay off a debt.
Order of attachments
There is a legally required, automated order in which different sources of income can become subject to an attachment. Multiple (cumulative) attachments on periodic earnings of the same employee must be centralized as much as possible by imposing them on only one source of income.
Coordinating debt collector
For employees – as well as for employers – there will be one point of contact in the event of multiple attachments: the ‘coördinerende deurwaarder’ (coordinating debt collector). This will usually be the bailiff or debt collector who is responsible for the oldest (i.e. first of multiple) attachment imposed, who will then function as the coordinating debt collector for all attachments and parties involved. (S)he will calculate the ‘beslagvrije voet’ for each attachment and will coordinate the collection, distribution and payment of the money (s)he receives. If the municipality is on of the parties involved, a bailiff will usually take care of the attachment(s) issued by the municipality separately. You will then be informed by the bailiff or municipality on who will be your point of contact.
The employee will receive a so-called ‘modelmededeling’ (model statement) by the (coordinating) debt collector or bailiff. Here, (s)he will find information about the calculated ‘beslagvrije voet’ and which details have been used for this. If the attachment creditor is not a bailiff and cannot (yet) determine whether an attachment has been imposed previously, he will calculate the ‘beslagvrije voet’ conditionally.
In addition, an employee will receive an accompanying letter. This will mentioned, among other things, the employee’s option if (s)he thinks the details used are incorrect. Moreover, the employee can check the ‘beslagvrije voet’ used by calculating it him-/herself on www.uwbeslagvrijevoet.nl.
All attachment parties, including the UWV, ‘Belastingdienst’ (Dutch Revenue Service) and municipalities, will work with a calculation module, so as to ultimately calculate the same ‘beslagvrije voet’. With the implementation of the new Act, the employee, employer and creditors are therefore assured that all parties involved will use the exact same ‘beslagvrije voet’.
Keep a record of the the attachment of earnings
During the attachment of earnings, it is important to keep a good record in your salary administration of what has to be paid to the employee and what to the debt collector or bailiff.
Furthermore, it is important you keep all documents pertaining to the attachment. And make sure this is done carefully, as they contain privacy sensitive information which is subject to a duty of confidentiality.
Stop payments to debt collector
Only stop payments to a debt collector once you have received a written notification from the debt collector or a court order to do so. Never do so at your own or an employee’s initiative. You, the employer, will then be held liable for the money owed by the employee.
Royal Professional Organization of Bailiffs “Koninklijke Beroepsorganisatie van Gerechtsdeurwaarders” (KBvG), kbvg.nl/vbvv (orginal article in Dutch).