Dutch royals under increasing pressure to pay tax

Parliamentary motion passed but majority not reached to force constitutional change

Dutch royals moved a step closer to paying income tax when, for the first time, a motion in parliament to reverse their tax-exempt status was carried by a clear majority.

To their exasperation, however, members were informed by prime minister Mark Rutte that initiating the historic change would also require an amendment to Article 40 of the constitution for which a two-thirds majority is obligatory – and the vote was inadequate.

“This is not a significant basis for constitutional change,” the prime minister, part of whose job is to represent the interests of the royals to parliament, told the MPs.

The mood surrounding the vote was not helped by the fact that, at a time of tightening purse strings throughout the economy, the pay for King Willem-Alexander has increased this year by €276,000 to €6.4 million annually.


Given the financial pressure on households as a result of record inflation and high energy costs, a growing number of MPs had come to the view since the start of the year that the pay increase should have been refused or postponed by the king as an acknowledgment of that hardship.

In the 150-seat lower house, the motion tabled by minority rights party, Denk (Think), was carried by a simple majority of 90 in favour, including centre-left government coalition partners D66, as well as left-wing and far-right parties. It was opposed by Mr Rutte’s Liberal/VVD party.

Embarrassingly for the royals, the text of the motion included an observation that it would have been “a gesture of royal magnanimity” for the king to have refused his pay rise on the grounds that “so many people are struggling to pay their bills”.

One English-language headline declared above a portrait of the king: “Off with his exemption!”

Not only King Willem-Alexander, but his wife, Queen Maxima, former monarch Princess Beatrix, and the heir to the throne, Princess Amalia, would all have been required to pay tax had the motion been adequate to force constitutional change.

Sympathy for the royals is at a low in the Netherlands. After a pandemic peppered with gaffes – not the least of which was displaying a new €2 million powerboat near their Greek compound – an Ipsos poll showed confidence in the king plunging from 76 per cent to 47 per cent over 12 months.

In December, Willem-Alexander commissioned independent research into the role of the royal family during the colonial history of the Netherlands from the late-16th century up to the “post-colonial present”. Some believe it could backfire.

“Profound knowledge of the past is essential to understand historical facts and developments and to see their impact on human beings and communities as honestly as possible,” the king said at the time.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court