Calls for changes to child benefit payment after EU ruling

Rule changes making it easier for EU citizens to receive the state child benefit has the opposition putting pressure on the government to take action

The opposition is concerned that EU rules make it too easy for foreigners to receive the universal state child subsidy (børnecheck) and then send that money out of the country without ever paying taxes in Denmark.

“This is a bomb under our welfare system that the government does not seem to be aware of,” Konservative spokesperson Brian Mikkelsen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “We need to change the system so that rather than a check, the child benefit would be a tax deduction.”

Liberal Alliance tax spokesperson Torsten Schack Pedersen agreed that the system needs an overhaul.

“We want to give Danish families a helping hand, but we can no longer be an all-you-can-eat buffet for people who come and work here for a short time,” he said.

In 2010, the then Venstre-led government, along with Dansk Folkeparti (DF), put in place a requirement that EU citizens had to work in the country for two years before they could receive the quarterly payment.

The requirement, however, is due to be dropped this autumn, after a ruling by the European Commission in June found it was contrary to union rules allowing the free movement of labour.

DF head Kristian Thulesen Dahl said he plans to use the summer to educate Danes about the effects of the change, which he said will allow workers from eastern European countries to work in Denmark and send the child support money back home.

“I think with enough pressure, the government will have to make a change,” he said.

Socialistisk Folkeparti spokesperson Jonas Dahl did not want to see the benefit switched from a check to an income tax deduction – fearing that such a change would result in less money for low income families – but agreed that something needed to be done.

“We need to raise the issue with the EU so that other countries with the same problem as Denmark can discuss the matter,” he said. “It is crucial that we can preserve the Danish welfare model, where you pay taxes in Denmark and enjoy benefits. You should not just be able to come from another EU country to get child support.”