14 January 2019

ITEM commits to reducing administrative burden for pensioners abroad

Pensioners who emigrate within the EU and wish to continue to receive their pension must periodically send in a life certificate to various institutions. By doing so, they prevent the pension from being paid out unduly after death. In practice, this means that a pensioner, with or without reduced mobility, has to travel to competent authorities several times a year at their own expense in order to have the correct documents authenticated. This administrative hassle is caused by differing submission moments for receiving the life certificate between the Dutch Social Insurance Bank (SVB) and pension funds during the year. PhD candidate Sander Kramer, Prof. Dr. Marjon Weerepas of expertise center ITEM (Maastricht University) and Pascalle Pechholt (Border Work Advisor for Member of the European Parliament Jeroen Lenaers) proposed to the Pension Federation to synchronise the submission moments and encourage the further development of a digital infrastructure.

Great inconvenience
The recovery of unduly paid pensions is a complex and burdensome process, which makes it important for authorities to prevent undue payments by means of life certificates. Pensioners not only have to deal with the costs of submitting life certificates several times a year, but also with differing delivery methods per institution: digital or on paper, by mail or registered mail. In addition, in order to obtain validated proof, a pensioner may have to travel to an embassy or other authority several times a year at their own expense. Depending on the number of pension funds that the pensioner has to deal with and the number of submission moments, this can be a major inconvenience, especially for the elderly with mobile disabilities. According to ITEM, this can - and should - be regulated in a much better way.

Automated data exchange
In line with ITEM's proposal, the Pension Federation has decided to recommend its members  to harmonise the submission moments with SVB's policy, so that a pensioner only needs to submit a life certificate once a year. In addition, discussions are currently taking place in the pension sector on ways for further improvement of the life certificate process. The sector is also working on further digitisation and automated data exchange, which means fewer and fewer life certificates will be needed in the future. To this end, the Registry for Non-Residents (RNI) may proof useful. This database includes people who live abroad, but still have a certain relationship with the Dutch government, such the pension system in this case. The RNI shows from whom the SVB has received a life certificate, but the database doesn’t yet give full exclusion. Pensioners from a number of countries, such as Australia, Belgium, Germany and Suriname, less frequently and sometimes not at all have to send life certificates because these countries have a so-called reduced risk of not informing on cases of death. Automated exchange of personal data or periodic life certificate requests provides the right data for the RNI. Pension providers can consult the RNI in these cases as well.

Netherlands vs. abroad
The life certificate forms a large contrast between pensioners inside and outside the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, a pensioner’s death is automatically shared with pension authorities, after which the pension is terminated. This doesn’t automatically happen abroad, so that emigrants who have built up an old-age pension (AOW) or supplementary pension, can claim this only if they send a life certificate to SVB and/or pension funds. The current situation forms obstacles to European freedom of movement.