Can an administrative body interrupt prescriptions periods without an act of interruption?
Although a written notification sent by an administrative body is not regarded as an act of interruption under the Dutch General Administrative Law Act (‘GALA’), such a notification can nevertheless be equated to such an act under certain circumstances.
An administrative body’s right to claim payment of a sum of money lapses five years after the payment deadline in question has expired. A prescription period of one year applies to collecting incremental penalty payments. An administrative body can interrupt that period. That requires an act of interruption. The GALA provides a full list of what qualifies as such an act of interruption in the case of an administrative body.
Pursuant to section 4:105 GALA, such acts of interruption on the part of administrative bodies generally consist of bringing legal proceedings or an act of prosecution. In addition, section 4:106 GALA also lists written demands for payment within 2 weeks, setoff decisions, writs of execution and acts enforcing writs of execution as acts of interruption on the part of administrative bodies.
In two decisions dated 27 July 2016, the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Dutch Council of State equates a written notification sent by the Municipal Executive, in which it reserves its right to payment of incremental penalty payments that have been forfeited, with an act of interruption. That is worth noting, since such a written notification does not fall within the scope of the above-referenced acts of interruption available to administrative bodies as provided for in the GALA. As a matter of fact, in section 4:107 GALA, the legislature has even explicitly listed a written notification (Explanatory Memorandum, 4th Tranche GALA) as an act of interruption available only to creditors of administrative bodies, and not to administrative bodies themselves.
The Division’s decisions were also premised on the foregoing. However, because of the special circumstances in the situations at hand, the Division was of the opinion that the written notifications sent by the Municipal Executive should have the effect of an act of interruption. In that respect, the Division deemed it important that the Municipal Executive had previously sent the offender multiple demands, had had writs of execution served and had levied attachment. In addition, according to the Division, it was clear from the written notification that the Municipal Executive did not acquiesce in the non-payment of the forfeited incremental penalty payments. Therefore, the written notification had interrupted prescription on time and the Municipal Executive was still entitled to collect the incremental penalty payments.
This constitutes a certain degree of expansion of the scope of an administrative body’s collection rights, and offenders should not be too quick to cheer.
Read the 27 July 2016 decisions of the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Dutch Council of State here:
Decision 201503535/1/A1 (Dutch only)
Decision 201503536/1/A1 (Dutch only)