I have recently accepted a new academic position in the Netherlands. Netherlands has a generous so-called 30% rule for high skilled expats:

you are paying taxes only for the 70% of your income and the rest 30% is given to you as a tax-free allowance. This, in practice, means about 20% higher net salary.

I easily got this rule 2 years ago for another academic position again in NL. The duration for the 30% rule is 8 years so I should have it for the next 6 years and nobody from HR mentioned any plans from the government of reducing it. Unfortunately, yesterday I read in the news that Dutch government completed a draft proposal which reduces the 30% rule from 8 to 5 years. What is worth noting is that, in case the draft becomes a law (which most probably will, since this is the final proposal) will have a retroactive effect :

Concreet betekent dit dat het kabinet in het pakket Belastingplan 2019 zal voorstellen de maximale looptijd van de 30%-regeling met ingang van 1 januari 2019 voor zowel nieuwe als bestaande gevallen met drie jaar te verkorten.​

One of the factors that made me accepted the new offer was the 30% rule for the remaining 6 years (I planned to buy house immediately). Now I see that this might not very well be true. What is even worse is that I turned down a great Research position (in a high tech company) offering about 60% more salary. I thought the 30% rule would partly compensate about it, but probably it will not.

I will not ask about the legal aspects of the draft law nor about the ethical dimension of this although you can see here what the relevant tax authorities say about shortening the period of 8 years.

Is it too late to turn down the academic offer? I have accepted it on e-mail but I haven't signed anything yet and haven't even seen the contract. If yes, what is the best way to do this?

Is anything similar happening to any other country and how do academics people deal with it?

Apparently, a lot of expats taking advantage of this rule get frustrated and set up an e-vote against the draft.

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    I suggest that you ask the accounting office or the professors' union or professional organization about this before you send anything to the department. It would be important to find out how the university is thinking of handling this in general before you give the department any hint that you are getting cold feet. Please keep in mind that this change, if implemented as described, would affect a lot of other university employees too. The university may be making plans for dealing with this. Apr 25, 2018 at 15:18
  • @aparente001 Thank you. I asked, and they were not even aware of that! Apparently, there is a huge amount of frustration in the expat community in NL taking advantage of this rule. There are even on-line petitions, for whoever is willing to sign (see my update question). But for some reason I lost any confidence that this will work out...
    – PsySp
    Apr 25, 2018 at 15:23
  • Have you reached out to the other offer to see if the position is still open? I mean, if your gut feeling has turned sour about the teaching job, then.... Apr 25, 2018 at 15:35
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    One other thought. You might take a look at the university's hierarchy chart and talk to someone high up in finances. If they haven't published their hierarchy chart, then you could find out who's who by phoning a secretary in the office of whoever's at the top of the university administration. At least, this approach has served me well in the US. Apr 25, 2018 at 15:37
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    @PsySp: I totally understand that you are annoyed, but everyone else is in the same position that a tax raise disrupts their plans to pay down mortgages etc. Governments raise or lower taxes all the time. Apr 27, 2018 at 1:13

2 Answers 2


This is an unfortunate situation were nobody really is to blame. You can't expect the university to warn you about a law that wasn't even in place yet, and the university cannot objectively be mad at you for reneging when your contractual situation significantly changed, even if it is due to outside factors. Of course the important word in the above statement is "objectively" - nobody can ensure you that the people that wanted to hire you will also see it like that, and that you won't burn any bridges.

Is it too late to turn down the academic offer? I have accepted it on e-mail but I haven't signed anything yet and haven't even seen the contract. If yes, what is the best way to do this?

As long as you have not signed anything you are always in the right to back out. The best way to do it would be to warn them that this new development significantly changes your view on their offer, even if they are of course not to blame. I would stay clear of any accusations that they failed to inform you in advance. Note that this also gives them the option to up their offer, which would presumably change your mind back again.

You should do it in the same form as you tentatively accepted the offer before - if you communicated that you would take the offer via email, send them a brief follow-up that you changed your mind, and why.

Is anything similar happening to any other country and how do academics people deal with it?

I am not aware of any concrete cases, but presumably when Brexit broke there had to be cases of academics changing their mind about moving to the UK.

  • thank you. The point is that (as Dutch people say) they consider a verbal agreement or an e-mail agreement as a contract. Of course this adds to the cultural situation. In any case, I do not blame them (I am willing to believe that this is just unfortunate) butt the difference on my salary for the next 6 years (taking into account the offer I turned down) would be up to 90-100k and naturally I am have double and triple thoughts on how to handle it.
    – PsySp
    Apr 25, 2018 at 15:01

While there are probably nuances to the situation, this sounds a lot like the tax laws have changed resulting in you having a much higher tax liability. Maybe the university will be nice and offer everyone a raise to account for the change in the tax law, but most likely (at least in the US), the university is not particularly worried about your take home pay.

Having accepted the contract in an email, but not having signed it yet, puts you in a gray area. Changing your mind immediately after a change in the tax law is announce, or even proposed, that will result in a 20% reduction in salary, seems reasonable. A quick email to the department chair saying you just read about the tax change and that by your calculations that reduces your take home pay from X to Y and that makes the position untenable for you.

Even if you had signed the contract (either from a legal or cultural stand point), you can still change you mind. If you legally signed it, they can come after you for breach of contract, but no employer wants to hire someone who is going to start unhappy with their contract. The more committed the department thinks you are and the more work they have put into closing the search (e.g., if they already told the alternative candidates that they were not hired), the more likely they are going to be upset at you.


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