Disgruntled taxpayer sues government over its use of public funds

March 14, 2017

Photo: Tamás Botos

A lawsuit has been filed against the Hungarian government by taxpayer Kálmán Szentesi (pictured), who wrote a letter to the Hungarian tax authority (NAV) in October demanding the return of portions of his taxes, arguing that the government had not used the money properly. NAV later fined Szentesi HUF 400,000 for filing an improper tax return, prompting the lawsuit, 444.hu reports.

Szentesi argued in his letter that since he benefits from state healthcare in Hungary, he would not request the equivalent of his personal healthcare contributions to be returned, but that he wanted all other taxes paid back. He argued that tax money was not being used by the government to provide public services.

“I looked at the list item by item and didn’t find a single expenditure which would in any way resemble a public service for which, theoretically, we pay our taxes,” he wrote. “I did find, however, hospitals in the country where, in circumstances which resemble jail cells, they serve patients who the doctors are forced to ask to bring in themselves not only toilet paper, soap, silverware, plates, but non-prescription pain killers and bandages, if they require care. I found schools where parents collect the money for chalk and heating. I found social workers, elderly and disabled care-givers who, because of multiple rejections of a social wage scale, care for those who are unable to care for themselves in increasingly rough conditions and for less and less money.”

Szentesi said the most important message he hoped to send with his request was that “we should realize that this money is ours. What they are stealing now isn’t being stolen out of the sky, it’s the money that we paid in. If people would understand that this is public money, then there would be a chance for a real change.”

He has received legal assistance from corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI), and is represented by attorney Dániel Karsai, who has won numerous cases against Hungary in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. TI Hungary’s legal director Miklós Ligeti criticized NAV’s response to Szentesi’s objections, saying “it is everyone’s fundamental right to criticize power, for which the government cannot punish anyone, including Kálmán Szentesi.”

A date for a hearing in the lawsuit has not yet been announced.