Each year, the Department of the Judiciary, Migration and Finance deals with about 1,000 complaints falling within three areas: State administration of courts, immigration law and taxes, fees and customs duties.
State administration of courts
As regards the activities of courts, people most often complain about delays in court proceedings or inappropriate conduct of judicial persons and infringement of dignity in proceedings. According to the Courts and Judges Act, these complaints are to be dealt with by the president of the court and the Ombudsman may examine how the complaint was resolved. We also deal with activities of the Ministry of Justice, administration of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and administrative affairs concerning experts/interpreters and other legal professions.
A case of delays in child maintenance proceedings
Alice claimed in court an increase in child maintenance for her daughter. The child maintenance was crucial for her in view of her daughter’s disability. Although, according to the procedural rules, the proceedings concerning minor children should not exceed six months, the first court hearing took place only five months after the action was lodged. There were also unnecessary delays in further procedure taken by the court. Alice complained about the delays in the proceedings. However, the president of the court did not find the complaint justified. Alice approached us at a time when the proceedings had been pending for almost four years. We asked the president of the court to review the progress of the proceedings. We also identified clear delays in the proceedings so as to let him know why, from our point of view, he should have recognised the complaint as justified and adopted measures to prevent further delays. The president of the court accepted our reasoning and ensured increased supervision over the proceedings. We also recommended that Alice file a claim for compensation for delays in the proceedings.
Tax issues are complicated, causing difficulties to individuals and companies alike. Apart from the cases explicitly involving taxes, e.g. income tax, real estate tax and value added tax, we also deal with situations concerning other levies such as customs duties and local and administrative fees. In addition, we also inquire into the procedure of other administrative authorities in collecting other public fees and debts owed to the State (e.g. when an authority enforces an outstanding penalty).
A case of denied request for a decrease in municipal waste fees
Rudolf turned to the Defender because he disagreed with the procedure taken by a municipal authority, which had not given him any discount on the local fee for the operation of municipal waste collection, recycling and disposal services. The dispute between Rudolf and the municipal authority concerned the question of whether the discount on the fee in the amount of CZK 200 was claimable only by taxpayers with permanent residence in the municipality, or whether taxpayers owning real estate within the municipal boundaries were also eligible, even though no one had a registered address in said real estate. After the Defender’s inquiry, the municipal authority acknowledged that its generally binding ordinance was formulated more broadly than originally intended, and granted a discount on the fee to the complainant.
A case concerning spousal income tax credit
We inquired into the case of Václav who had claimed income tax credit for his spouse on the basis of a certificate issued by the District Social Security Administration. However, it was later found that in the certificate, the amount of the benefits paid was incorrect, as a lower amount was put there by mistake. The certificate did not include maternity benefits paid in January for December of the previous year. After the tax authority discovered the error, Václav had to refund the discount because his spouse’s income exceeded the decisive limit of CZK 68,000. At the same time, the tax authority charged him with default interest in the amount of CZK 8,584. The complainant applied for waiver of the interest, but the tax authority dismissed his application. Based on a broader inquiry of the Public Defender of Rights, the General Directorate of Finance issued new Guideline No. GFŘ–D–45 on waiver of tax accessions, where it included similar situations among justifiable grounds for waiver of interest. The tax authority subsequently reconsidered its procedure in Václav’s case and waived the interest in full.
Issues concerning foreign nationals
The Ombudsman is often approached by foreign nationals who have difficulties with visa, residence permit proceedings or asylum proceedings. Complaints are also submitted by Czech citizens who deal with these problems especially in connection with their partners or spouses from other countries. However, we also deal with situations where Czech citizens have problems abroad and consider consular protection of the embassy insufficient.
A case of a substitute travel document for a child abroad
Eva lived with her family abroad. She gave birth to a son, a Czech citizen, who had a congenital leg defect, which had to be operated as soon as possible. Eva wanted to travel with her son to the Czech Republic where he could obtain the necessary care. However, the embassy refused to issue her a substitute travel document without which she could not leave with the child. The mother filed a complaint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry accepted the complaint and stated that the substitute travel document should have been issued also in view of the child’s medical condition. However, the embassy again refused to grant her request. Therefore, she turned to us. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed with our interpretation and, following our intervention, managed to resolve the difficult situation.