Tax relief for trainee witches spells trouble for Dutch MPs

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Participants at the workshop learn healing with herbs and stones, making potions, divination and fortune-telling with crystal balls. And it is an occupation that is recognised by the tax authorities.

Dutch witches were guaranteed financial good fortune when Leeuwarden District Court reaffirmed their legal entitlement to write off the cost of their training against tax. The court found that a witch can declare schooling costs, including books and the "tools of the trade", if it increases the likelihood of employment and personal income.

The case, brought by one of Ms Rongen's students, brewed political fury in the halls of Dutch government. Pieter Omtzigt, a Christian Democrat MP, said: If we spend €1,000 on a witchcraft class, that's €1,000 we can't spent elsewhere. There are 500,000 unemployed people in the country ... why we are funding witches?"

Ms Rongen believes it is only the word "witch" that has provoked such anger.She has trained more than 160 disciples over the past four decades in "a religion that is older than Christianity".