It's the moment nosy neighbours have been waiting for – the release of official records showing the annual income and overall wealth of every Norwegian taxpayer.
In a move that would be unthinkable in most countries, tax authorities in Norway have issued the skatteliste, or "tax list," for 2008 to domestic media under a law designed to safeguard the country's tradition of transparency. ...
Defenders of the system say it enhances transparency, which is essential for an open democracy. "Isn't this how a social democracy ought to work, with openness, transparency and social equality as ideals?" wrote Jan Omdahl, a columnist for the tabloid Dagbladet. He acknowledged, however, that many treat the list as "tax porno" – furtively checking the incomes of neighbours or co-workers.
Critics say the list poses a threat to the very society the freedom of which it is meant to protect. "What each Norwegian earns and what you have in wealth is a private matter between the taxpayer and the government," said Jon Stordrange, director of the Norwegian Taxpayer's Association. He claimed the list, besides providing criminals with a useful tool to find prime targets, generates my-dad-is-richer-than-yours taunts in the playground. "The children of people with low wages are being teased about it in the schools," Mr Stordrange said yesterday. "People with low salaries are being met with comments at the shop, 'How can you live on these low wages?'" ...Since the latest tax data was released on Wednesday, national media have scrambled to analyse it, building Top 10 lists and graphical breakdowns of income differentials between sexes, age groups, cities and towns.