Paul L. Caron

Friday, October 23, 2009

Norway Publishes Tax Return Information on the Internet

Scotsman, That's Rich: Norway's Tax List Reveals Everyone's Wealth:

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.

(Hat Tip: Woody McNair.)

Update:  Jim Maule has more here

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Tracked on Oct 25, 2009 10:55:51 AM


From another article, here's what we learn about the attitudes of a university professor:

Christine Ingebritsen, a professor at the University of Washington, said the Norwegian tax list exemplifies a time-tested, distinctly Scandinavian custom of egalitarianism.

"This is how you make sure that you're being legitimate in the eyes of the community — you show that the wealth of a CEO isn't off the charts," she said, adding that unlike the U.S., Norway "places the wealth and health of all as a priority above the individual success stories."

Oh, my goodness! "Make sure that you're being legitimate..."???!!!

Maybe Professor Ingebritsen will voluntarily open her tax returns along with all other details of her personal life to public scrutiny to make sure that she is legitimate...and, encourage fellow professors to do the same.

What garbage and pure wealth envy.

Posted by: Woody | Oct 25, 2009 9:24:40 AM

What a tug of emotions. On one hand, one wants to minimize his taxes. On the other hand, one wants to impress his friends or not be embarrassed about what he earns. If making your tax returns available to everyone became legal in the U.S., I'd have to write across the face of the form "None of your business," because it's not.

Only left-wing idiots could defend such a program.

Posted by: Woody | Oct 24, 2009 1:32:04 PM