Tax return rush clogs the system

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So many Norwegians were logging into the state tax office’s website on Tuesday, to check how their tax returns have already been filled out by the authorities, that part of the system broke down by mid-morning. One official compared the situation to how the tram system in Oslo gets overloaded during the annual Holmenkollen ski jumping festival.

Some of the log-in options offered by the tax authorities were overloaded on Tuesday, but officials expected traffic to settle down later in the day. Taxpayers need to approve and file their tax returns by April 30. ILLUSTRATION: newsinenglish.no

“We’ve measured traffic that’s higher than ever before,” Hege Steinsland, communications chief for the BankID Norge portion of the log-in options available to taxpayers, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Bank ID was having the biggest problems, and was knocked out of operation by mid-morning.

Steinsland apologized that “everyone couldn’t log in to check their tax returns at the same time,” and urged patience. She was confident that traffic would soon settle down, while other log-in options like Min ID remained available and functioning.

Most tax reporting now automatic
Tax authorities have been later than usual this year in making available Norwegians’ tax returns for 2016, which already are filled out with information automatically reported to the state by employers, banks, stock brokerages, charitable organizations, local property tax assesors and a long list of other players that have a tax impact. The relatively few Norwegians who still request their tax returns on paper instead of online are expected to receive them in the mail within the next week.

Norway’s enforced automation of the tax process in recent years has both simplified the system, boosted transparency and made it much more difficult for Norwegians to evade taxes. The vast majority of taxpayers have little need for accountants to help them prepare their tax returns,  since most now only need to double-check that the figures already filled out on their tax returns are correct. If they have no additional income or deductions to report, they can simply file their returns by clicking to approve what the authorities at Skatteetaten have sent them by the April 30 deadline, or sign their returns and mail them in.

The tax system has become so streamlined that tax authorities this year changed the name of Norway’s tax returns, from Selvangivelse (which literally meant “to give of your yourself” and had been used since 1913) to Skattemelding, which translates to “Tax report.”

Majority due for refunds, with interest
The tax return process is more complicated for small business owners and sole proprietors but even it was simplified last year through the new electronic Næringsrapport skatt (Business Tax Form), which had some start-up calculation problems that were quickly resolved. The vast majority of taxpayers this year can also expect refunds, according to Skatteetaten’s chief, Hans Christian Holte.

“Around 2.8 million Norwegian taxpayers can look forward to June 21, when we issue the first skatteoppgjør (tax settlements),” Holte told NTB. That’s how many of Norway’s 4.8 million taxpayers are due to receive refunds (which Holte said will average NOK 11,000 this year) because too much was withheld or pre-paid during the course of the past year.

The rest are expected to come out even or face an extra tax bill, which Holte said is usually caused by changes in taxpayers’ own financial situation. That can be caused by new jobs, unexpected gains or other factors that altered their tax bracket.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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