Taxman targets floating docks

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Norwegian officials’ never-ending search for new sources of tax revenue has now targeted the floating docks that bob in the waters all around the country. Boat owners and marina managers are sending out distress calls.

Floating docks are in place all over Norway, and now a target of eager tax authorities. PHOTO: Views and News

The issue has suddenly surfaced in national media after a court in Sarpsborg, southern Norway, ruled in favour of local tax authorities who started sending property tax bills to owners of floating docks in 2008.

Five marina owners filed suit, protesting the new tax and arguing that the docks were not permanent installations and shouldn’t be subject to property tax.

The local court in Sarpsborg disagreed, ruling late last month that floating docks can be considered real estate and therefore are subject to tax in townships that impose property tax. Not all do in Norway, since property tax collection is an option for local governments to decide themselves.

But the court ruling in Sarpsborg has set off alarms all over the country because if it stands, the 299 townships in Norway that do impose property tax will have to collect it on floating docks in their areas as well.

Boats are popular in Norway and thousands of boatowners will be affected by a new tax on floating docks, but not here in Oslo, where there is no property tax. PHOTO: Views and News

“If just one floating dock is considered real estate, all must be,” Solveig Lindemark, attorney for the unhappy marina owners in Sarpsborg, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “All floating docks in all townships with property tax will be hit if this court ruling stands.”

The defendants hope it won’t and they’re appealing, but seek support from others in the same boat, so to speak. The issue received national coverage on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s nightly newscast Thursday and was DN’s front-page story on Friday, so the new tax threat has been publicized.

“We’re taking the risk for all the costs than an appeal can have, so we hope other marina owners and boating enthusiasts wil help,” Ottar Tallberg, owner of Olseng Marina and one of the plaintiffs, told DN.

He and his fellow plaintiffs leading the battle against the new tax already have won support from their local Member of Parliament, Ingjerd Schou of the Conservative Party. She says the tax will in practice hurt recreational activity, can also spread to campgrounds and trailer parks and that she’ll take up the issue in Parliament.

The secretary general of the national boating association Kongelig norsk båtforbund, Jan H Sybertsen, said he fears the tax will “spread like an epidemic among tax collectors” all along the coast, if it’s allowed to stand, and will have major consequences for boat owners.

The marina owners in Sarpsborg, meanwhile, also dispute the value assigned by their local tax authorities to the docks, on which the tax is based. The authorities are using the income derived from the docks, based on berth leasing rates, while the marina owners claim it should be based on resale value, which is much lower.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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