Tax lists released but harder to access

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State tax authorities released their lists on Friday showing what all residents of Norway declared in terms of income and net worth, plus taxes owed, but made it more difficult this year for members of the public to snoop through them. The lists still revealed who’s considered the country’s wealthiest.

That distinction went this year to tobacco heir and businessman-investor Johan H Andresen, who declared a taxable net worth of NOK 11.1 billion (USD 1.8 billion). It was the fourth year in a row that Andresen topped the list of wealthiest Norwegians, and he also paid NOK 120 million in tax to the Norwegian state.

Next wealthiest was real estate investor and operator Olav Thon, who owns shopping centers, hotels and other commercial property all over the country. His net worth was listed at NOK 9.6 billion, followed by industrialist Kjell Inge Røkke and oil services entrepreneur Trond Mohn.

Rannfrid Rasmussen of Kristiansen emerged as Norway’s wealthiest woman, with a taxable net worth of NOK 2.5 billion. A total of 22 women ranked among Norway’s 100 wealthiest persons as calculated by the tax authorities.

Figures can be misleading
The numbers, as always, don’t necessarily reflect reality, however, because taxable net worth is based on appraised values and income figures are the taxable amount after deductions. Actual net worth based on market value and actual income are therefore generally much higher.

Norwegian authorities have a long tradition of making tax lists public when they’ve completed their calculations for the year, six months after taxpayers file their returns in the spring. This year they collected NOK 460 billion for the state treasury, to finance public services and, not least, the country’s relatively generous welfare state. The revenues came from 3.9 million individual taxpayers in Norway, who paid in NOK 384 billion, and 247,000 companies that paid in NOK 77 billion.

In recent years, the authorities released the lists online through a link that media websites eagerly published because of the enormous traffic it would bring from Norwegians curious to know what their colleagues, bosses, friends or enemies earned last year.

The online system with its easy accessibility eventually was criticized, however, for being open to abuse by criminals, commercial interests and even school children who bullied classmates for having parents who earned too little or too much. The Norwegian Parliament voted last year to restrict access, meaning that those still determined to snoop through the lists must now go through the tax authorities’ own website using various passwords.

Before the advent of the Internet, tax lists were printed on paper and displayed in local city halls for a limited period. The duration of online availability has also been restricted now as well.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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