Norway’s conservative government has resisted calls from the left-center opposition in Parliament to re-evaluate or even end the current tax-free sales of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, cosmetics and other items at Norwegian airports and on board international ferries.
Finance Minister Siv Jensen of the Progress Party made it clear when presenting her new state budget proposal for 2017 last week: “I am not proposing any change in the tax-free system,” she wrote in the material attached to the budget.
Opposition politicians have claimed it’s unreasonable that Norwegians traveling abroad can buy much cheaper alcohol. They either want to end tax-free sales at airports or turn the lucrative contracts for running them over to the state liquor monopoly Vinmonopolet, to ensure that the state profits from them instead of private foreign players.
The tax-free sales are a major revenue source for the airports, with sales at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen also helping to finance Norway’s state-run airports in outlying areas. Jensen’s finance ministry reminded critics that revenues from tax-free stores secure the operation of 39 airports that otherwise run at a loss.
Jensen and the government also rejected arguments that tax-free sales threaten Vinmonopolet’s position in Norway. Even though Vinmonopolet’s existence is aimed at reducing alcohol consumption in Norway, its officials have complained when sales actually declined. They fear that with more Norwegians traveling abroad than ever before and tax-free quotas raised, consumers are buying the wine and liquor at the airport tax-free stores instead of at Vinmonopolet, at much lower prices.