When Norwegian tax authorities released the results of the most recent tax year on Friday, the annual media frenzy concentrated on individuals. Countless stories reported how much money performing artists, politicians, high-profile business executives, sports stars, media personalities and other celebrities earned, while it was easy to overlook the total amounts of money that rolled into state coffers.
News bureau NTB thus summarized how all the tax payments add up. When the authorities at Skatteetaten finished going through all the tax returns filed for 2016 and released their lists, they could report that 4.2 million people obligated to pay tax to Norway forked over a total of NOK 490 billion (USD 61 billion).
In addition to the salaried employees, sole proprietors and retirees living in the country with a population of 5,277,762 as of this week (according to state statistics bureau SSB), another 305,000 companies paid a total of NOK 130 billion in tax last year. In addition come all the other taxes levied in Norway, not least the country’s 25 percent VAT on most goods and services, luxury and punitive taxes on tobacco and alcohol and fees on everything from car purchases to real estate transactions and road tolls.
The tax authorities could also report that since October of last year, when the tax lists for 2015 were revealed, there’s been a total of NOK 1.6 million searches conducted on the basis of 440,000 log-ins to Skatteetaten’s website, where all taxpayers’ income, net worth and amount of tax paid is publicly available. The searches were down dramatically from the 16.5 million conducted before a new regulation was introduced in 2014 that removed anonymity of the person searching, or “snooping” as some claim, through the tax lists. Taxpayers are now alerted as to who looked up their income- and fortune tax information, meaning many have stopped trying to gain insight into the earnings and holdings of friends, enemies, neighbours or family members.