An island community off the coast of northwestern Norway has emerged as the wealthiest in Norway, far surpassing even the traditional “millionaires'” homes of Bærum and Asker just west of Oslo. The wealth is tied to salmon farming and exports, and revealed through the annual release of tax lists that include the taxable income and net worth of everyone filing Norwegian tax returns.
This year the island community of Frøya in Sør-Trøndelag topped the lists with information compiled from tax returns filed for 2016. Frøya’s residents reported net worth (formue, or fortune) averaging NOK 3.3 million (USD 412,500), more than double the NOK 1.489,089 reported in Bærum.
While much of Bærum’s residents’ net worth is fueled by high property values, Frøya is the base of what Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) called the local Witzøe family’s “salmon farming giant” Salmar. The heir to the Witzøe family fortune, 24-year-old Gustav Magnar Witzøe, also emerged as Norway’s single wealthiest person based on his taxable net worth of NOK 11.1 billion (USD 1.4 billion). Young Witzøe also reported taxable income earned in 2016 of NOK 147.2 million and paid out most of it in tax, NOK 137 million.
Average income among the less than 5,000 other people living on Frøya ranked just 37th in the country, at NOK 324,598, and they paid an average of NOK 129,880 in tax. That compared to average income of NOK 497,649 in Bærum, the highest in the country, where folks also paid tax on their income and net worth that averaged NOK 170,776.
Nine communities with seven-digit average net worth
The next most affluent communities in Norway in terms of income were Asker, just west of Bærum, followed by Oppegård south of Oslo, Sola outside of Stavanger and the Arctic community of Svalbard. In sixth place was Austevoll, another small community on the northwest coast with a thriving seafood industry. Austevoll could boast average incomes of NOK 384,663 and average net worth of NOK 1.48 million. The seafood and salmon hub of Lurøy also ranked among the only nine Norwegian communities with seven-figure average net worth, at NOK 1.07 million.
Oslo ranked 23rd on the tax authorities’ lists of of income and net worth reported for 2016. Average income in the Norwegian capital amounted to NOK 341,575 and net worth checked in at NOK 1,094,434. Communities with the highest average net worth were, all told, Frøya, Bærum, Austevoll, Asker, Hole, Gulen, Oslo, Lurøy and Tysnes.
The eastern mountain community of Trysil, known for its ski resort and elaborate holiday homes, ranked at the bottom of the list over taxable income and net worth in all of Norway’s 428 municipalities known as kommuner. Trysil’s permanent residents clearly have nowhere near the incomes and personal net worth of those spending holidays there, with average income of just NOK 181,316 and net worth of NOK 421,464. Trysil residents also paid an average of NOK 55,896, compared to the NOK 170,776 paid on average in top-ranked Bærum.
The numbers on the public tax lists represent income and net worth after all deductions and, in many cases, values much less than market value. The amounts thus don’t necessarily reflect actual earnings or net worth since they contain so many adjustments, but they nonetheless are used as a measure of income, wealth and, not least, how much individuals contribute to what the Norwegians like to call fellesskap, or the common good. That makes the list of how much tax people actually paid among the most eagerly read in a country with high taxes and a long tradition of releasing tax information that’s kept private in most other countries around the world.
This year the actual list of tax paid was topped by Einar Aas of Grimstad, who made his fortune speculating on electricity rates in the power market. His taxable net worth didn’t top the lists, but his income and tax paid did. Aas reported the highest annual income in Norway for 2016, at NOK 832.79 million (USD 104 million) and he also paid more tax than anyone else: NOK 226.75 million.
Next in line in terms of tax payment was the salmon heir Gustav Magnar Witzøe with his tax bill of NOK 137 million, followed by investor Øystein Stray Spetalen, who paid NOK 111.34 million in tax on income of NOK 324.7 million.
Rounding out the top-10 taxpayers in Norway were Bjørn Rune Gjelsten (NOK 99 .6 million), Kjell Inge Røkke (NOK 94.4 million), Trond Mohn (NOK 92.8 million), Svein Støle (NOK 85.2 million), Hans Peter Jebsen (NOK 85.16 million), Frederik Wilhelm Mohn (NOK 80 million) and Kolbjørn Opsahl Selmer (NOK 74.6 million).
For NRK’s compilation of the full list over the 100 Norwegians paying the most tax, click here.
For the list over who reported the highest taxable incomes, click here.
For the list of net worth rankings, click here.
(all external links to NRK’s compilations, text in Norwegian)