The mayor of the small town of Bø in Vesterålen, Northern Norway, was in Oslo on Monday to futher promote his local council’s decision to cut fortune taxes as a means of attracting investment. Not as much promotion as he’d thought was needed, though, after a major British paper picked up on the tax break offer over the weekend.
“It was amusing, I was very surprised when the The Sunday Times called,” Bø Mayor Sture Pedersen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday. The large London-based paper viewed Bø as “exciting and exotic,” Pedersen said, “and I’m very happy about that.” (external link to The Times).
Pedersen and a majority of his colleagues in Bø are mainly trying to reverse a depopulation trend that’s affected remote areas of Norway for years. Even though some Arctic cities like Tromsø and Hammerfest have been booming because of increased tourism and oil and gas production, many like Bø (population 2,623) keep struggling. Nearby Lofoten is packed with tourists, while Bø in Vesterålen remains largely undiscovered and, local argue, every bit as beautiful.
“What I hope for most of all is to attract investors who want to commit to tourism, along with people who will invest in the real estate market,” Pedersen said. By lowering Norway’s often controversial annual tax on net worth from 0.85 percent to just 0.2 percent, he hopes to get more of Norway’s own billionaires to make Bø their official residence, and now maybe even attract some wealthy international residents as well.
Local news service Vesterålen Online reported last month that real estate tycoon Kristian Adolfsen was considering returning to his home region. Magazine Kapital has estimated that Adolfsen has a fortune of around NOK 2.8 billion (USD 318 million), indicating that even lower appraised values for tax purposes would save him lots of taxes while also pumping new revenues into Bø’s local treasury.