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Taxes in Norway: Everything you need to know about how much tax people pay

It's tax day again in Norway -- the day when everyone's tax returns become open for everyone else see, whether they're a billionaire, a celebrity, or even the prime minister.

Taxes in Norway: Everything you need to know about how much tax people pay
Norway's tax rate has been falling steadily. Photo: Shutterstock
And in a week when Donald Trump's lawyers looked determined to ignore yet another court ruling demanding he release his tax returns, Norway's radical tax transparency is starting to seem ever more appealing. 
 
The country has long published tax returns, but it has only been since 2001 that the information has been available as an online database on the website of the Norwegian Tax Administration, rather than published in a book.
 
How much did the Norwegian tax man rake in? 
 
Norway's total tax take from 2018 was 599 billion Norwegian kroner ($63bn), of which 514 billion came from income and wealth tax, and 85 billion in corporation tax. That's an average tax payment of 122,380 kroner for each of the country's 4.2 milliontaxpayers. 
 
According to the OECD, Norway in 2017 had a tax-to-GDP ratio of 38.2 percent down from 41.9 percent in 2000, ranking it 11th out of the 36 countries in the OECD group of higher income countries.
 
A report by Statistics Norway found last that successive tax cuts made since the Conservative Party's gained power in 2013 had reduced the overall tax take by 25.5bn kroner, with the cut in one part of income tax from 28 percent to 22 percent having a significant impact.  
 
 
Who were the top earners?
 
Last year's top earner in Norway was the investor Trond Mohn, who earned 443 million Norwegian kroner ($48m), on which he paid an eye-watering 188 million in tax. 
 
Mohn, who sold his family business Frank Mohn to Alfa Laval back in 2014, now has diverse investments in companies like the brokerage Arctic Securities and the biotech company Bergenbio. He has frequently featured as the country's biggest taxpayer. 
 
“I pay my taxes with pleasure,” he told the local Bergens Avisen in 2016, when he also topped the list. “I have nothing to complain about. I am privileged and think it is perfectly okay for the lists to be published.”
 
The big new entrants this year are a trio of tech investors, Bjørn Stray, Jan Tellef Thorleifsson, and Torleif Ahlsand, who leapt to second, third and fourth place, with registered incomes of 275.4 million, 258.1 million and 235.3 million respectively.
 
The income they received from their venture capital fund Northzone spiked last year on the back of the stockmarket listing of the Swedish music streaming company Spotify, in which the fund had been an early investor. 
 
The Norwegian entrepreneur Terje Tom Høili came fifth with 207 million. 
 
Tech investor Bjørn Stray was one of the trio who saw their earnings spike on the listing of Spotify. Photo: Northzone
 
 
Who was the richest, according to the tax authorities? 
 
Engineering magnate Kjell Inge Røkke is far and away Norway's richest man, with registered, taxable wealth of 18.6 billion kroner.  
 
He is followed by Frederik Mohn with 6.5 billion, Margaret Boel Garmann in 3rd place with a total wealth of 6.5 billion, retail billionaire Odd Reitan in fourth with 6.1 billion, and Trond Mohn in fifth with 5.7 billion. 
 
Hedge Fund billionaire Andreasson Halvorsson, the second richest man in the Forbes Billionaire's list, doesn't make this list as he is resident in Connecticut in the US.  
 
 
Kjell Inge Røkke back in 2005. Photo: Jens Buettner/AFP
 
How about women? 
 
Norway requires that all listed firms hold a minimum of 40% of their board seats for women, but this doesn't appear to have helped women up in the list of top earners. 
 
The top-earning woman, Olga Bergesen, made only 18th place on the list, and she was the only woman in the top 30.  Bergesen made 97.3 million on which she paid 29.7 million in tax.
 
Women did better when it came to wealth, with Margaret Boel Garmann, coming in in 3rd place, with a total wealth of 6.5 billion. Else Sundt, the daughter of shipping magnate Petter Sundt, came 9th with 4.1 billion. Rannfrid Rasmussen, a mathematics lecturer who is also sole owner of Rannfrid Rasmussen Holding, a shipping giant, came 12th with 2.9 billion. 
 
How can you search for people's incomes in Norway? 
 
If you are a Norwegian resident, you can search the tax lists here, simply by logging on with your national MinID or BankID code. 
 
According to the tax agency, there were 1.6 million searches on its database in 2018, showing that Norwegians continue to be curious about what other people earn. 
 
This is, however, only about a tenth of the number of searches there used to be before 2014, when the tax authority started to allow people to find out who had been searching for their tax information, something generally credited to a reluctance among Norwegians to appear nosy. 
 
“There is a long tradition of transparency around tax lists in Norway,” said the country's tax director Hans Christian Holte.
 
“We believe that transparency on income, wealth and tax helps strengthen confidence in the tax system. Today's scheme balances well between the considerations of transparency and the consideration of privacy.” 
 
 

OIL

Why Norway’s earnings dropped in 2020 despite steady taxes from individuals

Did Covid-19 take a chunk out of your income last year? You’re not alone. The pandemic also cost Norway ten percent of its tax earnings. But the revenue loss can’t be spotted when looking at payments from regular tax payers.

Why Norway's earnings dropped in 2020 despite steady taxes from individuals
Photo: Giorgio Grani on Unsplash

While the state’s reduced income is linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the measures to combat the spread of the virus, individuals last year actually paid more tax than the year before. 0.8 percent, to be precise.

Yet the Norwegian tax revenue amounted to 858 billion kroner, 85.8 billion euro, last year, a 9.1 percent decrease from 2019, according to official figures from Statistics Norway (SSB).

Plummeting oil prices

The main driver of the decline is the reduced income from taxes on petroleum. The industry only paid 28 billion kroner, about 2.8 billion euro, in taxes last year. A staggering 80 percent drop from the 134 billion kroner paid the year before.

The petroleum industry is by far Norway’s largest economic sector. And, like all oil-exporting countries, Norway has been hard-hit by the sudden drop in demand ­– coupled with a global glut – for petroleum, noted, among others, by the OECD.

The impact of the pandemic on the international petroleum and crude oil market was undeniable when the barrel price plummeted from 45 dollars in March last year, to a record low at under 25 dollars in April. And all through the pandemic it fluctuated below 45 dollars, before eventually making a recovery in December, according to the overview from Business Insider.

Support investments

To help the industry weather the storm, Norway slashed its taxes and fees.

“Oil and gas industry is an important resource for Norway,” said Minister of Finance Jan Tore Sanner in a May press release.

“It is therefore important for the government to contribute to upholding the activity in the oil and gas industry and the suppliers to this industry in order to ensure that they make it through the Covid-19 crisis,” he continued.

The goal was to free up an additional 100 billion kroner, 10 billion euro, for investments.

Increased activity

The approach seems to have been successful. A recent report by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD, ‘Oljedirektoratet’), concludes that activity on Norway’s continental shelf was bustling last year, despite the problems plaguing the industry in the rest of the world.

“While 2020 has been an unusual year in many ways,” said Director General Ingrid Sølvberg in NPD in a press release, “investments on the Shelf are at the same level as previous years.”

Fossil-dependent

Not everyone shares the enthusiasm, however.

Member of Parliament Kari Elisabeth Kaski from the Socialist Left Party thinks the investment level may increase Norway’s reliance on the fossil energy sector. This is particularly problematic, she believes, in a time where more resources and attention ought to be directed towards sustainable and green energy solutions.

“The reality is that one has given subsidies of such a magnitude that investments in oil have exceeded expectations,” she told newspaper Aftenposten in January.

“This makes Norway more dependent on oil, an unwise direction for Norway to take in the recovery of this crisis,” she continued.

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