In a custom that might seem outlandish in other countries, Norway publishes the tax records of every individual in the country once annually.
The country has long published tax returns, and since 2001 the information has been available as an online database on the website of the Norwegian Tax Administration. This year’s publication has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic – it is usually released in November.
According to the tax agency, the Norwegian state received 637 billion kroner in tax in 2019, from 4.9 million individuals and 345,000 companies.
Pressemelding: Skatteoppgjøret for 2019 for 4,9 millioner personer og 345 000 selskaper er nå ferdig. De har betalt til sammen 637 milliarder kroner i skatt i 2019. Skattelistene blir tilgjengelige 8. desember. https://t.co/b0olkU1Iab pic.twitter.com/oj0qHQe6oe
— Skatteetaten (@Skattenmin) December 7, 2020
The biggest headline from the year’s list, as reported by most media in the country, is that 27-year-old Gustav Magnar Witzøe has displaced Kjell Inge Røkke as Norway’s richest person.
Witzøe became Norway’s youngest billionaire (measured in Norwegian kroner) in 2011 after inheriting most of his father’s shares in investment firm Kverva, and is now the country’s highest tax payer with 235 million kroner of paid tax, according to the tax list.
His fortune is over 20.9 billion kroner, according to the list, overtaking fisheries magnate Røkke, who is worth 19.4 billion kroner.
As well as fortunes and taxes paid over the last year, the published tax information can also be searched to see how much Norwegian tax payers earned in the last year.
Businessman and philanthropist Trond Mohn was Norway’s highest earner last year, with an income of 443 million kroner. Mohn was also the second-highest taxpayer. Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær had the country’s 11th-highest income last year, at 108 million kroner.
What information is included on the list?
Information including name, year of birth and tax municipality can be seen on the open tax list, along with the net income, net fortune and the amount of tax paid.
It is not possible to hide one’s information from the tax list as published by the Norwegian Tax Administration, or the summary sent to the media.
What doesn’t the list tell us?
Some factors can result in information being withheld from the list. These include if the information can reveal a confidential client relationship; and people whose addresses are legally unlisted on the public register (folkeregister).
Information on people with no fixed address; people under the age of 17 and deceased persons is also not included.
Meanwhile, the tax information included on the list can be attached to some caveats, as NRK points out.
The tax list shows net incomes with all tax deductions taken into account. People who have large outstanding loans can appear to have a lower income on the tax list than their actual gross income would predict, if this was visible.
Other deductions which are applied to the income information are the minimum deduction (minstefradrag), which is designed to cover standard expenses connected to employment; deductions for families; and deductions for losses made from sales of property or shares.
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As such, it is possible to have a high actual income, but for the tax list to show a lower income.
Similarly, the figures given for personal fortunes may not be completely accurate, because a home, for example, may be given a lower value for tax purposes than its real value. As such, someone who owns an expensive home may be worth more than their ‘personal fortune’ on the tax list.
If someone has a large debt, this will be deducted from their net fortune.
The numbers are based on preliminary tax figures from the Norwegian Tax Administration.
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.