Income and wealth public in Norway

Incredible. Norway publishes both the income and the wealth of every Norwegian taxpayer. That would put the NBR Rich List out of circulation when you can get it straight from the IRD!

Many media outlets use the tax records to produce their own searchable online databases. In the database of national broadcaster NRK, you can type a subject’s name, hit search and within moments get information on what that person made last year, what was paid in taxes and total wealth.

It also compares those figures with Norway’s national averages for men and women, and that person’s city of residence. Defenders of the system say it enhances transparency, deemed essential for an open democracy.

“Isn’t this how a social democracy ought to work, with openness, transparency and social equality as ideals?” columnist Jan Omdahl wrote in the tabloid Dagbladet.

But he acknowledged that many treat the list like “tax porno” – furtively checking the income of neighbours or co-workers.

Critics say the list is actually a threat to society.

“What each Norwegian earns and what you have in wealth is a private matter between the taxpayer and the government,” said Jon Stordrange, director of the Norwegian Taxpayers Association.

Besides providing criminals with a useful tool to find prime targets, he said the list generates playground taunts of my-dad-is-richer-than-your-dad.

“The children of people with low wages are being teased about it in the schools,” Stordrange said.

“People with low salaries are being met with comments at the grocery store, ‘How can you live on these low wages?”‘

The information had been available to media until 2004, when a more conservative government banned the publication of tax records. Three years later, a new, more liberal government reversed the legislation and made it possible for media to obtain tax information digitally and disseminate it online.

I can’t see a party campaigning on such a policy here!

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