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Friday, March 24, 2023

More open tax lists – Dagsavisen

Erna Solberg’s government tightened the system for searches in the tax lists. Against this background, the Red party has proposed several positive softenings. One of the proposals is again to make it possible to apply anonymously. The red-green parties in the Storting are now behind this proposal. Today, it is the case that the person who is being searched for is told who has requested the information.

The then Finance Minister Siv Jensen (Frp) was at the forefront of the tightening in 2014. She had grown tired of people snooping in the tax lists. “As finance minister and a publicly known person, I have to put up with someone looking at my cards. But I don’t think that everyone should be the subject of the same audit without being aware of who is doing it,” said Jensen in the autumn of 2014. She claimed that most people do not need tax information about their neighbours, work colleagues or study friends.

This has been an important civil right.

Norway has a long historical tradition of public tax lists. In earlier times, anyone who wished could turn up at the town hall or the assessment office to delve into thick booklets with tax lists of all the municipality’s residents. Here we read what the neighbour, employer or mayor had in terms of income and wealth, plus what the person concerned had to pay in tax. And for the newspapers there was of course good material in these lists.

But in 2001 there were new times. Then the tax lists became very accessible on the internet. It became popular to search through news media websites. We quickly had a debate based on the fact that it had become so easy to “grab”. The Bondevik I government tightened access. And from 2014 it was no longer possible to apply anonymously. Many are therefore reluctant to use the system. The numbers in the statistics are thus clear. Ten years ago there were 16.5 million searches in the tax lists. In 2021, the number of searches was down to 1.6 million.

Open tax lists are important for mutual trust in society. In the next round, this helps to strengthen democracy. Financial transparency is a prerequisite for creating good support for the tax system. At a time when there is political backing for a more redistributive policy, transparency is extra important.

Those with the strongest backs must take the heaviest burden. Then we need to know concretely whether Norwegian men and women pay their taxes according to their ability – and preferably with pleasure. It’s time to bring back more open tax rolls. This has been an important civil right for years. Access to the lists is weakened in practice when the person we apply to is told so. It is therefore positive that the red-green majority in the Storting now know their visiting hours.

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