In the public interest: Norwegian Tax Transparency

Since the early 1800’s, Norwegian‘s could snoop on each other’s tax returns. Fast forward to 2001, the income and tax returns of the people of Norway have been published annually in a powerful online database, a pinnacle to transparency.

Privacy advocates need not be too alarmed. The information shared isn’t complete; the website will give the viewer the total income and total tax return. It won’t break it down for you. Moreover, the system notifies you who and when someone has looked into your tax history.

Transparency works both ways: Norwegians share their tax returns but they also have the right to know who’s shown interest in the financial matters. The exception to this rule are journalists, who are lawfully allowed to anonymously scour the database.

Why’s it a good idea?

  1. It puts pressure on inequality. If your co-worker is making more money than you are, questions can be asked and answers can be sought. New insights into the gender pay gap can be made with better accuracy and precision.
  2. It puts pressure on legal, immoral tax avoidance. If you’re driving around in a Porsche, but pay less tax than your secratary something isn’t quite right.
  3. It gives journalists and scholars a better look at those sections of society that are doing exceptionally well and those that are falling behind.
  4. It makes systematic corruption easier to weed out and more difficult to carry out.


[Blog1: I’m working on improving my writing and journalistic skills. I’ve written this short post as part of a series of posts, in which I’ll be sharing my ideas. Constructive feedback and objective opinions are always welcome!]