On Thursday, the National Audit Office, led by Karl-Erik Schjot-Pedersen, presented a report on the tax agency’s work in uncovering offshore assets. The result is disappointing, the tax agency’s work is objectionable, the report says. But the report also says a lot about the size of Norwegian assets abroad.
– It is very problematic that the seven billion tax revenue is not received every year due to the underreporting of assets abroad, Carl Erik Schjot-Pedersen tells Taxavisen.
He says that the Norwegian Tax Agency receives information about assets owned by Norwegian citizens from many countries around the world. The National Audit Office looked at that information and compared it with actual tax returns. The differences are huge:
- Of the 344,000 people with capital abroad, only 29 percent report this to the Norwegian tax authorities.
- Only one in ten reports the correct amount.
- The total amount is NOK 70 billion. It has doubled in five years.
- About half of property owners report it.
- 13 percent of overseas property holders have taxable income from property. But only 3.5 percent are present.
These are figures from the Norwegian Tax Agency. However, some are found.
– Tax authorities have very little control. And they have no target control against the super rich. We worry that this may give the impression that there is little risk of detection, says Schjøtt-Pedersen.
– People who want to invest money abroad may think that it is easy to avoid Norwegian tax.
– Are they right about that?
If you have wealth or property in Norway, it will automatically be listed on the tax return, says the Auditor General. This does not happen with foreign assets because there are weaknesses in the information the tax authorities receive from abroad. And some report it on their own.
— but it has little effect. Tax authorities have little control, using few resources to exercise control. But abroad should not be a tax free zone. If there is money abroad, it should be reported and taxed.
The National Audit Office’s decision is critical of the tax agency. At the same time, the finance ministry’s efforts were not satisfactory, the report said.
– How is money actually hidden abroad?
– It can be in many ways and with advanced solutions. But what we are talking about here is a place where foreign authorities notify Norwegian authorities. Nevertheless, this is not reported, and the Norwegian tax authorities do not carry out inspections.
Schjøtt-Pedersen says this applies to people of different levels of wealth and from different social strata. The largest number of foreign assets are in Sweden. But the largest amount is in Switzerland.
– It is not the case that low-income people do not invest abroad. But he says there are relatively more wealthy people abroad.
– Is the tax office going after the rich on a very small scale?
– The problem is that the tax agency checks the small ones and not the big ones, the problem is that they don’t check.
– Why is it not so simple? When reporting assets from other countries, does it necessarily need to be directly included in people’s tax returns?
– This is a pertinent question. Norwegian authorities believe the information is not secure enough. But he says it’s entirely possible to follow up on the information you’ve received.
Apart from foreign assets, the National Audit Office also looked at money invested in cryptocurrency. According to Schjøtt-Pedersen, their survey shows that 377,000 people in Norway own cryptocurrency. But the same problem applies here:
– Few report what they own, what they lose or what they win.
Tax director Nina Schange Fannemark acknowledged the problem.
– We found that we have very few restrictions in this area. Therefore, we have already taken action,” writes tax director Nina Schänge Fannemark in a press release.
– Compliance in the foreign area has gradually increased, for example as a result of the automatic exchange of account information between more than 100 countries. But it has to get better. Funnemark writes that finding people who take active steps to deliberately avoid income and wealth from taxation is even more resource-intensive.
The National Audit Office recommends that the Ministry of Finance follow the Norwegian Tax Agency’s level of control. But Finance Minister Trygve Slaksvold Vedum (SP) said it was up to the tax agency to assess measures and the level of control.
– As already mentioned, it is the responsibility of the Norwegian Tax Agency to assess how the limited resources should be prioritized between the different instruments and areas within the agency, Vedham says.
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