It's the moment nosy Norwegian neighbors have been waiting for — the release of official records showing the annual income and overall wealth of nearly every taxpayer in the Scandinavian country.
In a move that would be unthinkable elsewhere, tax authorities in Norway have issued the skatteliste," or "tax list," for 2008 to the media under a law designed to uphold the country's tradition of transparency.Anyone can now search Norway's electronic database of taxpayers to find out exactly how much any of their neighbors are worth and how much income they had last year. Such a system probably wouldn't be well received in the US, but the Scandinavians seem to love it:
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. He acknowledged, however, that many treat the list like "tax porno" — furtively checking the income of neighbors or co-workers.Interesting theory (tax porn aside). Maybe such transparency about income is why the Norwegians have some of the highest levels of income equality in the world (hard to pay people disparate wages when everyone knows what everyone else makes). Of course, having oodles of oil and the third highest tax rate in the world probably helps bring about some equality as well.