Nina Schanke Funnemark believes that tax revelations mean that more Norwegians report their hidden fortunes to the Tax Administration.
On Sunday, Aftenposten / E24 published the first cases about how the world’s richest and most efficient hide huge fortunes in tax havens.
The work has been made possible in the international document leak Pandora papers.
The leak shows, among other things, that 35 heads of state, over 300 politicians and 130 billionaires have used tax havens to hide wealth and business.
Tax Director Nina Schanke Funnemark went to Copenhagen on Monday morning. There she participated in an annual meeting with her Nordic colleagues. In the other Nordic countries, too, the media has been covering things about the leak over the past 24 hours.
– You tax directors have had something to talk about at lunch in Copenhagen?
– I’ll promise you that! And it may well be that there will be more talk about the latest revelations even just at lunch, she says.
– How do you react to this latest revelation?
– This confirms very clearly the perception we have about the challenges of secrecy in tax havens. That company structures are created where it is more difficult to uncover the owners.
Sinners can escape penalty tax
At the same time, she believes that image leaks have a prior effect. 200 Norwegians were named in the Panama papers in 2016. After the revelations, 1,500 Norwegians signed up for the Tax Administration.
Those who report before the authorities discover them can avoid punitive taxes.
– There will be a greater awareness in society that there is a risk of being discovered, says Funnemark.
In Pandora papers, Aftenposten / E24 has mapped over 300 Norwegians.
– People should take to the streets
Kari Elisabeth Kaski is fiscal policy spokesperson for SV. She reacts strongly to the Pandora papers cases.
– I think the leaks are so serious that there should be people in the streets every time. Here, money goes from the community in Norway, and not least developing countries, to politicians, business leaders and criminals, she believes.
The leak and articles about it have not documented that aid money has gone to the personal enrichment of heads of state.
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Kaski believes the articles show how large illegal cash flows and secrecy are. She says Norway should take the lead in combating this.
-I expect that a Labor-SP government will be far more ambitious in this area than Erna Solberg’s governments have been. No matter what, we will work with this from the Storting. This is an important issue for SV, says Kaski.
– Should be a wake-up call for the Labor Party and the Socialist People’s Party
Sigrid Klæbo Jakobsen is also the leader of the Tax Justice Network Norway (TJNN), and an international network that works for a more open tax system. She expects a new government to take action now.
– This should be a wake-up call for the Labor Party and the Socialist People’s Party in the negotiations. A condemnation of what has emerged is a bit worthwhile if it is not followed up with concrete measures, she says.
Klæbo believes that the G20 countries have failed to take up the fight against tax havens.
– Secret handle in best running. Law firms can continue to offer hiding places in tax havens for the world’s rich and powerful. There they can escape laws and regulations that apply to all of us, she says.
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One report from three researchers at the universities of Berkeley, Ås and Copenhagen from 2017 estimated that ten percent of the world’s gross domestic product is in tax havens.
Pandora papers document tax evasion on all continents and in almost every country in the world.
Senior adviser at Norwegian Church Aid, Kjetil Abildsnes, says tax evasion and secrecy are harmful, especially for developing countries. He believes it erodes democracy.
– The OECD does important work, but it disadvantages rich countries. New tax rules must be developed in an arena where developing countries have just as much to say.
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Abildsnes believes that Norway must also sweep for its own door.
-Norway must have on-site efficient and public country-by-country reporting, so that we see how much selected people pay in taxes and where. And then we have to close gaps in the register of real owners of companies so that even small ownership shares are stated, he says.
– Must have a central place in foreign policy
Eigil Knutsen, parliamentary representative for the Labor Party, believes that work against tax evasion must be given a central place in Norwegian foreign policy.
– Tax evasion is a general problem for the trust, for the justice over those who have to pay more when the tax base is eroded, and for the business community that loses in the competition against those who pay less tax. Therefore, this is a very important issue for the Labor Party, he says.
Knutsen says the Labor Party will listen to input from professional communities and organizations to strengthen schemes such as country-by-country reporting and ownership registers.