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Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Norwegians drool over fresh tax records
Tax list search engine
A search engine makes snooping on neighbours easy
The Norwegian people are being treated to an intimate, almost pornographic, display of the not-so-private financial affairs of the wealthy as the country's media delves deep into freshly published tax records.

Tabloid newspaper VG turns its lens towards eligible young heirs to large fortunes, footballers and relatives of the Royal Family.

The country's business leaders are the focus of the newspaper Aftenposten's ranking of Norway's highest earning executives, which is published along with top-ten lists of leading lawyers and grocers, publishers and authors, comedians and actors.

And prominent figures in the world of finance, including stock brokers and economists, are splashed across the pages of the financial daily DN, along with a ranking of the country's media tycoons.

In contrast, several papers can reveal the relative poverty of the rich nation's politicians - many of whom are engaged in a brawl about whether or not tax returns should be on public display.

Obsessed with openness

Norwegian tax returns have been public information since 1863, though until two years ago it was only possible to see other people's figures by applying in person at a tax office.

Norwegian 50-kroner note
The contents of the wealthy's wallets is a source of fascination

A storm broke out when they were made available online in 2002, complete with a sophisticated search facility where the curious or the criminally minded can search by name, address and age to find out all the details about the wealth and income of their boss and colleagues, their family, their friends and their neighbours.

Armed with such detailed information, it is easy to move on to other searchable directories, for example the online phonebook where private, work and mobile numbers are routinely listed, along with details about individuals' professions.

Not even the Freemasons are safe from prying eyes in this nation obsessed with openness. In 2003, a searchable directory of the Freemasons' membership was made available online by the Christian newspaper Magazinet.

Restrictions to be lifted

In 2003, the year after the tax returns were made available on the internet, the centre-right government of outgoing Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik decided to restrict online access to three weeks from the day of publication.

Hence, this year's lists, which were published on Friday, 7 October, will only be available online until the end of this month.

Newspaper editors have fervently opposed the restrictions, and following the change of government last month it seems likely that it is all about to change.

Next year's tax returns will be published online, as per usual, but they will not be removed after three weeks, incoming Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's centre-left government has signalled.

Norwegian tax office tells all online
11 Oct 02 |  Media reports

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