Other Countries Routinely Publish Personal Tax Information of Citizens

Posted on June 23, 2016

We have previously discussed the long-standing tradition of presidents and presidential candidates disclosing their tax returns to the public over the last 40 years.

We have also discussed Donald Trump’s steadfast refusal to release his tax returns by claiming that he cannot do so because his tax returns are under audit.  However, some other countries, namely Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland, routinely make personal tax data publicly available.

Since 1903, Sweden has released the tax details of all middle and upper-income taxpayers through a disclosure program where anyone who goes online and pays approximately $33 can obtain a “tax calendar” so that they can “comfortably examine” what their neighbors and coworkers earn.

In Finland, pay-per-view inquiries into one’s gross taxable income are available from the government or from a private service that will even text messages to you about what your neighbor or co-worker earned in a prior year.  Norway allows online access to all filers’ taxable income and tax liabilities.  Iceland only provides tax liabilities for the prior year during a two-week period in which you can publicly view the tax liability at tax offices.  In this instance, you need to back into the estimated income of your neighbor or coworker by using the reported tax liability.

The United States twice tried publicly disclosing tax information over the last 155 years, but both of these efforts were abandoned.  It is feared that public disclosure of personal tax data can negatively affect income tax compliance and give rise to more phone scams, phishing and identity theft.  We are not in favor of publicly disclosing our tax information to others.  What do you think?

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