In this era of offshore accounts and banking secrecy, you can’t turn sideways without hearing someone call for more transparency. I get it – I believe that transparency is generally a good thing, especially in government. But how much is too much?
The Norwegians have made news for their “skatteliste,” or “tax list” which includes personal income and tax burden for all of its taxpayers as well as where the taxpayers ranks on a list of national averages. The list has been public since 1863 (!) and was taken online in 2008 (it was actually available online since 2002 but was restricted in a controversial move).
Despite the potential for unhappy comparisons, a majority of Norwegians actually favor the system. Their desire for transparency is shared by those in neighboring Sweden, though with a bit less detail.
In the US, the government is prohibited from sharing tax information by law. But perhaps a little access to information would be a good thing. We already tend to know our presidential candidate’s tax info – they release those as a courtesy. But would we make better choices about what to report on our returns if we knew that they would be subject to publicly scrutiny? Would bank and corporate CEOs be as quick to swallow bonuses if everyone knew just how much they were taking? Would we feel more comfortable with our choices for mayor and other elected offices if we knew their financial and tax positions?
With that in mind, here’s Today’s Fix the Tax Code Friday question: