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.
….To non-Scandinavians, it would seem to be a gross violation of privacy. The tax list stirs up a media frenzy, with splashy headlines revealing oil-rich Norway’s wealthiest man, woman and celebrity couple.
….The information had been available to media until 2004, when a more conservative government banned the publication of tax records. Three years later, a new, more liberal government reversed the legislation and also made it possible for media to obtain tax information digitally and disseminate it online. Norway’s 2007 law emphasized that ”first and foremost, it’s the press that can contribute to a critical debate” on wealth and the elaborate tax scheme that, along with the country’s oil wealth, keeps Norway’s extensive — and expensive — welfare system afloat.
Apparently the Norwegian data includes total wealth, not just income, which is a little surprising. Does Norway have a wealth tax?
UPDATE: Turns out the United States tried this experiment for a couple of years back in the 1920s. However, “popular discomfort with the 1924 experiment prompted lawmakers to repeal the publicity provision two years later.” Thanks to Philip Klinkner for the pointer.