Income envy: Tax transparency in Finland
On the first of November, Finland always publishes tax data from the previous year. Nearly all media outlets list the income of prominent individuals. One can search online for the tax information of those who have earned more than 100,000 euros. And at the tax office information about people who've earned less than that can be requested. Is Finland doing the right thing?
Open society in practice
Finland can serve as a model in this area, Lapin Kansa comments enthusiastically:
“Tax transparency makes it easy to keep tabs on the ruling class. The data shows where and how you can get rich in Finland. Public services are financed by taxes. So it's important for us to know how assets are distributed, where the tax money comes from and where it goes. ... The publication of the data also has negative aspects, however. In many cases the tax data made public by the media serves no purpose other than to satisfy curiosity. This can cause bitterness, distrust and envy. ... Nonetheless, tax transparency is here to stay. Finland is setting an example for the world of what an open society means in practice.”
Media circus over taxes
The media are making the tax data of too many people public, Kauppalehti complains:
“The annual publication of tax info unfortunately carries a whiff of carnival atmosphere. News media pass their own judgement on where the income boundary lies beyond which they publicize the data. Now we're seeing lists of people who earn more than 100,000 euros. That's what mid-level managers get. But the publication of their income is socially irrelevant. Anyone who really wants to know that can also go to the tax office and view the tax data there.”