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Estate tax exemption hike, rate cut

Norwegian personal tax data revealed

Those nosy Norwegians!

Ski men's 15 km class-style race

Apparently, the Scandinavian country has, in addition to impressive winter (and not too shabby summer) Olympians, a major cruise line (thanks Viking heritage!) and untold ways to cook fish, a proud tradition of government transparency.

That means its residents get to see all that it's doing. And since it collects taxes, that means that Norwegians also get to see the tax and financial info of all their countrymen and women.

Yep, last week, Norwegian tax authorities issued the 2008 skattelister, or "tax list," to the media.

Yikes! Talk about TMI!

This release of tax data has been going on for years, and most media Web sites have their own search engines where Norwegians (or anyone who can read the language) can type in a resident's name and pull up detailed financial info.

While transparency is, hypothetically, a good thing when it comes to government operations, some folks worry that tax transparency is too much.

Jon Stordrange, director of the Norwegian Taxpayers Association, says the list could provide criminals an easy way to target victims. On a more mundane level, added Stordrange, revealing tax and financial info about everyone produces a "my-dad-is-richer-than-yours taunts in the playground."

And one Norwegian columnist conceded that many people treat the list as "tax porno" that allows them to check the income of neighbors of co-workers.

A little privacy, please: Here in the U.S. we appear to be among the most shameless folks in the world. Just look at what Americans will do to get on television talk shows or reality programs.

But when it comes to money, most of us play our cards very close to the chest. Heck, family members often don't know the money details about each other! That's not always a good idea, but that's for another post.

We do, however, get some self-righteous joy out of seeing who hasn't paid their taxes. That's why so many U.S. state tax offices regularly publish online tax delinquent lists.

As for the basics about the rest of us tax-law-abiding folk, though, that's private. And that's always been one of the major concerns of the IRS, not to mention one of its regular reasons why we can't complete even more tax tasks via our PCs.

So even though the IRS is making progress in upgrading its internal taxpayer data management system, don't expect to see a public list like Norway's any time soon.

Read more about Norwegian taxes: Thanks to TaxProf Blog for the foreign tax tip.

And thanks to the good professor for also rounding up additional coverage of Norway's open tax record effort:

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