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Swedish taxpayers least honest in the Nordics

Sweden has the biggest black market in the Nordic region, according to a new study, which also found workers in France are more honest than their Swedish counterparts in reporting their income to tax authorities.

Swedish taxpayers least honest in the Nordics

According to an annual survey by German economic institute IAW, the black market in Sweden is estimated to represent 13.9 percent of the country’s GDP.

The figure compares favourably to Greece and Italy, where undeclared economic activity totals 24.6 percent and 21.1 percent of GDP respectively, yet Sweden’s shadow economy is larger than the OECD average of 12.6 percent of GDP.

Finland and Denmark, meanwhile, have under-the-table economies measuring 13.0 percent of GDP, according to the study, with Norway’s measuring 13.6 percent.

Tax authorities in France and the UK were found to be collecting a larger portion of taxable income than any of the Nordic countries, with the black markets there estimated at 9.9 percent and 9.7 percent of GDP respectively.

For the tweltth year in a row, however, the world’s most honest taxpayers are found in the United States, where unreported economic activity only accounts for 6.6 percent of GDP, the study found.

While Peter Isling, spokesman for the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv), hadn’t reviewed the details of the IAW study, he initially expressed surprise that Sweden didn’t rank higher than its OECD counterparts.

However, he cited the high taxes on Sweden’s relatively small service sector as one of the possible explanations.

“Sweden has relatively high taxes on services. And if it costs a lot to purchase certain services, consumers are often open to getting things done in an alternative way,” he told The Local.

“What we’ve seen, however, is that the reforms allowing tax breaks on household services and home improvement work have had an effect. The black market in these sectors has decreased.”

Indeed, the study found that Sweden’s shadow economy has shrunk by 4.2 percent in the last decade, one of the largest decreases among the 21 countries included in the study, which ignored earnings from criminal activity.

However, Sweden’s high taxes and relatively high entry-level wages likely help fuel the black market, according to Isling.

“There simply aren’t that many entry-level service jobs in Sweden, in part because wages at the bottom end of the scale are relatively high, and in part because they are taxed so much,” he said.

“If services are really expensive, consumers may turn to the black market.”

He suggested that extending tax breaks to other sectors might also help Sweden reduce the size of its shadow economy.

“Similar reforms in other sectors could lower prices for consumers so they would be less tempted to buy on the black market.”

David Landes

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WORKING IN SWEDEN

CHECKLIST: Here’s what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

What authorities do you need to inform before you leave, are you liable to Swedish tax and how can you access your Swedish pension? Here's a checklist.

CHECKLIST: Here's what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

Tell the relevant authorities if you’re leaving for more than a year

If you’re planning on leaving Sweden for more than a year, you will have to let the authorities know. The main authorities in question are Skatteverket (the Tax Agency) and Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency).

Försäkringskassan

You have to tell Försäkringskassan when you leave so they can assess whether or not you still qualify for Swedish social insurance. As a general rule, you aren’t eligible for Swedish social insurance if you move away from Sweden, but there are exceptions, such as maternity or paternity benefits if you’re moving to another EU country.

This also applies to any family members who move with you – any over-18’s should send in their own documentation to Försäkingskassan about their move abroad. If you’re moving abroad with anyone under 18, you can include them in your own report to Försäkringskassan.

If both legal guardians are moving abroad together, both need to include any children in their application. If one legal guardian is moving abroad and the other is staying in Sweden, you need the guardian staying in Sweden to co-sign your application. If you are the sole legal guardian of any under-18’s travelling with you, you don’t need any documentation from the other parent.

You can register a move abroad with Försäkringskassan on the Mina sidor service on their website, here (log in with BankID).

Skatteverket

If you are moving abroad for a year or longer, you also need to tell the Tax Agency. This also applies if you were planning on moving abroad for less than a year but ended up staying for longer.

If you move to another Nordic country, you will also need to register your move with that country’s authorities if you will be there for six months or more. You’ll be deregistered from the Swedish population register the same day you become registered in another Nordic country’s register.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your personnummer – you’ll still be able to use it if you ever move back to Sweden – but you will no longer be registered as resident in Sweden.

Similarly to Försäkringskassan, you will also need to report any children you are bringing with you, and both legal guardians must sign the form, whether or not both guardians are moving abroad or not.

In some cases, you may still be liable to pay tax in Sweden even if you live abroad – particularly if you are a Swedish citizen or have lived in Sweden for at least ten years. This could be due to owning or renting out property in Sweden, having family in Sweden, or owning a business in Sweden.

You can tell the tax agency of your plans to move abroad here.

Contact your a-kassa, if relevant

If you are member of a Swedish a-kassa (unemployment insurance), make sure you tell them that you’re leaving the country. As a general rule, you have unemployment insurance in the country you work in, so you will most likely have to cancel your a-kassa subscription.

If you are moving to another country with the a-kassa system, such as Denmark or Finland, it may pay to wait until you have joined a new a-kassa in that country before you cancel your membership in Sweden.

This is due to the fact, in some countries, you only qualify for benefits once you fulfil a membership and employment requirement. In Sweden and Denmark, you must have been a member for 12 months before you qualify. In Finland, the membership requirement is 26 weeks.

If you qualify for a-kassa in Sweden before you leave the country, you may be able to transfer your a-kassa membership period over to your new a-kassa abroad and qualify there straight away, but this usually only applies if your period of a-kassa membership is unbroken.

Check what applies in your new country before you cancel your membership in Sweden – your a-kassa should be able to help you with this.

Contact your union, if relevant

Similarly, if you are a member of a Swedish union or fackförbund, let them know you’re moving abroad.

If you’re moving to another Nordic country, they might be able to point you in the direction of the relevant union in that country, if you want to remain a member of a union in your new country.

If you’re moving to another EU country, you may be able to remain a member of your Swedish union as a foreign worker with the status utlandsvistelse.

If you chose to do this, you will usually pay a lower monthly fee than you do in Sweden, and they can still provide assistance with work related issues – although it may make more sense to join a local union in your field with more knowledge of the labout market.

If you don’t want to be a member of a union in your new country and don’t want to be a member of a Swedish union, you should contact your  union and ask them to cancel your membership.

Collect relevant documents regarding your Swedish pension

If you have worked in Sweden and paid tax for any length of time, you will have paid in to a Swedish pension. You retain this pension wherever you move, but you must apply for it yourself.

To do so, you will need to give details of when you lived and worked in Sweden, as well as providing copies of work contracts, if you have them. If you have these documents before you leave Sweden, make copies so that you can provide them when asked.

If you move to the EU/EES or Switzerland, you may also have the right to other, non-work based pensions, such as guarantee pension for low- or no-income earners, or the income pension complement (inkomstpensionstillägg).

Currently, you can receive your Swedish pension once you turn 62 – although there is a proposal in parliament due to raise pension age to 63 for those born after 1961 from 2023, so this may change.

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