Norwegian fury over Swedish tax mix-up

Outraged Norwegian pensioners living in Sweden have reported the head of the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) to the police after being asked to repay four years' worth of taxes, claiming the agency gave them bad information.

Norwegian fury over Swedish tax mix-up

“I’m a friendly, honest person and I feel like I’ve been steamrolled,” Norwegian pensioner Mona Jonsson told Sveriges Television (SVT).

Jonsson is among the estimated hundreds of Norwegian pensioners who have moved to Sweden in recent years, many of whom claim they were misinformed by the tax agency.

They say officials at the agency told them that that since their pensions were paid from Norway, they should also pay their taxes there.

Four years later, however, the Norwegian retirées have suddenly been hit with claims from the tax authorities that they now owe back taxes in Sweden.

Several of them told SVT that they have been forced to dip into their savings, with some citing fears they stood to lose their houses in order to pay their outstanding Swedish tax bills.

Egil Siira, a Norwegian who chose to spend his retirement in the northern Swedish town Vilhelmina, even has a letter from the Swedish Tax Agency stating that he was to pay tax only in Norway during the first four years of his stay in Sweden.

Several Norwegian pensioners subsequently did not pay taxes to Sweden during their first years here. But now the agency, along with the Swedish Enforcement Agency (Kronofogden), have said the Norwegian pensioners owe the Swedish state outstanding payments.

SVT reported that the likely root to this financial predicament could be that individual agency staff were unaware of a tax law reform affecting Nordic pensioners moving between the countries in the region.

Prior to 2009, taxes were indeed meant to be paid to the country from which pensions were paid. Following the revision, however, taxes are to be paid to the country of residence.

Despite written proof that at least one Norwegian citizen in Sweden was given the wrong information, the tax agency has refused to take responsibility for the mix-up.

“I don’t know what has been discussed in individual cases and can’t make any further statements,” agency legal expert Britt-Marie Hallberg-Eriksson told SVT.

“It is regrettable and a real shame if we’ve given incorrect information.”

Unable to get a sympathetic ear at the tax agency, irate Norwegians have reported tax agency head Ingemar Hansson to the police on suspicion of professional misconduct.

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Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland

Norway, which has suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine until further notice, will send 216,000 doses to Sweden and Iceland at their request, the Norwegian health ministry said Thursday.

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland
Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“I’m happy that the vaccines we have in stock can be put to use even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Norway,” Health Minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The 216,000 doses, which are currently stored in Norwegian fridges, have to be used before their expiry dates in June and July.

Sweden will receive 200,000 shots and Iceland 16,000 under the expectation they will return the favour at some point. 

“If we do resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get the doses back as soon as we ask,” Høie said.

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 in order to examine rare but potentially severe side effects, including blood clots.

Among the 134,000 AstraZeneca shots administered in Norway before the suspension, five cases of severe thrombosis, including three fatal ones, had been registered among relatively young people in otherwise good health. One other person died of a brain haemorrhage.

On April 15, Norway’s government ignored a recommendation from the Institute of Public Health to drop the AstraZeneca jab for good, saying it wanted more time to decide.

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine 

The government has therefore set up a committee of Norwegian and international experts tasked with studying all of the risks linked to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is also suspected of causing blood clots.

Both are both based on adenovirus vector technology. Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca
vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.