Friday, October 05, 2007


Wall Street Journal investigates recent tax hikes imposed on Norwegian shipping industry by Norway's left leaning socialist government. In particular, Norwegian Minister of finance, Kristin Halvorsen's budget plan suggests the retroactive taxation of reinvested profits. Due to the impact of shipping industry on the competitiveness of the Norwegian economy in a global arena, it is doubtful whether such tax hike are grounded on the basis of detailed analysis.

Perhaps, there is only a quest for higher public spending and Norwegian government is desperately seeking new revenue source to fund a growing public expenditure. In fact, the relationship between equity and efficiency is one out of many trade-off case studies in economic analysis and higher government spending causes distortions and reduces incentives to work, save and invest as marginal tax burden (a portion of the added burden relative to tax burden in a previous period) is a penetrating source of inefficiency since firms and individuals are discouraged from further engagement in productive behavior. And shipping industry is no exception.

The overall effect of imposed taxation will affect the attractiveness of Norwegian shipping centers and, nevertheless, ship owners could reflag the vessel to nearby locations where the tax treatment of shipping industry is more favorable relative to Norwegian jursidiction, and also where created profits are not subject to discretionary taxation.

Here is a part of the abovementioned article:

"Over the past seven years, as the regime took effect, maritime employment in Norway has climbed almost 20% to about 100,000 and the number of ships on order by Norwegian fleets has risen more than threefold — keeping pace with rapid international shipping growth since the turn of the century. That boom has attracted the attention of Norway’s finance minister, Kristin Halvorsen, a member of the country’s Socialist-Left Party. Under her budget plan, all profits reinvested by the industry since 1996 would be subject to a retroactive tax. Many ship owners are considering reflagging their vessels in nearby countries, such as the U.K. and Denmark. Moving could mitigate their future liabilities, but that will be little consolation to firms that remained in Norway over the past decade and invested in their fleets, only to be betrayed by politicians."

Source: Shipping Blues, Wall Street Journal (link)

No comments: