When it comes to the commuter housing controversy, the Norwegian parliament (Storting) has done the right thing, and the tax authorities are wrong, according to the law firm Grette. Politicians who live for free at their parents’ homes can have tax-free, free commuter housing.
“Storting representatives who commute from parental homes are entitled to tax-free coverage of commuter housing from the Storting, if the conditions for commuter deductions are otherwise met,” is stated in a tax audit from the law firm.
The report, which the Storting commissioned, was submitted on Wednesday.
The law firm has reviewed all cash benefits and welfare benefits for the representatives of the Storting but has only decided on whether a benefit should be taxable or tax-free.
According to the report, the Storting has correctly handled all schemes for politicians for tax purposes. Still, it is pointed out that individual cases must be reviewed.
“We have not taken a position on whether the representatives have been entitled to a specific benefit or not. That has not been our mandate,” Grette partner Anders Nordli said.
However, the Grette lawyers write that individual cases will be investigated in a separate process in consultation with the Storting.
Controversy over Ropstad
The Storting wanted such a review due to the many revelations in the press about the Storting representatives’ commuter housing scheme.
Among other things, the then-Christian Democrats leader and minister Kjell Ingolf Ropstad had to resign when it became known that he got free commuter housing while he had a registered address at his parents’ home.
The tax authorities believe that Ropstad should have taxed this property since he did not have additional costs for housing. The Grette lawyers do not agree with this. They believe that a reasonable understanding of the wording of the tax law commuter rules speaks against the opinion of the tax authorities.
Additional cost anyway
The report states that “It is difficult to see why the housing costs at home are relevant. For a representative who lives for free at their parents’ home, any cost of accommodation at the workplace will be an additional cost.”
The tax authorities are now in the process of reviewing the report.
“We are in the process of reading it and will have to come back with our comments later,” Media Adviser Erlend Fossbakken of the Tax Administration told NTB.
Dispute over rent
The Grette lawyers also dispute with the Tax Administration when it comes to tax-free commuter housing for members of the Storting who partly rent out their home in their place of residence.
The report states that these are often entitled to tax-free coverage of commuter housing.
“In our opinion, an interpretation that the tax authorities have used for a long time, where any rental at the place of residence cuts off commuter deductions, goes too far,” the report states.
Director of the Storting Marianne Andreassen acknowledged that there is disagreement regarding aspects of the commuter housing scheme.
“We have immediately sent this report to the Tax Administration, because it is conducting a tax audit,” she told NTB.
She wants to see the conclusions of the tax audit before saying something about what kind of consequences the disagreement may have.
Independent and thorough
Andreassen said that the Storting had received an independent and thorough report.
“It is a good basis for a correct tax treatment of cases both back and forward in time,” she said.
When asked if she thinks the report will change people’s perceptions of the Storting and politicians, Andreassen pointed out that the Storting has appointed a committee to review the representatives’ schemes to see if they are reasonably structured.
The Office of the Auditor-General will also review the schemes, at the same time as the administration will ensure that representatives have received and will receive the benefits on the correct basis.
“All these things together are important for trust,” Andreassen said.
Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews
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