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MTV3: PM Marin vows to stop using meal benefit amid controversy

A decision on whether the PM's meal benefits were tax exempt is expected from the Tax Administration.

Sanna Marin vierailemassa Mikkelissä 31.5.2021. Vierailun aikana Marin tapasi kaupungin ja maakuntaliiton edustajia.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin in Mikkeli on Monday. Image: Juho Liukkonen / Yle
Yle News

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said that she will stop using free meal benefits which have raised controversy in recent days, even if the arrangement is found to be legal, according to news outlet MTV3.

A minor scandal surrounded the PM following reports she and members of her family had received meal benefits they may not be entitled to.

Initially the benefits were thought to be valued at around 300 euros per month but Marin's office confirmed a newspaper report it was actually a question of 850 euros per month.

As the scandal evolved, initially dubbed "breakfastgate," it prompted some to question whether the PM's benefit allowance was violating tax laws. On Friday, Helsinki police launched a preliminary investigation into whether there were grounds to suspect officials of misconduct over expenses related to the prime minister's breakfast costs.

On Monday, the PM's office said that Marin had received a total of 14,363 euros in meal benefits while living at her official residence, adding that a request for clarification about tax liabilities had been sent to the Tax Administration.

The controversy was compounded by confusion over whether prime ministers are legally eligible for such meal allowances.

On Tuesday, Marin told MTV3 that she planned to stop using the benefits, even if they turn out to be legal.

"I want to get clarity for myself about how appropriate the benefit is. It is unreasonable that there's no answer about how the law should be interpreted," Marin told MTV3.

This week PM Sanna Marin talked to Yle News' All Points North podcast:

Article continues after the audio.

The PM's tax-free housing arrangement does not include a food benefit, according to University of Tampere tax law professor Pekka Nykänen, who assessed the arrangement at Yle's request.

He said that tax free status of the services and goods offered at the PM's official residence were mainly security and housing related.

However, Nykänen noted that the current definition of services was loose and it was difficult to interpret.

"What 'services' means here is crucial. When I looked through the government's [documentation about the arrangement] it suggests that it is related to security services and other types of services, but not food benefits, per se," Nykänen told Yle.

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