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Banking tycoon Wahlroos quits Finland

One of the country’s richest men, the outspoken banker Björn Wahlroos, has changed his country of residence to Sweden, reportedly because of the more lenient tax regime. Finland’s finance minister dubbed the decision ’regrettable’ and called for the wealthy to pitch in with their taxes along with everyone else.

Björn Wahlroos.
Björn Wahlroos. Image: Yle

The larger-than-life banking tycoon and business leader Björn Wahlroos moved his country of residence from Finland to Sweden last December, an official from the Swedish tax authority, Pia Jurvanen Sarman, has confirmed.

Wahlroos, who is chairman of the board of the banks Sampo Group, Nordea and UPM, believes the Swedish tax model is more favourable, according to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri.

The move means that Wahlroos will be eligible to vote in this autumn’s local elections in Sweden, and will be able to join Sweden’s health insurance system.

However, it is unclear whether Wahlroos will from now on pay taxes to Sweden – and if so, when the new arrangements will come into force. According to the law a Finnish citizen must continue to pay taxes to Finland for three years after moving abroad, although taxpayers can overturn this rule on appeal.

Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen told Yle the announcement was surprising and regrettable. ”Wahlroos has received a lot from Finnish society: he was educated here, and has certainly made use of those services which are funded by taxpayers’ money. By changing his country of residence, he’s showing that he doesn’t value these things, and that’s unfortunate,” Urpilainen said.

”I think it’s right that, in times of economic hardship, those who are wealthy and well supported pitch in with their taxes along with everyone else,” she added.

Meanwhile in the county of Salo, Wahlroos’ home municipality until December last year, officials were quick to play down the financial damage of no longer counting one of Finland’s richest men amongst their taxpayers.

In 2012 Wahlroos, who owns extensive amounts of land in the area, paid a council tax bill running to 120,000 euros – just a drop in the municipality’s annual tax yield of up to 170 million euros.

Wahlroos represents Nordea bank’s largest shareholder, Sampo, which owns over 20% of the bank.

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