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New laws allow top earners to hide income data from "tax day" lists

So far 70 people have applied for -- and received -- permission to be excluded from a public list of high income earners.

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The tax administration provides media organisations with a list of people who earned over 100,000 euros during the previous year. Image: Hanna Terävä / Yle

This year for the first time, individuals will be able to withhold their earnings and tax data from a list of high income earners released by the Finnish Tax Administration.

The list, which contains the tax and income information of people who earn 100,000 euros or more is typically handed over to news media and published in what has become known as a kind of national day of envy.

However new EU data protection regulations and expanded national data privacy laws that came into force at the beginning of the year mean that people can now request that their names and income information be dropped from public lists.

Officials will still have discretion over whether or not to comply with such requests. The agency has said that it will agree to withhold the information in the event of "special personal circumstances".

Tax administration senior adviser Noora Kontro said that "special circumstances" could mean something financial, health-related or security-related, for example.

70 requests approved so far

So far about 100 taxpayers have applied to take advantage of the opportunity to conceal their income and tax data from public lists. Kontro said that 70 have been processed and all have been approved, although in some cases the agency has asked for additional information relating to the request. She declined to comment on the specific reasons that applicants gave for withholding their data.

Kontro did acknowledge however one of the reasons was that the publication of such information provided an opening for criminal activity.

She added that being listed among the top earners in the country could create pressure in a small town, for example.

While Yle is one of the media organisations that requests the list of high-income earners from Vero every year, it only published the top 1,000 people on the list, and regular workers rarely end up on it.

Data still available from tax office

Kontro speculated that in the years ahead, more individuals will ask to be removed from the public list. She added that the exception only applies to the list delivered to media organisations. Everyone’s income and tax information is still available from the tax office.

"Our view is that the list we provide to the media is an additional service. There is still openness and transparency given the fact that it’s possible to get the information by asking at the tax office," she noted.

"Processing these exception requests is rather time-consuming and if the number grows we will have to think about how we process them," she added.

The tax official pointed out that in the past, people have asked to be removed from the public list, but it wasn’t possible then.

Requests to be excluded from the public list of top earners must be handed on to the tax administration before it is published on 4 November.

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