The debate on Norway's law on CBC-reporting continues

Snorre Valen, spoksperson for the Socialist Left Party


The Socialist Left Party says it will demand the country-by-country reporting standard to also include tax havens. The case can be discussed in the Norwegian Parliament in May. - There is a political majority in support for strong legislation on this matter, sais spokesperson Snorre Valen.

Snorre Valen represents the Socialist Left Party in the Standing Committee on Finance in the Norwegian Parliament. In a telephone interview at the end of January, he confirms to that the newly passed law on country-by-country reporting might become a hot political topic in May. The law could be discussed as part of the Parliament's amendment of the state budget, which always takes place in May.

The new legislation on country-by-country reporting was introduced on the 1st of January this year. The reporting standard requires Norwegian companies in the extractive sector to publish some key accounting figures, amongst others: their tax payments.

The law proposal was presented to the Parliament by October last year, as part of the state budget process. It was then criticised by both the opposition and civil society, claiming the legislation would be an insufficient tool in the fight against capital flight.

- The Socialist Left Party is now considering adding a note to the law, and having it added in May. In the note, we will present concrete recommendations on which requirements the law should include, says Valen.

Valen argues that the law should require companies to also report from subsidiaries with so-called "supporting functions". PWYP Norway has previously argued that these functions are in reality often placed in tax havens, where Norwegian companies send their profits in order to reduce their taxable income in poor but resource-rich countries.

- The note could also prescribe a more demanding legislation, where the text clarifies the purpose of illuminating both illegal tax evasion and tax avoidance that might be legal, but morally problematic. We want a radical understanding of the law, says Valen. 

Hans Olav Syversen for the Christian Democrats

Asks centre-right to join initiative

The initiative from the Socialist Left Party has been tried out before. In November last year, the red-green parliamentary minority suggested additions to the law, where they presented strong demands. This initiative was voted down.

- It is therefore important to target the Christian Democratic Party and the Liberals, to find a common solution. If we do not find any further support to the note, we'd consider writing a new law proposal, but this will take longer time, says Valen.

The Socialist Left Party have had informal talks with the Liberals and Christian Democrats on the matter, and will continue doing so.

- There is a political majority for strong legislation on country-by-country reporting in the Parliament. But, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals have been tied down by the cooperation with the parties in government (Conservatives and Progress Party, journ. note). Whether we'll succeed depends on our ability to convince the Liberals and the Christian Democrats. This is also an important task for Norwegian civil society, says Valen.

"Might be too early"

These plans receive lukewarm support from the centre-right parties.

- The impatience of the Socialist Left Party is of course agreeable, knowing that they just spent eight years as part of the government, says Hans Olav Syversen, member in the standing committee for finance for the Christian Democrats.

His main priority is to operationalize the law that has been ratified by the Parliament.

- I am excited to see how the law will actually work. I am open to extend the demands in the law, but it can be too early to discuss these changes already by May, said Syversen.

When the law was passed on the 5th of December, the Parliament requested the government to ensure that the regulatory framework governing country-by-country reporting incorporates the objective of highlighting undesirable tax planning.

The regulation to the law on country-by-country reporting was published on the 20th of December.

- I think this regulation is a step in the right direction, says Syversen.

Liberals with an "independent voice"

Terje Breivik, member in the Standing Committee on Finance for the Liberals, says he is "fundamentally positive" to discuss proposals that can ensure more transparency on financial transactions.

- We have an independent voice on this matter, and are able to talk to both the opposition and the government. We would consider the proposal from the Socialist Left Party once it its represented. We welcome a discussion on whether the new regulation is efficient enough, sais Breivik.

He emphasises that is too early to state whether the Liberals will support the nation from the Socialist Left Party.