My favourite Swedish policy annoyance just keeps getting more and more hilarious: As you may remember, the Swedish Christian Democrats made the abolition of property taxes their cause célèbre in last year’s election campaign and in the end they managed to get the other three centre-right parties on board.
This, of cause, came as economists have called for taxation to be shifted from mobile factors (such as work or capital) to immobile factors (such as property), but as in the UK and US Nordic politicians have a home-ownership fetish.
Anyway, what Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund promised was that:
…the state property tax will be replaced by a low local charge
The implicit promise of a substantial tax cut on property has proven elusive and the distributional effects of all the specific proposals presented have been more or less perverse. But okay, this is politics and the voters will get some kind of tax cut.
Last week, the Swedish Council of Legislation (Lagrådet), a state authority which previews proposals for legislation published its comments on the final proposal and found few kind words – basically, the Council complained that the proposal was being rushed.
What caught my attention was that the legal experts specifically criticised that the government wants to call the new tax a charge (avgift). Politically, the idea was to make the … ahem … tax (skatt) more appealing but as the Council points out, the “charge” has all of the characteristics of a tax, legally it is a tax and constitutionally it must be treated as a tax.
Just to hit the final nail in the coffin, the Council points out that a lot of proposed amendments will be unnecessary if the local property tax is called … local property tax.
But then again: This is the age of political newspeak, so I am certain that the government will keep the “charge” terminology and the Swedish government isn’t the only government which has been fooling around with misleading names. Immigration Service (a Danish state authority designed to keep aliens out of the country), anyone?