Cash register legislation, Sweden
Undeclared work accounts for about half of the total tax gap in Sweden and the country has taken important measures to tackle undeclared work, especially in sectors such as commerce, construction and other sectors with high cash turnover. As of 1 January 2010, businesses selling goods and services in return for cash payments must have a certified cash register. This rule is the result of a legislation that was enacted by the Swedish Parliament with the aim to making it difficult for businesses to withhold income and to protect serious business owners from unfair competition and to reduce undeclared work.
In July 2008, the Swedish Tax Agency announced that it was to increase its efforts to prevent tax evasion and tax gaps in sectors with high cash turnover. One of the sectors considered most relevant was the commerce sector, where a number of problems had to be dealt with, for example the use of manipulated cash registers. Every year the Swedish Tax Agency reports significant tax evasion in industries with high cash turnover, which proved difficult to deal with through traditional measures.
The aim of the new law on certified cash registers is to make it difficult for businesses to withhold income and to protect serious business owners from unfair competition. The new law is also expected to reduce undeclared work.
As of 1 January 2010, businesses selling goods and services in return for cash payments must have a certified cash register. This rule is the result of a legislation that was enacted by the Swedish Parliament (2007:592). A certified cash register consists of two parts: a cash register with a manufacturer declaration and a special control unit, a black box, which is connected to the cash register. The black box reads transactions made by the cash register. Only staff at the Swedish Tax Agency can access information in the black box. The businesses bear the costs of the cash registers, which cost around SEK 15,000 (€1,785). Companies not complying with the law may be fined SEK 10,000 (€1,190) by the Swedish Tax Agency. If the company once again fails to comply with the law within a year, a fine of 20,000 (€23,800) is charged.
This law applies to companies that sell goods and services in return for cash payments. Cash payments also include payment by debit (bank) card. Companies may apply for exemption from the obligation of having certified cash registers if they are in some way able to provide the Swedish Tax Agency with supporting documentation. Primarily, this type of exemption is intended for large companies which already have good internal control mechanisms in place. The Swedish Tax Agency makes inspections at companies without advance notice.
Outcome of evaluations: lessons and conclusions
Achievement of objectives
It is still too early to analyse the effects of the cash register law. Statistics from the Swedish Tax Agency do, however, show that the reported VAT output rose by 7% in the restaurant sector and 11% in the hairdressing industry in 2010. A part of this increase may be attributed to the introduction of the new law (Swedish Tax Agency, press release 27 June 2011).
Obstacles and problems
Before the law took effect, it proved to be difficult for manufacturers to get certified cash registers out on the market. Therefore, on 29 May 2009, the Swedish Tax Agency decided that as of 1 January 2010, it was sufficient for business owners to be able to prove that they had ordered certified cash registers for installation as soon as possible, no later than 1 July 2010.
The employer organisation for the Swedish hospitality industry (Visita) reports that the law of certified cash registers has led to high investment costs and an increased administrative burden on their member companies. Lastly, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) has observed that the new software needed for the cash registers may be manipulated.
No lessons learned have been reported.
The cash industry in Sweden covers about 200,000 companies. About 73,000 businesses had installed the new cash register in June 2011 (the Swedish Tax Agency, 2011). The effects in the form of increased tax revenues are difficult to estimate according an investigation from the government (SOU 2005:35).
Countries having introduced similar measures include Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Italy and Hungary. In Sweden, sale of alcoholic beverages in certain cases is only allowed if utilising a certified cash register. A similar measure also exists in the taxi business where taxis require a taximeter which registers the fare and prints receipts. The measure is hence transferrable to both other Member States and sectors of the economy.
Given the high level of tax in Sweden, the issue of undeclared work has during the last decade been a recurrent argument for lowering income taxation and the tax wedge. Combating undeclared work constitutes a high priority of the Swedish Government and efforts to prevent this seem to have increased when the centre-right government took office in 2006.
Almega, Hemservice - Attityder och fakta kring hushållsnära tjänster, http://www.almega.se/politik-och-ekonomi/rapporter/hemservice-attityder-och-fakta-kring-hushallsnara-tjanster
European Employment Observatory, Article on Undeclared Work from SYSDEM Correspondent, 2007.
Motion 2011/12:Sk399, Åtgärder mot skattefusk och svartarbete http://www.riksdagen.se/sv/Dokument-Lagar/Forslag/Motioner/tgarder-mot-skattefusk-och-sv_GZ02Sk399/?text=true
SOU 2005:35, Krav på kassaregister - Effektivare utredning av ekobrott
The Swedish Federation of Business Owners, ROT-avdraget skapar flera vita job, 2011.
The Ministry of Finance, Omvänd skattskyldighet för mervärdesskatt inom byggsektorn, Prop. 2005/06:130.
The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, Storskaliga skattebrott – en kartläggning av skattebrottslingens kostnader, 2011:7.
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The Swedish Tax Agency, Omvänd skattskyldighet för mervärdesskatt i byggsektorn, 2010.
The Swedish Tax Agency, press release 27 June 2011, Fusk med kassaregister kostar 20 miljarder årligen http://www.skatteverket.se/omskatteverket/press/pressmeddelanden/riks/2011/2011/fuskmedkassaregisterkostar20miljarderarligen.5.70ac421612e2a997f85800093633.html
The Swedish Tax Agency, Purchasing and performing undeclared work in Sweden, 2006:4.
The Swedish Tax Agency, Tax gap map, 2008:1.
The Swedish Tax Agency’s website: http://www.skatteverket.se/foretagorganisationer/startadrivaavslutaforetag/kassaregister.4.121b82f011a74172e5880005263.html
The Union of Construction Managers, Okunskap föder svartarbete, 29 February 2012, http://www.byggbranschenisamverkan.se/nyhetsarkiv/okunskap-foder-svartarbete__170