Joint alliance against the black economy, Norway
In 2008, Norway’s central social partners, the Ministry of Finance and the Tax Administration renegotiated an agreement obliging them to further develop their joint cooperation against the black economy. The alliance primarily engages in awareness-raising activities and provides companies, entrepreneurs, workers and consumers with information on the societal consequences of undeclared work and guidelines on how to follow tax rules through their websites, as well as popular educational programmes directed at young people.
The 'Collaboration against the black economy' alliance (Samarbeid mot svart økonomi) was originally established in 1997 through an agreement between the central social partners in Norwegian working and business life and the country’s Ministry of Finance and Tax Administration. The alliance was established as a means to tackle the growing black economy in Norway. The parties renegotiated the agreement on 1 September 2008 with an ambition to further develop their work. The parties to the agreement state that they recognise the black economy is a significant societal problem, and they therefore 'wish to contribute to a development in Norwegian working- and business-life that gives its actors equal competitive conditions, good jobs and businesses that comply with laws and regulation'.
The alliance’s overall objective is to 'create zero tolerance for undeclared work in Norwegian society'. They work towards this objective through exchanging relevant knowledge in order to find effective measures against the black economy. Furthermore the alliance members aim to pass their knowledge on to companies, entrepreneurs, workers and consumers so that it can help them 'make the right choices'.
More specifically, the alliance aims to create increased knowledge and understanding of the tax system and consequences of tax evasion to contribute to increased compliance, create equal conditions for competition in business life to secure good workplaces and workers’ rights, spread knowledge of the black economy through communicating the alliances’ own, and others’, research on the subject, contribute to development of laws and regulations that make it easier for people to fulfil social obligations and spread easily accessible and user-friendly information on undeclared work to all relevant recipients.
To reach their objectives the alliance primarily engages in awareness raising activities, i.e. through the websites www.samarbeidmotsvartokonomi.no ('Collaboration against the black economy'), www.handlehvitt.no (buy legally) and www.spleiselaget.no ('the cost-sharing team', directed at young people).
The website www.samarbeidmotsvartokonomi.no was launched in 2009. The site is the alliance's home and it provides links to all its current projects. The site also provides links to research on the black economy, news related to the black economy and undeclared work, and information on the alliance’s objectives and organisation.
The website www.handlehvitt.no was launched on 1 November 2011 as part of a campaign against undeclared work. The website brings consumers information on current tax rules and reporting routines when buying various services from private companies, as well as information on why it is important for society at large to tackle undeclared work. Consumers have the opportunity to report the salary paid for cleaning, child care etc. to the Tax Administration directly from the website. The website also contains a function which makes it possible to check whether the company the consumer intends to use is registered in the Brønnøysund Register Centre (Brønnøysundregistrene), a government agency comprising several different national data registers. The website makes it easier for consumers to comply with tax rules and choose serious service providers. Information has also been communicated by a posters campaign.
The website www.spleiselaget.no was launched in 2006 as a part of an educational programme directed at young people. The site provides information on the Norwegian welfare model, information on the importance of paying taxes and tackling the black economy, as well as information on workers’ rights and how to follow current tax rules. The site also makes it possible for schools to order a visit from alliance representatives. The representatives offer dialogue based presentations on the consequences of undeclared work specifically directed at students in high school. The presenters put emphasis on explaining how public services are financed through taxes and surcharges paid by citizens. Approximately 200,000 students participated in the educational programme from 2006 to 2012.
The alliance consists of representatives from the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), Unio (Unio), the Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS), the Ministry of Finance (Finansdepartementet) and the Norwegian Tax Administration (Skatteetaten) . The alliance is organised through a central forum with responsibility for setting the framework for the cooperation. In addition, the alliance has regional forums consisting of two representatives from the regional Tax Administration and one representative from each of the social partners mentioned above. The regional forums implement measures at local level, in line with the alliance’s overall framework. The Tax Administration finances conferences, regional measures and other special events organised by the central forum. The social partners contribute financially to major projects when agreed upon and necessary.
Outcome of evaluations: lessons and conclusions
Achievement of objectives
The alliance’s work is generally considered successful. A survey, where the sample consisted of students who had participated in the alliance’s educational programme, showed that eight out of 10 students found the educational programme useful and awareness-raising. More than half of the students said they had become more positive towards paying taxes. A nationally representative survey from 2011 shows that Norwegian people’s tax morale has improved somewhat from 2009 (small but statistically significant change is reported). When the government’s action plan against economic crime was presented in 2011 State Secretary Roger Schjerva from the Ministry of Finance stated that he chooses to believe that the positive development in Norwegian people’s tax morale is partly caused by the alliance’s broad efforts to create awareness about the importance of having good attitudes towards paying taxes. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the Ministry of Finance have stated that they are impressed with the efforts the alliance has laid down, and encourage its members to keep up the good work. The ministries also stated that it is particularly important that efforts aimed at young people continue, and encouraged the alliance to consider extending their offer to younger students and immigrants.
Obstacles and problems
Although there has been a positive development in Norwegian people’s tax morale since 2009, the proportion of Norwegians who say they have used undeclared work has remained relatively stable from 2006 to 2011: 18% of the population said they had bought undeclared work during the last two years in 2011 and the real proportion is expected to be even higher.
No overall evaluation of the alliance’s work has been carried out to date. Still, the above mentioned surveys indicate that awareness-raising activities, such as the alliance web pages and educational programme, can contribute to create knowledge on broader societal consequences of undeclared work, as well as more positive attitudes towards paying taxes. However, the high and stable proportion of Norwegians who say they have used undeclared work indicates that it is more challenging to change people’s actions, than it is to affect their stated attitudes.
As mentioned above, over 200,000 students participated in the alliance initiated educational programme from 2006 to 2012. Other than that, no specific indicators have been identified.
The alliance’s work against the black economy should be transferable to countries.
- 'Collaboration against the black economy' (Samarbeid mot svart økonomi, SMSØ).
- The Ministry of Finance (Finansdepartementet, FIN).
- Norwegian Tax Administration (Skatteetaten) .
- The Ministry of Justice and Public Security (Justis- og Beredskapsdepartementet).
(Reference to student survey on the impact of the 'Collaboration against the black economy’s' educational programme, in Norwegian): http://www.samarbeidmotsvartokonomi.no
(Presentation of the above mentioned action plan, in Norwegian):
Tom Erik Vennesland, Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research