Saturday, May 01, 2010

Tax Time in Sweden

I filed my Swedish taxes the other day. It took me just long enough to type 18 numbers into my cell phone and hit send. The deadline was May 3rd, and my tax declaration forms have been on the floor of my apartment for several weeks.

Now normally, tax papers shouldn’t be strewn across the floor. But I was going paperless this year. You know, except for the papers on my floor. The Swedish tax system, despite the ridiculous amounts of money they take from me every year, is pretty damn good at taking that money. All that practice I suppose.

All of that practice has led to some serious efficiency. Like being able to declare by phone. Or online. Or by SMS (or text, depending on which country you might find yourself in). Last year, I declared online. This year though, I was going even more high tech. I was using my cell phone. Which, considering the quality of my cell phone, might be considered incredibly low tech, but I digress.

The government sent me a nice little form with plenty of information already filled in, like my income for example. They also sent a booklet to read through in case I needed to make any changes due to big life changing events. Like selling a house. I didn’t have any of those big life changing events, and so I went through my forms, saw that no changes had to be made, and I was good to go.

I consulted the handy booklet to go through my choices. Because I had no changes to make, filing by cell phone was a legitimate option. And come on, probably the best option. All I had to do was plug in my personnummer and a little code that they provided me and send it off to Skatteverket. Then I sat back and waited for my confirmation text.

In a country of nine million, Skatteverket was preparing me for disappointment. The booklet warned me that if lots of people were filing taxes at the same time, I may have to wait up to ten minutes for my confirmation text. The horror. Apparently though, 10:00 in the evening on a weekday is not a popular time to be consulting tax documents and so just a few seconds after having hit send, I received my confirmation: Din deklaration har nu kommit in till Skatteverket.

It doesn’t get much easier than that. Which might be the point. That little anti-tax troll that sits on my shoulder says that the Swedish government makes declaring easy because then no one thinks too hard about just how much money disappears to the Swedish tax system. The troll on my other shoulder says that in a country where the police send text messages, this is just a damn good way to make life a little bit better.

Welcome to Sweden. And filing taxes.

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  1. I still pay my tax in DK and fortunately I have never needed to do my own selvangivelse. Everything's correct already so no need to do anything :)

  2. This is great. As a matter of fact I was talking to my Swedish friend the other day about the good ol' differences between the US and Sweden's filing differences. We were both enlightened. The concept of text filing, befuddling.

  3. Don't they also have people waiting at the streets for you to hand them over your papers on the day of the deadline? I think I saw something like that last year on Götgatan (was there as Erasmus student).

  4. There are some people who prefer the old-fashioned way, or they have questions about this or that.

  5. God, Canadian taxes take days to do by myself. We have pretty high taxes, yet they suck at getting it from us.

  6. According to The Economist ("The joy of tax", April 15th),

    "An incredible 82% of taxpayers are so flummoxed that they pay for help. Some 60% hire an accountant or tax preparer, while another 22% use tax software...

    [E]ven the head of the Internal Revenue Service, Douglas Shulman, gets someone else to do his taxes."

    That, to me as a Swede, sounds horrible.

  7. *Those statistics represent US tax payers, btw :P

  8. Think you wrote about "vårtecken" in another post, this is one for sure, not sure if any videos are up yet tho.


  10. just saw the
    USS Vicksburg in stockholm
    quite cool to see:)

    they where here on training mission and a day off in the town

    hope they will have fun in stockholm

  11. I think one reason they have this SMS-system is because a lot of people think it's to much work and simply don't do it otherwise... And maybe this makes people cheat less, I don't know.

  12. @the writer – that does make things a whole lot easier.

    @rhubarb – just here to help.

    @cjordan – befuddling it may be, also glorious

    @hape – they sure do. Its like a street party.

    @Mazui – very true.

    @anonymous – they should probably take a page out of Swedens tax book. As should the US actually. But only the filing page. Not the high tax burden page.

    @J.B – that, to me as an American, sounds horrible. Sweden wins here. Easy.

    @anonymous – spectacular.

    @anonymous – also spectacular.

    @anonymous – I saw that too, it was pretty impressive to see.

    @Tod – agreed.

    @Ellen – I can buy that. It definitely makes it easier.