Since the Tax Reform of 1992 Norway has had a tax system of relatively low tax rates and broad tax bases. Norway, along with other Nordic neighbours, did quite early substantially reduce its statutory corporate tax rate - reduced from 50.8 to 28 per cent as part of the 1992 Reform. After 1992 the rate has been constant at 28 until it was reduced marginally to 27 in 2014. Since 1992 the principal objective in designing the corporate tax system has been to ensure resource effectiveness. The role of the corporate (and capital) income tax is therefore to secure public revenue but at the same time minimising distortion. An important feature of the system is therefore that normal return on capital is taxed at the same rate, irrespective of whether it is earned as business income or not. The Report identifies three main challenges to the current corporate tax system. The first challenge discussed is the system’s effects on investments. It cannot be overlooked that the corporate tax rate in Norway is currently higher than the tax rate of many countries Norway is commonly compared with (e.g. other Nordic countries).
The Report suggests that this can contribute to a reduction in the level of investment in Norway.
The second identified challenge is the tax distortion between debt and equity finance. The Report briefly discusses neutrality in financing through equal tax treatment of debt and equity finance. The Report then discusses the implications and differences of an ACE and a CBIT model in this context.
The final challenge discussed is base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS). Differences in countries’ tax rules create vast opportunities for tax planning, and largely for the benefit of multinational enterprises (MNEs), inter alia through transfer pricing. The Report suggests that BEPS over time may imply a serious threat in maintaining the revenue from the corporate tax base. The Report then acknowledges that a reduction in the formal tax rate may only to some extent address the problem; which indicates a need to consider other supplementing measures. One such measure is the interest deduction limitation rule, made effective from 2014. The rule was introduced to address profit shifting in MNEs. More generally the Report recognises that Norway cannot freely introduce measures against BEPS following international obligations.
Finally the Report mentions the appointment of a Tax Commission in 2013. The Commission’s mandate is to review the Norwegian corporate tax system in light of international developments. The Commission shall deliver its report in the autumn of 2014.