The commuter housing case

Article

January 20, 2022

The commuter housing case, also referred to as the commuter housing scandal, was a political scandal associated with the management of the Storting's and the government's commuter housing. These are homes that are part of the Storting's financial benefits and members of the government can dispose of in Oslo free of charge. The condition is that they must be registered or actually live more than 40 kilometers drive from the Storting building. The case started when Aftenposten in September 2021 revealed that KrF leader and minister Kjell Ingolf Ropstad had received free commuter housing by being registered in the boys' room with the parents in Evje. At the same time, he had owned a home in the Oslo area that he had rented out and thus received large incomes. The newspaper later revealed that Ropstad had taken deliberate steps to avoid paying tax on the benefit of free commuter housing. He had done this by entering into an agreement to pay some expenses with the parents. This made him escape the tax. Aftenposten calculated by Ropstad had paid at least NOK 680,000 too little in taxes. The revelations led to Ropstad resigning as minister and party leader. Later, Aftenposten also revealed that several other Storting politicians had received free commuter housing even though they owned homes in the Oslo area. This was about Torgeir Knag Fylkenes, Olemic Thommessen, Tellef Inge Mørland, Kristian Tonning Riise and Himanshu Gulati. It has been claimed that the Storting has mispracticed the tax rules, and that a number of politicians risk large tax bills. In November 2021, Adresseavisen revealed that Storting President Eva Kristin Hansen in the years 2014–2017 had received free commuter housing in Oslo, even though she owned a home in Ski, 29 kilometers away. She had obtained this by not informing the Storting about the home, and being registered in Trond Giske's apartment in Trondheim. Hansen resigned as Speaker of the Storting after the revelations.

Doubts about the Tax Administration's practice of the rules

Several tax lawyers have questioned the Tax Administration's understanding of the regulations regarding taxation of commuter flats. The law firm Grette stated in December 2021, in a tax audit report written on behalf of the Storting, that it was the Tax Administration, not the Storting, that had misunderstood the tax rules, and that the Storting had practiced the rules correctly. In December 2021, the Tax Administration admitted that they had misinformed the Prime Minister's office about how they interpret the rules on tax on commuter housing when renting out parts of the home at the place of residence. Lene Marie Ringså, head of the legal department in the Tax Administration, writes the following in an e-mail to Adresseavisen: «The Tax Administration's guidance has in total been clear, but we see that in our letter to SMK in November 2020 we have unfortunately given incorrect guidance on the question of whether a commuter can rent out parts of his own housing unit at home and at the same time get tax-free commuter housing. It is not possible to rent out all or part of your own housing unit and at the same time receive tax-free commuter housing, she says. " Adresseavisen has also revealed that Maria Alseth, who was a political adviser in the Solberg government, and managed commuter housing from the Prime Minister's office, was told that she should not tax her commuter housing, even though she lived with her parents. The money she had already paid in tax was repaid from the Tax Administration. "According to Alseth, she has never stated that she has living expenses at her parents' home, as the Tax Agency has set as a prerequisite for getting tax-free commuter housing. She was also not asked about expenses at home by the Tax Administration, Alseth says. «Based on how you describe your living conditions in 2019, it may seem that you can be considered a resident in the parental home this year, and then the home in Oslo will be a commuter home. Then you should not be taxed for free housing ", writes the Tax Administration in the answer to Alseth, which Adresseavisen has been given access to." «The tax authorities shall provide good guidance to taxpayers so

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