Wednesday, November 02, 2005

No privacy in Finland?

How weird is this?

The place that has no secrets...:

"Wed Nov 2, 2005 10:05 AM ET

By Daniel Frykholm

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Care to find out what your neighbor earned last year, or how much your partner really has stashed in the bank? In Finland you can -- and a lot of people did Wednesday.

Every November when the Nordic nation's tax records of the previous year become public, Finns indulge on a massive scale in satisfying their curiosity about each other's finances.

Newspapers were crammed with lists of the wealthiest and highest-earning men and women in 2004.

Veroporssi, a private firm which offers income details on everyone in Finland via mobile text message, said it was its busiest day of the year and had no time to comment.

Iltalehti tabloid devoted a 24-page supplement to juicy details on which celebrity earned what, while sports stars like Formula 1's Kimi Raikkonen and Liverpool footballer Sami Hyypia, who escape high taxes by living abroad, were highlighted for being "zero-income millionaires."

"People have always been interested in taxation, because in Finland you don't talk about your income, it's considered very vulgar, and even more impolite is to ask what someone earns," said Reijo Ruokanen, managing editor of Iltalehti.

"This is your chance to see if you're keeping up with the Joneses."

In a country where keeping your head down and not sticking out has traditionally been considered a virtue, the tax and income publication is a chance to brag a bit, Ruokanen said.

"A lot of them don't like it when we publish their names, but for some it's a way to be known as wealthy people without having to say so for themselves."

So who's the richest man of the republic?

Aatos Erkko, the main owner of media house SanomaWSOY, topped the list with a personal fortune of 192 million euros, while Olli Riikala, an executive of U.S. General Electric, was the top wage earner, making 5.3 million euros."

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