This entry is about an issue in the the up-coming parlamentary elections in Finland. It should be the key issue, but it is not.

The Finnish book-entry register (also known as nominee registration of securities; fi hallintarekisteri; sv förvaltarregister) provides a method of tax evasion, especially with regards to stock investments. This system was created right before the recession in 1991. The book-entry register does not keep a record about the identity of the owner of the shares. Instead, it only registers the bank or body which keeps the shares in custody.

Hitherto, the book-entry services of Euroclear Finland (which has been trusted to keep the Finnish book-entry register) have been open only to foreigners, but now Mari Kiviniemi's government wants to allow also Finnish citizens to register their shares in this way, that is, anonymously and by proxy. Finnish journalists have deplored this, saying that it will become much more difficult than before to reveal Finnish tax evaders and to keep track of e.g. the corporate connections of the politicians. The existence of the book-entry register was already bad enough in itself. It has meant, for instance, that we hardly know who owns Nokia; 85 % of the shares of Nokia's shares are hidden in this register. An unknown number of these and other shares in the book-entry registry certainly also belongs, illegally, to Finns. Now, however, the government of Finland wants to make this kind of tax evasion legal.(1)

My first, spontaneous reaction to this reform, which has yet to be approved by the parliament, is to label it as criminal. Yet I have some difficulty in seeing how a young, vibrant, democratically elected female Prime Minister in a Nordic country could be a simple criminal.

What is and what is not an economic crime in "the era of free movement of capital", where "transferring sums of money from Helsinki to a region such as the Isle of Man requires only a few clicks of a mouse" (2)

Firstly, we would need to know how Mari Kiviniemi &Co are thinking and justifying their own actions. But here the difficulty is, that the present guard of career politicians like Mari Kiviniemi (Center Party), Jutta Urpilainen (Social Democratic Party) or Jyrki Katainen (Conservative Party) are not really supposed to express, or even to have, their own deeper ideas and beliefs. (Or, it is we who are not really supposed to know what the beliefs and ideas of the politicians are, or to require that they have them.)

Regardless of what these ministers and would-be ministers may be thinking in general, their way of thinking on tax justice is deeply problematic. Considering the planned extension of the book-entry services to Finnish nationals , we have to presume that they think like Mr Niclas Virin, the former head of department of the Swedish National Tax Board, who goes around repeating the phrase:

'Ceterum censeo contributum commercii esse delendum.'

In other words, they believe that corporate tax is always harmful and should therefore be got rid of altogether.

Needless to say, I do not agree. However, it is not about whether you or I agree or disagree with Mr Virin and Ms Kiviniemi. It is about how they manage to agree with themselves.

References:

(1) Voima magazine has an excellent article in Finnish about the book-entry register reform, see Jari Hanska: ''Veronkiertotemppu & kuinka se tehdään.'' Voima 3/2011.

(2) See the article Finns dodge taxes. Tax evasion costs Finland at least three billion euros annually, reports the online financial newspaper Taloussanomat. Helsinki Times 29 August 2009.

(3) See Mr Virin's 2006 speech in English ''Why? Why do we tax business income?''.