The Russia-Ukraine war has proved to be a bonanza for Norway in 2022. Based on estimates by Statistics Norway, a Norwegian public research body that collects, analyzes and publishes statistical information on the country’s economy, population and society, last year, revenues from gas and oil reached 1,457 billion Norwegian kroner, equal to 131 billion euros. It is three times the turnover of the previous year at 498 billion crowns, but above all the largest revenue ever obtained from hydrocarbons.
Norway’s extraordinary earnings have raised a lot of criticism, especially from the countries that have suffered the most from the energy crisis and the resulting rise in bills. Some foreign newspapers have even accused the nation led by Jonas Gahr Støre of having profited from the war conflict, especially when it resisted, within the European Union, on the occasion of the approval of the gas price ceiling at 180 euros. Accusations that Norway has strongly rejected, stating that it has never taken advantage of what was happening in Ukraine, but that it has always acted conscientiously. In this regard, part of the profits made (75 billion crowns, equal to 6.8 billion euros) were allocated to military and civilian aid to Ukraine for the five-year period 2023-2027.
From fuels Norway gets a river of money. The state collects taxes from energy companies, profits from direct stakes in oil and gas fields and infrastructure, as well as dividends from its 67% stake in energy giant Equinor. However, as exorbitant as gas and oil revenues have been, the country still gets most of its revenues from taxes. Households and businesses paid 1,580 billion crowns into the tax coffers in 2022, equal to more than 44% of the nation’s GDP. A slightly lower figure than in 2021, but still higher compared to the period from 2012 to 2020.
Main sectors of economy
Norway’s prosperity is based on the responsible management of its natural resources and the Norwegian business sector today develops world-class technologies in various fields, in close collaboration with the world of research.
Over the years, Norway has proven to have a robust economy. This is largely due to the flexibility and adaptability of its business sector and business-friendly government policies. The sizable oil and gas revenues are managed for the benefit of the whole of Norwegian society. A large part of this proceeds is channeled into the State Pension Fund, which is Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, whose returns, once the oil runs out, will continue to provide substantial income that can be used to benefit the population.
Norway has a small open economy and is completely dependent on international collaboration. The Norwegian working method is based on collaboration, with a focus on equality; senior management, both in the political and business spheres, is distinguished by its accessibility. These are important values in developing the innovative solutions the world needs. Trust and collaboration are essential to ensure sustainable future growth.
Agriculture. Primary activities (agriculture, fishing, forestry) employ a very small percentage of the workforce. The greatest difficulties concern agriculture, a sector in which Norway depends heavily on foreign countries; however, farmers benefit from the government’s price support policy and tax breaks. Small estates still predominate with a rather modest yield per hectare, given the difficult environmental conditions; generally, however, the sale of agricultural products takes place through cooperatives. Of the cereal crops, oats and barley are the most suitable for the harsh climate of the north together with the potato, a very important component of the local diet; in the more favored southern areas, in addition to wheat, vegetables (tomatoes, cabbage) and fruit (apples, pears, plums) are grown. Among the Nordic countries, Norway is the least endowed in terms of forest resources (wooded areas cover 25% of the territorial surface), however, the object of particular attention after the indiscriminate exploitation of past centuries; however, the country is favored by the prevalence of fir in its forests, which supplies the best raw material for the manufacture of cellulose, paper and wood pulp.
Farm. Attentive care is also dedicated to breeding which, given the small number of permanent meadow and pasture areas (0.4% of the national surface), is almost entirely stalled; sheep, cattle and pigs prevail; in the expanses of the tundra the Lapps raise reindeer (200,000 heads decimated by the pollution of the pastures caused by the accident at the Soviet nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in 1986). The ever-increasing demands of the international market have also encouraged the breeding of fur animals, especially foxes and mink.
Fishing. However, the most characteristic and traditional Norwegian activity is fishing, largely practiced on an individual basis, and it is also a sector that largely benefits from state subsidies. It is the meeting of hot and cold currents which, by oxygenating the waters and favoring the formation of plankton, determines the fish richness of the country: in the north, near the Lofoten Islands, the cod prevails, in the south the herring and to a lesser extent the mackerel; near Stavanger the sprat (Clupea sprattus), known locally as anchovy or Norwegian sardine, is widespread. The Norwegians also participate in the great Atlantic fishery; the fish, once landed, is subjected to an initial processing, to then be sent to the large processing industries, mainly located in Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger. Despite strong opposition from the international community, Norway still practices whaling.
Taxation for businesses in Norway
Norway, although not part of the European Union, is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and therefore shares many rules with the member states of the Union, including in the tax field.
Personal income taxation
Residents are subject to tax on all income and capital gains from any source and for non-residents only from Norwegian sources. You are considered a resident if you are present in the country for 183 days in the last 12 months or 270 days in the last 36 months.
Every person who starts working as an employee must request a “deduction card” which contains, in addition to their tax code, the amount of deductions that the employer must make on their salary. In the absence of this, the employer must make deductions equal to 50% which will then be compensated when the card is acquired.
Income taxation of legal persons
The tax is paid on all income and capital gains of resident companies and on Norwegian-sourced income for non-residents. You are considered a resident if you are established under Norwegian law and, in general, if the control and management center of the company is located in the country.
Taxable income is calculated starting from the result for the year and applying the changes established by law. Passive income and capital gains are also included in taxable income with the exception of those deriving from shareholdings which are exempt. The expenses necessary for the production and maintenance of taxable income are deductible with some limitations established by law. Fixed assets with a value of less than 15,000 crowns and a duration of less than 3 years can be deducted immediately while for the others it is necessary to respect the depreciation table established by law. For intangible assets for which depreciation percentages are not fixed, the period of useful life is considered.
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Interest expense exceeding interest income is deductible only if it does not exceed SEK 5 million or is paid to unrelated parties.
For the dividends received, a differentiated system is envisaged according to the country of origin of such income. For countries belonging to the European Economic Area there is 97% exemption while the remainder is taxed at the ordinary rate. For countries outside the EEA, this exemption only applies if there is a shareholding of at least 10% for at least two years and the country is not considered to have preferential taxation. In the case of tax havens, it is also necessary to demonstrate that there is a concrete economic activity in the country in question.
The exemption is total for intra-group dividends from Norwegian companies controlled directly or indirectly for at least 90%. Dividends paid if not exempt are subject to a withholding tax of 25% unless a different rate is provided for by the double taxation treaties with other countries.
Investing in Norway
There are many good reasons for doing business in Norway: for example, the high level of education, high productivity and an established culture of innovation. The Norwegian economy is among the strongest in the world and the country gives priority to the development of knowledge, innovation, technology and the maintenance of sustainable entrepreneurship.
Norway is a world leader in the oil and gas, energy, maritime and fisheries sectors. Companies from other sectors are also establishing themselves and the activity of the MedTech, FinTech and EdTech sectors and other technological clusters is flourishing.
The country’s technology clusters and its skills innovation centers can provide foreign companies with expert knowledge, referral networks and potential partners.
Starting a business in Norway is easy, as evidenced by the “Ease of doing business 2020” report which ranks the country in sixth place. In other words, Norway is a very attractive country for both established companies and startups.
To find out more about the benefits of doing business and investing in Norway, read Investing in Norway.
Regional business opportunities: Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger.