“The hearing is real. There are things that have not been fully decided. There will be changes and we go into this with an open mind”. So says Geir Pollestad, member of the Storting’s Finance Committee and head of finance for the SP (Norwegian Center Party) – the same as the Minister of Finance, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, who presented the initial salmon tax proposal last fall, revolutionizing the Norwegian aquaculture industry -, in an interview with the Norwegian media Dagbladet. Now, with the tax active from January 2023, talks and revelations about possible changes continue.
“It is the right price that should apply”
During his interview with Dagbladet, Pollested says that there will be no blueprint of what they first presented, and he is certain that there will be changes to what Vedum proposed in the fall. Among them, a major point that has been discussed from the beginning by all involved is how to calculate the price of fish from the cages. The initial proposal was to use the so-called standard price, which is set by the Nasdaq exchange.
However, as many industry voices have repeatedly clarified in recent months, this could end up with more than 100 percent tax overall for some breeders. Such was the outcry from the industry that last autumn Vedum and Fisheries Minister Bjørnar Skjæran already opened the door to the possibility of changing the model. However, although the Norwegian Ministry of Finance then said that “real income must be the basis”, the proposal was aimed more at the creation of a council that would set the price following the model of the standard price council for the petroleum tax. That did not convince the industry either since, as Sjømat Norge reminded him, “selling salmon is significantly different from selling oil”.
Now, Pollestad claims the possibility of standard pricing is no longer on the table. As he tells Dagbladet, the original proposal to follow the Nasdaq price was not a perfect system, and he insists, “What must be resoundingly clear is that it is the right price that should apply”. The SP’s finance officer also says they want to have a value determination that captures the right price for the salmon, nothing that makes people have to pay taxes for the income they don’t have. As he explains it, they want the right value determination, which is not too bureaucratic.
Not yet decided how the tax will be
Meanwhile, Vedum has already admitted also in parliament that they will make adjustments to the tax to ensure the growth of the aquaculture industry. A key point in the whole discussion is how much the state will collect from the salmon tax. In the beginning, the government estimated a revenue of NOK 3.800 million, the industry has estimated it at NOK 11.000 million. In the discussions, the Minister of Finance has clarified that the announced amount will be applied.
It seems that internal protest within the SP (Centre Party) itself, to which both Vedum and Pollestad belong, has helped the government to change its initial position on the salmon tax. A group within the party called ‘Arbeidsgruppa havbruk’ (Workforce aquaculture), which is also known as the ‘aquaculture guerrillas’, has pushed for an understanding and an attempt to resolve the strained relationship between the government and the industry.
Still, Geir Pollestad tells Dagbladet that it has not yet been decided what the tax will look like. “We have received something like 14,000 pages of consultation responses. We have to go through them. There are issues that have been raised to be assessed”, he says. If this salmon tax proposal was initially framed as something that would only affect large companies, that number of responses gives an idea that Norwegian society never understood it that way. There are still many loose ends to be resolved and perhaps, as Nova Sea said in its consultation response to the proposed tax on ground rent in aquaculture, the problem is not paying more, the problem is how the amount is defined. In the meantime, just with this news, the shares of the salmon companies on the stock exchange have already gone up today.