It’s not so bad as it seems! Though I can understand how this can be annoying for American citizens… The land of Freedom!
In Sweden you can’t do anything without your personnummer. And, as soon as you have it, you’ll never want to live without it again! After you registry in the Tax Agency, you’ll need this precious number for the Bank, the Försäkringskassan, the Transportstyrelsen, going to the doctor, renting a flat, hiring Internet services and even buying a TV! Yes, you have to pay a special tax if you have a TV (it may not work, or you may not get signal at your home, but you have to pay!) and when you go to a shop and buy a TV, they will hand this information to Radiotjänst, the entity responsible for delivering quality broadcast on TV and radio services. So, there’s no way to escape. Plus, you can be fined and face the court. Browsing around, I’ve found out that most of the Swedes agree with this law and pay this tax (around 2000 SEK/household/year). Still, there is a considerable amount that doesn’t comply with this rule. Of course, if we use the TV, I think we should pay. However, I have to agree with this minority on this: the TV service is not so good as Radiotjänst seems to preach. I’ve been watching the national channels for some time now (SVT1 and 2) and I am very disappointed with the amount of time dedicated to advertisements. If we pay a tax, we shouldn’t have to swallow all that crap; if we have it for free, we can stand the advertisements, right? Seems fair, and seems to be the case in the Netherlands, because every country in Europe has this tax (even in Portugal, about 35 €/year). But all this to talk about funny stuff I read on blogs: people watching TV on mute, people hiding TV’s from the windows… Because Radiotjänst crew comes to visit people once in a while. And apparently, some Swedes are OK with a tiny little lie!
Government in Sweden also controls what you drink. Well, not entirely, but you can only buy alcoholic beverages in Systembolaget (the exception are those beers below 3.5 %) within a certain timetable. The aim is to reduce a drinking problem that is part of the Nordic countries for quite some time, and apparently, the system works, because it managed to reduce the drinking by 20 %!
A good example how all this works so perfectly is the registration of a car. You cannot license it, unless you have applied for insurance. And as soon as you do it, you’ll get the road tax notification. Since it’s all registered, failure to comply with these and other taxes will prevent you to rent a home in the future, ask for a loan or disable you to get your money back from the Tax Agency…
Finally, one can not avoid to pay taxes in Sweden. And thank God it works this way. Because everyone has to have a personnummer, the Skatteverket knows how much you earn! If you don’t have a personnummer, you don’t exist and can only live as a tourist, so you can’t have access to the public services. Way to go, right? I wished it worked like this in Portugal, and like someone said one day, we would have the same corruption level as Finland.
So, sometimes it pays to have a Big Brother watching over us!