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UJF complaint about tax administration: “Concern that officials will start concealing information”

Publicity and openness in decision-making are important for society, says union president.

The UJF has criticised the move by the tax administration in Finland whereby high-income earners can restrict disclosure of their tax information to the press. The rich are now able to block their income and tax information from appearing on the list that the tax authorities regularly provide to the media. The option to do so has been provided by the tax authorities in line with the EU’s data protection regulation.

The UJF has criticised the move, calling for clarity in the way the authorities interpret the data protection provisions. Together with Finnmedia, representing the media industry, the union has lodged a complaint with the Chancellor of Justice concerning the interpretation of the EU regulation.

Two hundred and thirty-one of Finland’s wealthiest people have applied to block the publication of their tax and income information citing “specific personal reasons”. The tax administration has complied with all the requests.

The UJF and Finnmedia wants the Chancellor of Justice wants to investigate what criteria the tax administration has used to measure “specific personal reasons” against the requirements of freedom of speech.

“The concern is that authorities other than the tax authorities are beginning to interpret the EU data protection regulation as restricting information of social importance to its name in the future,” UJF president Hanne Aho stressed.

Currently, there is no clear policy guidelines on data protection, and it is left to the authorities to interpret the criteria themselves. The less information is available to the media on the actions and decisions of the authorities and the basis for their decisions, the narrower the scope for freedom of expression and the media.

“Publicity and openness in decision-making are important for society. They bring transparency to the debate on pay and earnings, and to evaluating different professions and jobs” said Aho.

The union regards the interpretation of the EU Data Protection Regulation by the tax authorities as something that complicates journalists’ work. Previously, the taxpayer sent all information to the media electronically. Now you can get the complete listings only by visiting the tax office in person. This puts journalists in big cities and small localities on an unequal footing.