One of the things that makes new expats gasp about life in Denmark is the high level of taxes – 60% income tax (at the highest level and what the majority pay) and 25% purchase tax or MOMS. Taxes here are some of the highest in the world.
However unlike other countries where your tax money feels like it disappears into a void, you can see where it goes. I have, over the last few months, more than recouped the taxes we pay through the healthcare I have, and am still receiving. I have been lucky enough not to have to wait for treatment and I have been treated in clean wards by helpful staff. We regularly use the healthcare phoneline 1813 and have always spoken to a nurse very quickly and been given either great advice or an immediate appointment, especially where my son is concerned.
The streets are clean, although there is an argument that the street cleaners have to work hard as people know they will clean up and don’t always think about the consequence of dropping litter. Our bins are regularly, and noisily, emptied virtually everyday. Although usually you don’t see a lot of uniformed police on the street, the streets are safe. There is investment in education – from little kids up to university level and beyond. You get help if you lose your job or home. Libraries offer fantastic resources from newly published books, music, Wifi – the list goes on. In fact recently I read about a homeless man who is writing a book using the facilities available in his library in Århus.
We are all in this together. A survey said that 90% of Danes would be embarrassed to be seen as someone who doesn’t pay their full tax bill. The key goals of taxes here are everyone should get help in situations such as unemployment or illness. Children must attend school. All citizens should have access to information and guidance (though the library or kommune). All of these things help the common good. Of course there are flaws in the system but on the whole it seems to work.
I think you can spot a city or country that has money to invest in its people and the community. Berlin, as a city, is pretty poor, the tax money they have available to spend is limited. You can see they have to prioritise and often things suffer. Libraries are not free to use, the streets are not as clean as other cities and the weeds run rampant in the summer, there is no money to renovate community resources such as swimming pools. But they do invest in playgrounds! So we are lucky here to see the benefits of high taxes.
In fact only 20% of Danes think taxes are too high and most people think the tax rate is appropriate. What do you think?