Why Europe’s wealthy are not moving to Scandinavia

credit-cardsThe Scandinavian/Nordic countries can invariably be found atop prosperity indices, with Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark all perennial leaders in quality-of-life surveys.

Finland topped the global wealth and wellbeing ranking Legatum Prosperity Index with all four Scandinavian nations in the top five. Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen have all been placed in the top 10 most liveable cities and Scandinavians all lead long, healthy lives.

All of which should add up to good reason for living there – and it does for many. Not, however for the wealthy mobile of Europe. There is precious little evidence of migration data to indicate that wealthy people move to any of the nations. Scandinavia has seen the number of traditionally well-off in the form of self-employed residency seekers fall; and while European migration to the region has risen in recent years it has been mainly workers from new European Union member countries. Europe’s elite are staying away, says the Wall Street Journal.

The obvious answer is heavy tax burdens for individuals of high net worth across the region. Forbes includes Sweden and Finland in the top 10 of its annual misery tax index, where nations are evaluated on whether capital and talent is repelled by taxes. Norway and Denmark, by contrast, are well down the list with Denmark deemed by Forbes to have a less stringent tax regime than traditional tax haven favourite, Switzerland. Iceland still has a flat rate of income tax, although this is set to change in the New Year.

Tax indexes aside, the real issue may be with the overabundance and importance of quality of life surveys themselves. Inevitably the steps involved in moving country are complicated, more so for the rich who likely are not overly concerned by such surveys.

The life indices focus predominantly on factors which are important to most people, like grocery costs, public transport and public health systems. All of these seem of little interest to the wealthy.

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