Violinist, 81, is Norway’s highest tax payer

Violinist, 81, is Norway’s highest tax payer


norman lebrecht

November 08, 2018

The Norwegians have a habit of publishing every citizen’s annual income and tax bill.

In the latest list it turns out that the distinguished violinist Arve Tellefsen had the highest tax bill in the whole of the entertainment sector.

Arve, 81, has been obliged to pay 21,211,550 Norwegian krone ($2.55 million) on taxable net worth of 90,774,551 NOK, which is $10.9 million.

Where did Arve make all his money?

He sold his violin, bought in 1970 for a million krone, to a very shy German investor.

Tellefsen, a widely recorded artist, is founder of the Oslo Chamber Music Festival.

In February 1984 he saved the violin from a watery death:

A violinist on the Scandinavian airliner that plunged off a Kennedy Airport runway ignored pleas from fellow passengers to use his $300,000 violin as a paddle for their inflatable life raft. Instead, Arve Tellefsen, 47, energetically helped with both hands to paddle the rubber raft to shore in Thurston Basin, a marshy creek off the end of the runway. “It was in this thing that they wanted me to use it as a paddle,” Tellefsen said Wednesday. (UPI)



  • Sanity says:

    Why didn’t he take the violin out of its case and just use the case?

  • Bill says:

    Not Norway’s highest taxpayer, just the highest in a narrow class.

    And the UK has a habit of having a royal family. It’s not a habit, it’s been the law for about 2 centuries in Norway.

  • 23% tax rate on $10 million

    Next time you hear that the socialist Europeans have crushing taxes, note that the US tax on that would be about 36% and we don’t even get the socialist goodies for it

  • David K. Nelson says:

    If I read this correctly, in Norway you pay annual taxes on net worth (as opposed to income, as in the US), so it is not meaningful to compare rates. I’d have to think Tellefsen’s income per se is no longer all that robust. Assuming your net worth does not change much from year to year, under this system every year it gets nibbled away at. He might for example have a wonderful house, or houses. That’s net worth. Property taxes of this sort can be fair in theory but arbitrary or painful in practice.

    My hunch is the reason Tellefsen is the highest tax payer in Norway is that he has chosen to stay in Norway. Others have made other decisions.

    And yes, he is an excellent artist, although too little known in the USA – his recording of the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 is splendid.

    • Bruce says:

      It does say that he had the highest taxes in the entertainment sector, not the highest of anyone in the entire country. Of course that was not in the headline, because it would be less sensational; but it was fun to imagine for a moment that the person with the highest net worth in Norway was a musician.

    • Geir says:

      The tax rate on net worth in Norway (“formueskatt”) is less than 1%.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      David Nelson wrote: “If I read this correctly…”

      Er…you didn’t. He had to pay tax on the gain he made from the sale of the instrument.

      Actually, the level of state and federal taxes together in the US are very similar to the level of taxes on income in most European countries. At least for most people (the very rich in the US have a variety of ways of evading/avoiding taxes; so much so that even Warren Buffet thinks it obscene). It is largely a myth that taxes are lower in the US.

      • David K. Nelson says:

        Well this is what I read and it is still there (and I quote): “Arve, 81, has been obliged to pay 21,211,550 Norwegian krone ($2.55 million) on taxable net worth of 90,774,551 NOK, which is $10.9 million.”

        If you pay X dollars (or Krone) of tax on Y dollars (or Krone) of net worth, to me that is a tax on net worth.

  • Spenser says:

    Disregarding all the extraneous chaff….
    Arve Tellefsen is a great violinist!
    I’ve known his playing for decades (unfortunately for me, only via recordings).
    He is what we in the US call “the real deal”.
    Keep on truckin’, Arve!

  • Dennis says:

    Is this correct that Norway taxes “net worth”, not simply one’s annual income? That’s insane, if true. Though it could just be an error in phrasing, given that Lebrecht is presumably not a CPA or tax expert.