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POLITICS

What you need to know about the Swedish government’s proposals to cut tax for 7.5 million people

Sweden's Finance Minister has announced three tax cuts ahead of the autumn budget, which she expects will have an impact on the wallets of three quarters of the total Swedish population.

What you need to know about the Swedish government's proposals to cut tax for 7.5 million people
The changes proposed would affect low- and middle-income earners, members of unemployment insurance funds, and people on sickness benefits. Photo: Johan Jeppsson/TT

“This means more money in the wallet for ordinary people,” Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson, one of the favourites to take over as leader of the governing Social Democrats, promised when she announced the cuts.

One of the cuts would be a further extension of a tax cut aimed at low- and middle-income earners. This will be up to a maximum of 2,820 kronor per year in 2022 for those earning over 265,000, with smaller reductions for those on lower salaries.

Another proposal is to increase the tax reduction for sickness and disability benefits, reducing the gap between taxes on those benefits and earned incomes. Currently, people who receive these benefits pay around 10,000 kronor more in tax on average when compared to a working person on the same income level, and Andersson said the change would lead to “increased fairness in society” by supporting a “financially vulnerable group”. 

The third proposal is a tax reduction for payments to unemployment insurance funds (a-kassor), equal to 25 percent of the annual fee or a tax reduction of roughly 400 kronor per year for most members of these funds. The goal of this change is to encourage more workers in Sweden to join the funds, which pay members who become unemployed. 

So how much more would you get in your wallet if the proposals go through?

Andersson presented examples showing that a retired person on a pension of 240,000 kronor for example, would benefit to the tune of 1,668 kronor each year, and that a family made up of an assistant nurse and shop assistant (with annual salaries of 371,920 and 362,880 kronor respectively) would have 3,432 kronor extra after the changes.

“I think it’s not enough to be considered as a promise aimed at winning votes [in the September 2022 election], it doesn’t have enough impact on the wallet. But we’ll see what the rest of the budget will consist of. After all, this is a small part of the total budget,” Emma Persson, a private economist at Länsförsäkringar, told the TT newswire.

“The winners in this are those who are part of an unemployment insurance fund, live on sickness benefits and low- and middle-income earners who get to see a small boost to their wallet. Even if it is not a huge tax cut, for a person who earns 25,000 kronor, it is about 110 kronor a month,” she added.

In order for the cuts to actually come into effect, the government will need to get its budget passed by parliament in a vote. 

That’s not necessarily guaranteed, given that the margins between the different blocs are extremely thin and a previous alliance with the Centre and Liberal parties collapsed earlier this year. 

Passing its budget would require the government to get support from both the Centre and Left parties, who were both positive about Wednesday’s announcement.

However, the Centre’s economic political spokesperson told the TT newswire the reduction was “completely insufficient” to convince the party to vote in favour.

The Left Party said it would need to hear more about plans for financing the proposals, with their spokesperson welcoming the change to sickness benefits, but noting: “If you lower taxes, there will be less money for grandma’s elderly care and for healthcare that needs more resources. In the long run, it is unsustainable, so we expect this to be financed by raising taxes for those who have large capital incomes, large fortunes or large incomes in general.”

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ECONOMY

EXPLAINED: What can foreigners in Sweden do about the weak krona?

The Swedish Krona last week hit a record low against the dollar, hammering the international buying power of anyone earning their salaries or holding assets in the currency. We asked Johan Löf at Handelsbanken what they can do.

EXPLAINED: What can foreigners in Sweden do about the weak krona?

How low is the krona right now? 

On Tuesday, September 27th, the krona to dollar exchange rate hit an all-time-low of 11.37, easily beating the previous record low for the currency of 11.04, which it reached at the nadir of the dot com bust back in 2001. At the time of the financial crisis in 2008, a dollar would have got you less than 6 kronor, meaning the currency has almost halved in value in less than 15 years. 

A euro now gets you 10.9 kronor, which is not quite a record, with it briefly topping 11.4 in 2009, but more than it has been for most of the past decade. 

The only major currency which is more or less stable against the krona is the pound, which will now buy about 12.39 kronor, down from 13 in February, but above the levels of around 10.5 the pound hit shortly after the UK voted to leave the European Union. 

Why is the krona worth so little? 

Johan Löf, the head of forecasting at the Handelsbanken bank, told The Local, that the krona always tended to take a hit at times of financial uncertainty. 

“The krona is a relatively small currency much like the Swedish economy is a relatively small economy,” he said. “You could compare it to a small boat sailing the big ocean, so when you don’t go on the course that you thought you were going, it can be a bit of a shaky ride,” he said.

“Right now with financial market conditions being volatile, with a lot of uncertainty and risks, the Swedish krona takes a hit. Investors and various agents of the economy don’t want to hold so much of this smaller currency. Instead, they they go to safe havens like the US dollar.

“So even though there are fundamentals that would suggest that the Swedish kroner will strengthen again over time, for the time being and for some foreseeable future, we think that the krona will remain quite weak.”

How are foreigners living in Sweden affected? 

It very much depends on their individual financial situation: which currency they earn their salary in, which currency they hold assets in, and which currencies they have the highest outgoings in. 

People who live and earn in Sweden, but travel regularly to countries with stronger currencies, or perhaps send remittances back to family at home, are likely be negatively affected, Löf said. 

“It makes you lose purchasing power in these other countries: you get fewer goods and less services for the money that you have in the Swedish currency.”

It’s a similar situation for people or small businesses based in Sweden, who need to, or perhaps only want to, buy goods outside of Sweden. 

On the other hand, for people who have substantial savings abroad in dollars or euros, this might be an opportunity to convert them into kronor for use in Sweden.  

“If you have savings abroad, and you feel the need to use some of those savings, when you then sell your foreign currency to buy Swedish kronor, then you will get more Swedish kronor,” Löf explained. 

What can foreigners living in Sweden do to lessen the impact of a weak krona? 

Change the currency in which you get paid 

The best way to protect against currency exchange shocks is to make sure that you’re paid in the same currency that you spend in, so if you live in Sweden but have a lot of your outgoings abroad, it’s an advantage to be paid in dollars or euros. 

If you’re considering getting a new job, perhaps favour international employers that can pay you in one of the major currencies, or if you work for a big international company, perhaps you can ask to be paid in a different currency. 

Get freelance or part-time work outside of Sweden

If you work as a freelancer, or have some spare time for additional work, consider getting part-time freelance gigs with companies abroad that pay in euros or dollars. The lower the krona sinks, the higher your real wage when you spend in Sweden. 

Time major spending for the best point in the market 

If you have savings in kronor and are considering, for instance, buying a holiday house abroad, it is probably worth waiting until the kronor has strengthened and the Swedish economy is back growing strongly. 

Similarly, if you have savings outside of Sweden in euros or in dollars, and have been planning on buying a property in Sweden, now might be a good time to consider doing so (although it may be worth waiting a few months until interest rate rises have been fully reflected in reduced Swedish property prices).

Get a multiple currency account 

It can be helpful to have an account in multiple currencies, such as those provided by banks such as Wise and Revolut. Keeping any cash in a combination of dollars, euros and kronor can reduce your exposure to any single currency. 

The advantage for foreigners living in Sweden is that you can set up US dollar, Euro and Pound accounts, each with their own local bank number, which you can use to receive and make payments domestically in each country. 

With the krona so low right now, it may not be a good idea to convert all your assets from krona to euros or dollars right now, as the currency is probably more likely to strengthen than weaken over the coming year.

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