Living in an expat world | Stratospherically expensive cars

Four or so years ago, I came back to Denmark in my fully-loaded Mini. Beloved, it was my companion for many a weekend of spirited driving, and despite the lack of scenery to enjoy, I was looking forward to having the car with me, for a while at least, in Denmark.

First stop? The Tax & Duty Office, of course. Wearing not so much a leather belt as a chastity belt, I headed off armed with an estimate of how much duty I was going to have to pay to bring my precious into the country. The answer was 130 percent of what I bought her for, two years prior. I’m not here to grumble about the amount, as I sold it on shortly after for a tidy sum, but I mention it to raise the issue of duty on cars: Denmark has a duty on cars of something in the order of 180 percent of the car’s value over the first 75,000 kroner. Which is a lot.

I’ve found myself talking about this with other foreigners quite a lot over the last week or so, as the betalingsring case has played itself to its wretched endgame. The Post has covered it well, and the recent editorial hits a few nails on heads.

Anyway, I’ve long noticed that the taxes that get up the nose of the average expat are not so much the income taxes (sure, you can discuss how they’re spent, but you don’t move here without knowing you’re gonna get spanked, right?). It’s the secondary taxes that tap you on the shoulder with a “sorry son, but this is going to hurt”, none more so – especially for a petrolhead like myself – than the duty on cars.

It is not unreasonable to think that the amount (25 billion kroner per year) the government rakes in from this scheme would contribute to an efficient collective transport system, and for those in and around central Copenhagen, it does. I’ll happily support efforts to reduce congestion in central Copenhagen, which the betalingsring was designed to do, but – on behalf of many an expat – it would be appreciated if someone would recognise that an effective and lucrative form of road pricing is already in place through the 180 percent duty!

This, this right here, is what boggles the mind of many a foreigner. Regressive income tax  + VAT + duty on car purchase + betalingsring? And the shirt off your back?

It’s not that one opposes city centre congestion aversion – it works very well in many a metropolis. It’s the aversion to discussing the already-in-place pricing structure that confuses and befuddles the foreigner, unschooled in the dutifulness of the average Dane and his tax return (unless we’re talking about handymen paid in cash – not that we talk about that, oh no!)

When discussing this with Danes – including the wife – I am met with looks of bemusement (Danes) and not a little pity (wife.) “But cars are just so cheap elsewhere!” This is an admirably ‘glass half-way full’ way of approaching the matter that goes beyond ‘You say potato. I say potato’. But it’s not that they’re cheap elsewhere, my dears, it’s that they’re stratospherically expensive here. Hvor svært kan det være at forstå?