Government deficit continues


The general government accounts recorded a deficit for the third consecutive quarter in 2020Q4. The accumulated deficit in 2020 is estimated at NOK 115 billion.

Updated figures from General government revenue and expenditure show a 10 per cent decrease in accumulated revenue and an increase of 8 per cent in accumulated expenditure from 2019 to 2020. The net effect of changes in revenue and expenditure is expressed as net lending/borrowing, or simply the deficit, in the government accounts.

The updated figures include revisions in 2019 and 2020. One of the most significant changes is a revision of capital transfers in 2020, which is based on new information about petroleum taxes.

Figur 1

Figure 1. Revenue, expenditure and net lending/borrowing (1 year moving average)

Support for households and businesses

The government has implemented an array of measures to counter the effects of the economic shutdown on households and businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Guarantee schemes have been introduced to airlines and small and medium-sized enterprises to ease access to liquidity. The projected losses from these schemes are recorded as capital transfers to business.

Social benefits payments have risen sharply, primarily as a result of increased unemployment benefits. After spiking in 2020Q2, unemployment benefits have come down slightly, although they still remain high in 2020Q4.

Significant revenue reduction

The reduction in total revenue can largely be ascribed to diminished tax receipts from the petroleum sector. Tax revenue from the petroleum sector has been doubly affected in 2020 by lower oil prices and provisional amendments made to taxation of oil and gas (see box below). The tax relief program reduces petroleum taxes on the revenue account and furthermore increases capital transfers on the expenditure account, thereby reinforcing the net effect on the government books, all else equal.

Dividends from the State’s Direct Financial Interest and the Government Pension Fund Global are diminished. Additionally, reduced receipts from fees and excises, and slowed economic activity overall have contributed to reduced government revenue collected from mainland Norway.

The oil and gas stimulus package

The parliament has made temporary amendments to petroleum taxation. The modifications allow the companies to deduct investments from the special tax base, effective immediately. Eligible companies can apply for a refund of their tax-assessed deficits in fiscal years 2020 and 2021. As a result, the revised national budget estimates negative accrued taxes for the fiscal year 2020. These transactions are not recorded as negative taxes, but rather as capital transfers to business. The capital transfers are preliminary estimates.