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Are Artists Avoiding Taxes Everywhere?

Following a 9-year tax investigation, this August, the Norwegian artist, Odd Nerdrum, was sentenced to two years in prison without bail because he was found him guilty for tax evasion. According to the ArtDaily, critics claim that Nerdrum’s sentence was “surprisingly more severe than the punishment recently imposed in a similar case in China concerning the artist Ai Weiwei,” who, after months of detention, was given a fine and released on house arrest.

Nerdrum, a 67-year old artist famous for his oil paintings is an Icelandic citizen who resides in Norway. He was accused of failing to pay the full amount of taxes on $2.6 million (1.8 million euros) of taxable income from sales between 1998-2002.  Nerdrum has plead not guilty to charges of aggravated fiscal fraud and his attorney Tor Erling Staff will file an appeal.

Nerdrum stated that he had already paid the taxes years ago, “ I paid 50% of the $2.5 million in 1998. And then I paid another 50% on that sum in 2002, adding up to 100% of the $2.5 million. Hasn’t the goal been reached by the Norwegian government yet?”

The prosecution believes that Nerdrum hid taxable income in a safety deposit box to avoid paying taxes. Nerdrum’s explanation for keeping money in a safety deposit box is a contractual obligation to pay collectors for paintings he created in the 80s using experimental, a.k.a. perishable medium. As evidence, he submitted a contract with a U.S gallery describing the money as a safety fund for more than 30 paintings that began to melt when exposed to heat. Apparently, Nerdrum repainted the each of these disintegrating compositions as well as offered to exchange them but collectors wished to be compensated with money. The fund was a safety measure against future claims.

Nerdrum proclaimed that the charges were “rubbish” and that the protracted tax investigation and trial were intended to drive him toward suicide. In Norway, convicted prisoners are not permitted to continue their business activities while held in custody. Unless the decision against Nerdrum is reversed or the law is not applied, the artist may be forced not to paint for two years.

For more information on the case, read Views and News from Norway.