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FISH TAX: Resource rent and taxation in the Norwegian Fisheries and Aquaculture industries

Alternative title: FISK SKATT: Ressursrente og skattlegging i norske fiskerier og akvakultur

Awarded: NOK 2.0 mill.

In this project, we analyze if there is a profitability in aquaculture and fisheries that is higher than what is normal in the business sector, also called economic rent. We investigate what may be the causes of this and what this may imply for taxation. If production only uses reproducible input factors, such as machines, the economic rent is often called quasi rent. If natural resources are the origin of an economic rent, this is often referred to as a resource rent or land rent. We have an infra-marginal rent when there are large differences in productivity between companies in the industry, which are reflected in different production costs and profitability. International mobility of input factors separates fisheries and aquaculture. Fisheries has an input factor - the fish stock - which is not mobile, while in aquaculture production is mobile as long as there are suitable locations in other countries where new production can be established or production can be further increased. In Norway, public regulations contribute to limiting access to suitable locations and restrictions on production. Based on the availability of farm sites internationally, it is difficult to link the concept of resource rent to aquaculture. Furthermore, since public regulations affect capacity and profitability, it may be appropriate to use the term regulatory rent for much of the economic rent in aquaculture. Factors that can give rise to economic rent are public regulations of the companies' individual and the industry's total production, differences in competence and technology between companies, and different natural conditions at localities and between regions. This implies the presence of quasi rent, and infra-marginal rents that can be caused by both natural and man-made factors. We find that the average profitability varies considerably over time in aquaculture, and that in recent years there has been a higher average profitability than before. Within each year there are significant differences in costs and profitability between aquaculture companies. Our empirical analyzes indicate that there is a significant inframarginal rent in aquaculture. But both costs and profitability vary over time, and in all years there are several aquaculture companies that have negative profitability. It is thus not a scarcity rent where even the marginal company with the lowest profitability has positive profits. In fisheries that are well regulated, one can, according to the theory, expect a scarcity rent - a resource rent - where the vessel with the lowest profitability has a positive profitability. In our analyzes of vessel data from Norwegian fisheries, we do not find this. There is a tail of vessels that have negative profitability. This is partly due to fluctuations in the stocks, which means that the vessel capacity is not optimal every year. The infra-marginal rent, i.e. that vessels in a given year have different productivity measured by profitability, dominates in the Norwegian fisheries. Over time, restructuring in the form of a reduction in vessel capacity and the number of fishermen has contributed to an increasing share of the underlying resource rent being realized after the turn of the millennium. However, there are large fluctuations from year to year in profitability, and for several fleet groups there may be low profitability and no resource rents over several years after 2000. In the design of taxes to extract economic rent to society, it is desirable not to change businesses? economic investment decisions before and after the tax for economically profitable projects. Our analyzes based on investment projects in aquaculture indicate that a design of the tax system that has been employed in the Norwegian hydropower sector will have negative effects on profitable investments in more environmentally friendly closed technologies and offshore technologies where the size and risk associated with the investments is high. Such a tax is therefore not neutral. A cash flow tax is a more neutral tax. However, the practical design of a cash flow tax can involve many challenges related to avoiding companies taking organizational, accounting or other measures to reduce the tax. In the event of significant practical challenges for cash flow tax, a simple and moderate - but non-neutral - tax on sales revenue or on produced volume may be preferable. In the aquaculture industry, society has introduced a fee for the right to farm new biomass farmed fish, which aquaculture companies must pay and which is partly priced through auction. To the extent that aquaculture companies have expectations of economic rents within their investment horizon, an auction will be able to capture this. At auction, public authorities must not estimate future economic rents themselves, but can leave it to market participants who make the investments to form expectations. Well-designed auctions can therefore be an efficient way to capture expected rents.

Resultater fra prosjektet og vurderinger basert på disse har blitt formidlet til forskere, politikere, offentlige byråkrater, næring og media gjennom ulike kanaler. Det er grunn til å tro at denne kunnskapen har blitt brukt i beslutningsprosesser i forbindelse med vurdering av særskatt i havbruk og har vært en del av kunnskapsgrunnlaget for utforming av særskatten i 2020 som ble vedtatt i Stortinget.

This project is organized in three work packages to address different aspects of economics and fisheries and aquaculture resource rent creation, distribution, dissipation and capture. In the first work package (WP1), we will seek to identify different sources of economic rent in fisheries and aquaculture. While resource rent has been a topic of several studies in fisheries, none exist for salmon aquaculture. Moreover, we will quantify the resource rent in both industries using consistent methodologies. In WP1, we will take a step further and differentiate between resource rent and infra-marginal rent. The latter arises because of heterogeneity in production factors, leading to unequal distribution of rent among companies. Very little is known about infra-marginal rents in fisheries and aquaculture, and our research will shed some light on this issue. The second work package will address the topic of optimal, and viable, resource rent capture in fisheries and aquaculture. In WP3, we will examine the impact on profitability and risk of salmon farmers from the partial implementation of a resource tax. Since 2000, new production licenses have been issued to salmon farmers for a fee paid to the government/state. The fees, and especially the changing fee amounts over time, complicates the calculation of resource rent since some farmers have paid this fee, while others have not. This may have had an impact on the profitability and risk of salmon farmers, and may also distort rent calculations.

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