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Austria Draws Curtain On Banking Secrecy

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Austria’s Finance Minister Josef Pröll has announced his intention to crack down on tax evaders, as the end of banking secrecy draws ever nearer.

According to Pröll, if the names of Austrians do indeed appear on the stolen tax data disc that Germany is eager to buy, then the government has resolved to act without delay. Pröll nevertheless remains sceptical about the purchase of stolen data by the state.

Austria’s Chancellor Werner Faymann has also emphasized his intention to exhaust every available legal means in the fight against tax evasion.

In a similar incident, when, two years ago, Germany bought stolen tax data from Liechtenstein, and subsequently forwarded the names of Austrian tax evaders to Vienna, the government recovered in the region of EUR12m in fines and back tax payments.

Finance Minister Pröll also took the opportunity to underline Austria’s commitment to cooperating in tax matters internationally, emphasizing the fact that Austria has now fully implemented the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s standards, and is providing more – and better – information than ever before. Indeed, banking secrecy is essentially a thing of the past for foreigners, he noted, given that fiscal information is exchanged with foreign tax authorities without recourse to legal proceedings.

Although Pröll confirmed that banking secrecy remains in place for Austrian nationals, he nevertheless explained that the tax authorities will be required to ascertain whether or not taxes are correctly being paid.

Pröll also announced that in future it will become increasingly harder to deposit money from criminal sources, as banks will be required to comprehensively report any suspicions. Greater powers will also be bestowed to the country’s Financial Intelligence Unit (Geldwäschemeldestelle) and to the Financial Market Authority, he said.