Austrian Tax Declarations Already Double 2012 Total
The number of voluntary disclosures submitted by Austrian taxpayers with undeclared accounts held in Switzerland has risen dramatically this year, reaching 1,052 after the first six months of 2013, more than double the number of declarations filed in 2012 (406).
The Austrian Finance Ministry has attributed the surge in numbers to the success of the bilateral withholding tax agreement with the Confederation. Under the terms of the tax treaty, Austrian taxpayers had until the end of May to decide whether or not to pay a one-off withholding tax payment on an account or deposit held in Switzerland, thereby preserving their anonymity, or to disclose their banking information to the Austrian tax authorities.
The number of voluntary disclosures completed by Austrian taxpayers has risen sharply in general, however, since 2009. While the number hovered around the 500 mark prior to 2009, it rose to 4,439 in 2011 and to 6,697 in 2012.
The steep rise can be linked both to the Finance Ministry's tougher stance and clamp down on tax evasion, to recover vital tax revenues, and to the emergence of stolen tax data discs, containing leaked banking information on alleged tax evaders with unreported income held in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Given that Austria's bilateral tax accord with Liechtenstein is expected to enter into force on January 1, 2014, pending ratification, the Austrian Finance Ministry will undoubtedly witness a further surge in disclosure numbers.
In accordance with provisions contained in the tax deal with Austria, Switzerland's Federal Tax Administration (FTA) recently transferred the first tranche from the retrospective taxation of assets to the Austrian tax authorities. The first transfer to Austria amounted to EUR416.7m (USD553.5m).
Furthermore, the FTA forwarded the first declarations regarding the disclosure of assets. The Administration recorded 13,592 declarations for Austria, concerning assets amounting to EUR4.4bn. Although experts have forecast that a number of these declarations will be from Austrian border workers, employed and with an account in Switzerland, the Finance Ministry nevertheless expects that these declarations will boost voluntary disclosure statistics.
Welcoming news of the first transfer, Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter emphasized that it marks "a good day for Austria and all honest taxpayers" in Austria.
Fekter said: "This major success shows that we have embarked on exactly the right path with our joint tax treaty."
Concluding, Fekter underscored that the treaty has served "to significantly reduce the incentive to evade tax," which is therefore "a key step in the direction of an honest approach to tax."