Austria: rules for voluntary disclosure in criminal tax matters are expected to be tightened

Austrian tax law enables taxpayers to avoid criminal tax sanctions or penalties in case of fiscal offences by submitting a voluntary disclosure. The taxpayer’s exemption from any criminal tax sanctions on account of having submitted a voluntary disclosure is subject to specific preconditions. A draft tax bill on the Amendment of the Austrian Fiscal Criminal Tax Act 2014 (Finanzstrafgesetznovelle 2014) that is currently pending for vote in the Austrian Parliament is set to tighten these requirements significantly. The new rules are expected to enter into force as of 1 October 2014.

Currently, a taxpayer may submit a voluntary disclosure a second time for the identical tax claim without losing the effect of being relieved from potential criminal tax sanctions. Such repeated (second) disclosure is currently (only) subject to the taxpayer paying a punitive penalty amounting to 25 per cent of the amount of additional tax disclosed to the tax authorities. Pursuant to the currently pending bill, a repeated voluntary disclosure for the identical tax claim will no longer relieve the taxpayer from potential criminal tax matters. As a result, any incomplete first disclosure can no longer be rehabilitated with an amnesty effect from a criminal tax law perspective. However, the amnesty effect of the first disclosure for that part of taxes disclosed therein (if correctly submitted) will not be affected by an additional disclosure for the identical tax claim.

From a practical perspective, taxpayers are advised to submit comprehensive and full disclosures with respect to tax matters in order to avoid jeopardising the disclosure’s amnesty effect…

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