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Austrian National Council Divided On Wealth Tax

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

08 December 2011

During the last plenary session of the year, Austria’s National Council debated the highly divisive issue of wealth tax in Austria, as a means to consolidate the country’s budget and to preserve its much-prized triple A rating.

Opening the session, the Green Party (die Grünen) called for taxes to be levied on the country’s super-rich and on millionaire heirs in Austria. Leader of the party, Eva Glawischnig, called for a rich tax to be imposed on wealth in excess of EUR1.3m (USD1.7m).

During the debate, the Green Party warned that wealth taxes were a prerequisite for approval of government plans to enshrine a debt brake rule in the country’s constitution from 2017. Glawischnig criticized the ruling People’s Party (ÖVP) for not entering into a debate on the issue, thereby jeopardizing the much-sought triple A rating, and denounced ruling coalition partner the Social Democrats (SPÖ) for its lack of commitment to the debt brake plans.

Rejecting the idea of introducing new taxes in Austria, and warning against the idea of wealth taxes, Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter (ÖVP) insisted that rather than there being not enough taxes in Austria, the problem is that there are too many levies. Fekter alluded to the already high tax burden, and to the fact that Austria already has the “highest rich tax” in Europe, namely a 50% tax rate imposed on annual income in excess of EUR60,000.

The SPÖ renewed its calls for a rich tax, underlining the need to discuss the issue. In a pointed remark to coalition partner the ÖVP, SPÖ member Christoph Matznetter explained that, given that employees, small businesses, civil servants and pensioners in Austria, namely the middle class, are “good taxpayers”, there is now a need to look to those who have billions hidden away.

The National Council is due to vote on the debt brake rule shortly.

TAGS: individuals | tax | small business | business | law | budget | Austria | individual income tax

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