The draft for legal appraisal of the Tax Reform Act 2015/2016 was published by the Austrian Ministry of Finance on 19 May 2015. This draft also contains anti-fraud legislation, such as the following amendments:
Restrictions to payments for construction services.
Henceforth expenses for contributions that have been paid for commissioned construction services will no longer be deductible for tax purposes if the payment is made in cash and the amount of the individual service exceeds EUR 500. Remuneration of workers employed in the construction sector must not be paid or be accepted in cash if the employee disposes of a bank account or is entitled to obtain such an account (Sec. 48 Income Tax Act). Persons effecting or accepting such payments commit a minor tax offence and may be subject to a fine up to EUR 5,000.
Duty to establish electronic cash registers.
Businesses with annual sales exceeding EUR 15,000 primarily in cash must keep record of their sales by using electronic cash registers (ECR) from 1 January 2017 onwards. The term “primarily” (more than 50 %) does not refer to the total amount earned but to the number of sales within one year (Sec. 131b FFC). Certain exemptions to the duty to establish ECRs exist for entrepreneurs which are covered under the so-called “cold hands rule” (“Kalte Hände Regelung”). Intentional manipulation of an ECR is considered to be a minor tax offence (fine up to EUR 50,000), unless the relevant action leads to the realization of a different fiscal criminal offence. Moreover, a duty to issue receipts is foreseen in the draft of the Tax Reform 2015/16. Customers will be obliged to accept receipts that have been issued to them. However, it is not necessary that customers keep receipts for potential tax audits of the respective entrepreneur.
Gross negligent tax omission.
According to the draft, tax and customs offences will henceforth only be sentenced if taxes are evaded intentionally or omitted gross negligently, so minor negligence will not be subject to penalties anymore (except for omission of petroleum tax).
New investigation measures.
In future fiscal authorities will have the possibility to query IP-addresses of taxpayers. This will make it possible to determine users even if they use dynamic IP-addresses. This will, however, be limited to intentional fiscal criminal offences (except minor tax offences). Moreover, the measure requires an order by the chairman of the responsible trial board, and, as a matter of legal protection for taxpayers, the Austrian Ministry of Finance will establish a new officer for legal protection. The officer must be informed on such steps and has the right to file a complaint against the respective measures to the Federal Fiscal Court. Moreover, fiscal authorities will have the right to fingerprint suspect persons, if it can be assumed that traces have been left in committing a fiscal criminal offence. Furthermore, fiscal authorities will be entitled to request investigation data needed in the course of investigation processes. Also the transmission of data from criminal authorities and courts to the fiscal authorities is planned according to the draft.
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