The growing complexity of tax law and the financial administration's increased propensity for dispute mean that international and national companies are facing greater potential for conflict. Differences of opinion with the financial administration cannot always be prevented - at WTS Austria we help our clients with all disputes.
The number of voluntary disclosure cases within the meaning of Sec. 29 of the Financial Criminal Code has recently been on the rise. Accordingly, the financial crime authorities - even with allegedly minor offences and low assessment bases - are increasingly initiating criminal proceedings for tax offenses. To make matters worse, in associations it is not only the physical perpetrators (usually the management), but also the association per se that is held as suspect, or in subsequent proceedings as defendant (Association Responsibility Act).
Austrian financial criminal law recognises various offences, ranging from a mere financial irregularity (Sec. 49f Financial Criminal Code) to a grossly negligent tax evasion to deliberate tax evasion and fraud. In terms of customs law, also worthy of note are the offences of smuggling and evading import and export duties, customs evasion, the (rare) offence of tax concealment, infringements of monopoly rights, etc.
If malversation or a mistake is discovered in a company or association, its scope and extent will be evaluated under financial criminal law. Subsequently, if a prerequisite is met (deed not yet discovered by the financial administration), the question of a voluntary disclosure within the meaning of Sec. 29 of the Financial Criminal Code must be considered. The "benefit" of voluntary disclosure may lead to total impunity, provided that all prerequisites are met. This requires professional and comprehensive guidance and support.
At WTS Austria we have decades of experience in this field. For many years our Senior Partner Dr Hartwig Reinold was posted by the KSW (Chamber of Tax Advisors and Auditors) to act as associate judge at the appraisal court, so he understands the procedures from the "other" side. We have extensive experience in handling tax law proceedings and highly specialised expertise in procedural law and material tax law.
In practice, once a possible tax and/or customs breach has been discovered, it is essential to delve down to the bottom of the issue and formulate a clear and convincing line of argumentation. There are several important formalities when it comes to voluntary disclosures. Firstly, it must be ensured in advance that the disclosed tax liability is actually paid or can be paid within a maximum payment period of two years. It is also important not to lose any time during this period, otherwise the voluntary disclosure for the outstanding tax arrears will be forfeited.
WTS Austria also operates in this field on behalf of other tax advisors and lawyers who turn to us for reasons of conflict of interest or lack of sufficient experience.