Letters to the Editor: June 2013

To the Editor

I welcome that in your May issue you deal with Austria’s (nearly) never ending story on bank secrecy  [“Austrians Keep their Sectrets”, TVR May 2013] . However, the article contains a number of errors which might confuse your (law abiding or tax evading) readers.

Bank secrecy in Austria was put into law not in 1945, but only in 1979. It is not “anchored in the Austrian constitution”, but needs a 2/3 majority and 50% quorum to be changed. The “Quellensteuer” deduction of 35% is, of course, not “included in their income tax declaration” (this would counteract the secrecy desire by the tax subject). It was not only Austria and Luxembourg which obtained an exception from the EU savings tax directive, but also Belgium.

And then there is the puzzling last paragraph in the otherwise valuable story which links bank secrecy and the concomitant EU undertakings somehow to the Banking Union. There is no connection, whatsoever: this is purely an issue of tax compliance and fighting money laundering, corruption and terrorist financing, but not of the Banking Union. The author somehow got these two issues mixed up.

Austria has been an outsider in this fight for too long. It is high time that Austria comply with the EU directives and help the EU to widen the existing directive to include other forms of income into the directive and to negotiate successfully with other European and non-European countries to provide the tax-relevant information so economic activity can be taxed where it occurs.


Kurt Bayer

Transparency International, 

Austrian Chapter 

Working Group on Economic Policy 

and Financial Markets

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