Car fuel sales slide

Austrians acquired less fuel last year, according to a traffic research organisation.

The Austria Traffic Club (VCÖ) said yesterday (Sun) around 9.6 billion litres of petrol were sold in 2011, down from 9.7 billion litres in the previous year. An all-time record was achieved in 2005 when 10.2 billion litres were sold across the country, according to the VCÖ.

VCÖ officials called for an equal tax rate on diesel and regular petrol. The mineral oil tax on diesel is slightly lower than the fee the state charges on the purchase of regular car fuel. At the same time, diesel fuel became more expensive than regular petrol at most service stations.

The Economy Chamber (WKO) said last week that the Republic of Austria generated an additional 100 million Euros in mineral oil taxes in 2011 thanks to a hike which came into effect that year. The increase meant additional costs of 350 million Euros for Austrian drivers, according to the chamber.

The WKO appealed to the government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) not to raise the tax as part of its savings package. Social Democrats and the ÖVP’s cabinet of ministers are currently holding talks about the details of an upcoming set of austerity measures. The coalition hopes to agree on the draft bill by the middle of this month to pass it in parliament by March.

The WKO pointed out that Austria suffered a decline of the so-called fuel tourism due to the increase of mineral oil tax rates. The term describes the thousands of Italians, Germans and Czechs crossing the border each month to refuel their vehicles at the nearest Austrian filling stations. Less significant price gaps slashed the number of foreign motorists doing so, according to the WKO – which considers this development as a good reason to abstain from jacking up the tax on diesel fuel and regular fuel later this year.

Research by car club Arbö showed last month that Austrian households with two vehicles had to fork out 170 Euros more on fuel in 2011 than in 2010 due to higher taxes and soaring raw oil trading rates. Labour Chamber (AK) President Herbert Tumpel called on the government to ensure high competition among petrol station-managing firms. Tumpel said the coalition should keep a close eye on which companies showed interest in running new motorway service stations.

Tumpel also appealed to the government coalition to increase Austria’s corporation tax by two per cent to 27 per cent. He claimed domestic firms transferred just 17 per cent in taxes in 2010 thanks to various extraordinary regulations. The AK chief said it was not acceptable that employees had to bear the brunt in the crisis while enterprises’ tax burden declined despite solid profits.

The AK also called for a tax on financial transactions and assets. Both measures find strong support in the SPÖ and the Federal Trade Union (ÖGB). Former Freedom Party (FPÖ) Defence Minister Friedhelm Frischenschlager – who engages in democracy movement Mein Österreich (My Austria) – said extra revenue generated by introducing an asset tax increase or a new tax on inheritance should be used to subsidise “initiatives which matter a lot for our future”. Frischenschlager said projects affecting the labour market and the energy sector could be supported with money made by carrying out such a tax reform.