Fight against firms’ tax evasion to intensify

The government wants to crack down on illegal companies.

Nineteen people were found guilty of various business crimes after being exposed by a special task force since April 2010. The investigative group of police officers, experts on cross-country corruption and labour market developments was established by Social Democratic (SPÖ) Labour Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer to keep the number of illicit firms coming to Austria as low as possible.

Hundstorfer decided to assign more experts on the matter last year due to the liberalisation of the domestic labour market. People from all of Eastern Europe’s (EE) European Union (EU) members except Romania and Bulgaria must not face any kind of additional bureaucratic barriers or other kinds of disadvantages in seeking work in Austria since 1 May 2011.

Now the labour minister agreed with Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) to expand the task force’s area of responsibility all over the country. So far, the group of experts concentrated on Vienna and its suburbs as well as Graz, the provincial capital of Styria.

More than 200 enterprises were closed down for trying to evade taxes by setting up affiliates shortly after starting to operate in Austria in the past two years. Such illicit procedures are especially common in the contraction industry. The lawbreaking firms fail to register their staff with social and health insurance authorities to save money. Many of the firms claim being bankrupt just a few months following their foundation before the bosses set up another enterprise under the same disallowed scheme.

Austria had the lowest rate in unemployment among the EU-27 at 4.2 per cent last month. Detail analysts reveals that especially poorly educated people, elderly workers and foreigners have enormous difficulties in finding a job in the country while entrepreneurs complain about low education standards as their search for capable staff worsens.

News that Hundstorfer and Mikl-Leitner agreed about an intensification of the fight against companies’ illegal tax and insurance actions follows appeals for shorter working weeks. The labour minister said last week he would appreciate a reduction of the general working volume from 40 to 38.5 hours. Hundstorfer claimed such a reform might help in keeping elderly people in work longer. The labour minister made aware of the high number of people who retired ahead of the regular pension age and the increasing physiological and physical pressure on employees in the various sections of the domestic economy.

The ÖVP did not comment the labour and social issues minister’s suggestions but Mikl-Leitner infuriated the SPÖ and the Greens with another idea. The interior minister said Austria should cut development aid payments to countries which refused to cooperate regarding the deportation of refugees who were denied to stay in Austria.

Mikl-Leitner said the Austrian government should consider implementing a regulation similar to rules in Switzerland. She made aware of the 31 per cent increase of requests for asylum from 2010 to 2011 when around 14,400 people asked for political asylum in Austria. Most of the asylum seekers came from Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. None of Austria’s main development aid projects are located there. The country – which plans further development aid budget cutbacks – concentrates on the subsidisation of initiatives in Africa and South America.