‘Riches tax’ bid backed by 15,000

Political leaders may feel the heat as a “tax on riches” petition by the Upper Austrian Social Democrats (SPÖ) found 15,000 supporters.SPÖ Upper Austria boss Josef Ackerl said today (Weds) the plan was to file a motion in the federal parliament in autumn.Ackerl explained more than 15,000 people have signed his party branch’s initiative since 1 May. The petition calls for a tax on assets over one million Euros owned by individuals.The SPÖ Upper Austria leader – regarded as a key force of the party’s left-wing department – argued a one-million-Euro barrier would ensure savers were not affected.Ackerl has appealed on the federal coalition – formed by the SPÖ and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) of Finance Minister Josef Pröll – the “super-rich” must be asked to do their part in helping Austria recover from the effects of the global economic crisis.He claimed a new tax burdening wealthy Austrians was “just and bearable”.Ackerl stressed the Upper Austrian SP֒s petition also called for a so-called bank tax, a tax on financial transactions and a reform of Austria’s tax on foundations.SPÖ and ÖVP have debated for months how to lower Austria’s 3.5 per cent budget deficit to match the European Union’s (EU) Eurozone Maastricht criteria of three per cent by 2013.While SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann wants to press on with a “bank solidarity tax”, Pröll said he planned to set the focus on fossil energy sources with a new “eco tax” model.Faymann – who said the bank tax may mean an extra 500 million Euros a year – appealed on the ÖVP to lay the cards on the table, fearing that their project burdened drivers.Pröll meanwhile said he supported the SP֒s bank tax plans which Faymann labelled as the institutes’ “contribution in crisis times”, stressing that Austria’s leading banks received around six billion Euros in state aid in 2009. Some analysts however warned banks could decide to raise costs for customers in a reaction to this possible new tax.The finance minister also appealed to EU leaders to introduce a continental tax on financial transactions by next year. Pröll however ruled out the introduction of such a tax only in Austria if EU states fail to come to an agreement.He claimed thousands of jobs would be at risk if Austria goes it on its own as firms may relocate their business activities to other countries.Christoph Leitl, head of the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO) and ÖVP board member, raised eyebrows by backing plans to introduce the tax only in Austria. Leitl pointed out this could tempt other European countries to follow and do the same.