State secretary denies interfering over Baumgartner taxes

The extreme sportsman Felix Baumgartner stated that the Ministry of Finance spared him additional taxation by political intervention. The former Financial Secretary Reinhold Lopatka (ÖVP) denies these claims.

It was known that Baumgartner moved to Switzerland due to tax reasons. Mr Baumgartner told the newspaper “Kronen Zeitung” that the Ministry of Finance denied his tax-saving status as part of an external audit.

The situation was revised by a political intervention: “I contacted the financial secretary and he rescinded everything”, Mr Baumgartner stated.

When the politician left the department, “the protective hand was gone” and the Financial Ministry started the issue from the beginning. This is why he left for Switzerland.

The sportsman did not specify any names in the interview. The former financial secretary and current state secretary of the Foreign Ministry, Reinhold Lopatka, confirmed the contact with Mr Baumgartner.

Apparently, the sportsman contacted him at the beginning of 2009. However, Mr Lopatka said that he did not intervene in the tax proceedings in Salzburg.

Mr Baumgartner complained to him several times that the Financial Ministry treated him unfairly. He was not granted a “tax-saving” status like Austrian skiers. Mr Lopatka thus promised him to examine the issue in the Ministry.

However, the experts did not believe that Mr Baumgartner deserved the status and a special regulation. The affected sportspeople only have to tax a third of their income from prizes and advertising contracts, which is 17 percent (compared to 50 percent for normal tax payers).

The condition for the regulation is that the affected sportsperson mainly takes part in competitions abroad, which was not the case for Mr Baumgartner. According to Mr Lopatka, the preparation for an event (the jump from the stratosphere) cannot be considered to be sport.

It remains unclear whether Mr Baumgartner will have to pay additional tax.