Vienna Airport: Customs check on passenger carrying EUR 97 510 in cash confiscated to pay outstanding tax debt Blümel: "Owing high amounts of outstanding tax precludes taking cash abroad"

On the afternoon of Friday, 7 May 2021, a businessman's travel plans did not go to plan. At the departure gate for a flight to Cairo from Vienna Airport in Schwechat, the passenger underwent an inspection by customs officers of the Vienna Airport customs unit and was questioned about the substantial amount of cash he was carrying on his person. Although the traveller initially claimed to be carrying EUR 3 000, ultimately he was found to have an amount totalling EUR 97 510.

The man had been carrying the cash in four envelopes distributed in his belt bag and carry-on suitcase. Questioned in the offices of the customs unit, the interviewee changed his initial declaration of EUR 3 000 in cash to a sum of EUR 70 000. A further thorough inspection by airport customs officers however revealed that he was in fact carrying EUR 97 510.

EUR 100 000 in tax owed to the tax authorities, 97 510 seized by customs

The businessman, who works in the transport and property industries, claimed that the cash was partly private funds and partly revenues from his three businesses. His declared intention was to buy goods specifically for these businesses. Investigations by customs officials revealed that his transport firm's tax account had a negative balance of around EUR 100 000. The man was also known to colleagues from the business assessment team at the Graz City unit of Tax Office Austria, where he regularly claimed deduction of input VAT. In addition, he often worked together with construction firms which also turned out to have conspicuously high amounts of tax arrears.

As a result of the excellent cooperation between the relevant tax and customs agencies, an enforcement order for the tax debt was swiftly issued by the tax office and passed to the customs unit. EUR 90 900 of the cash seized was impounded there and then.

Travellers carrying EUR 10 000 or more in cash are required to make a customs declaration when travelling into or out of the EU. As a result of breaching mandatory requirements applying to cash transactions under Section 48b of the Austrian Fiscal Offences Act, the passenger was fined EUR 5 500.

"Combating the illegal movement of cash contributes in particular to fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorism. I attach great importance to this, as well as to ensuring fair and equal competition and uniformity of taxation in Austria," explains Finance Minister Gernot Blümel, commenting further on the exceptional seizure: "Accumulating tax debts with the tax office, while at the same time attempting to take money abroad, is incompatible with these aims! The customs administration and tax office cooperated superbly and acted swiftly and correctly!"