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Accounts Register and account inspection
 

Legal bases of and frequently asked questions about the Austrian Accounts Register and Accounts Inspection Act and on automatic information exchange:

Legal basis

 

Frequently asked questions

Why has the Accounts Register been introduced?

Another anti-fraud package was adopted as part of the tax reform of 2016. The Austrian Accounts Register and Accounts Inspection Act (Kontenregister- und Konteneinschaugesetz, KontRegG) is part of this package and comprises two major elements, namely the Accounts Register and the simplified Inspection of Accounts.
These measures are intended to contribute to preserving taxation uniformity and thus ensuring fiscal justice. After all, the fight against tax fraud and tax evasion is a top priority and in the best interest of honest taxpayers.
Furthermore, the Accounts Register conforms to the international development in the field of combating money laundering, and of fiscal transparency. However, the exchange of financial account information may not be performed arbitrarily, thus ensuring fairness.

What is the difference between the Accounts Register and the Inspection of Accounts?

The Accounts Register is a database containing information about who has what accounts at which bank. 
The Inspection of Accounts means opening an account at the bank, whereby all account activities and the account balance are visible.

When was the Accounts Register introduced?

The Accounts Register has been operative since 10 August 2016, and ready for queries since 5 October 2016, after two months during which the credit institutions filled in the register.

Which data does the Accounts Register include, which not?

The central Accounts Register contains a list of all the current accounts, building society accounts, giro accounts and securities portfolios of all companies and all persons at a credit institution operating in Austria. That means that only the names of the persons / companies, the account numbers and the credit institutions are listed.
It does not include account balances and account activities. These are disclosed only in case of a judicially approved inspection of accounts.
The data in the Accounts Register are provided by the respective credit institution and continuously updated.

Who is authorised to inspect the Accounts Register, and when?

Banking secrecy has not been abolished; merely exceptions were created for the tax authorities. These are permitted to perform inspections in the course of fiscal and financial criminal proceedings, but only when it is appropriate and reasonable. Apart from public prosecutors and criminal courts, the fiscal penal and tax authorities as well as the Federal Tax Court may inspect the Accounts Register. Every inspection of the Accounts Register performed is notified to the person or entity in question via FinanzOnline.

Does the universal succession/commissioner of courts/trustee of an estate entitle the applicant to request information with a right to a substantive answer as to which accounts of the testator are recorded in the Accounts Register?

No.

Pursuant to § 4 IV of the Accounts Register Act, data subjects have the right to be informed of the data concerning them that have been entered in the Accounts Register. The query can be made via FinanzOnline.

With regard to the testator’s data recorded in the Accounts Register, these are data as defined in the Data Protection Act (Datenschutzgesetz, DSG 2000, Federal Law Gazette № I 1999/165 as most recently amended). The fundamental right to data protection is a highly personal right that expires upon the death of the person concerned and is not transferred to a legal successor (file №: DSB-D122.367/0007-DSB/2015 dated 18 November 2015)

A request for inspection or a query of the Accounts Register by the heir or notary as court commissioner/trustee of the estate with regard to the deceased cannot be granted.

Neither is a trustee of the estate or the court commissioner in the probate proceedings – to whom the obligation to maintain banking secrecy pursuant to § 38 II 3 of the Banking Act (Bankwesengesetz, BWG) does not apply – entitled either to query the Accounts Register (or to inspect a query of the Accounts Register that has been made) – this ban is based not on the Austrian Banking Act, but on the Data Protection Act. 

Can I query the data stored about me in the Accounts Register?

Yes, these data can be viewed via your personal FinanzOnline access. 

What do I do if my data are incorrect or incomplete? 

The database is based exclusively on reports from the credit institutions. Any incorrect or missing notifications should therefore be clarified with your credit institution. 

Will I be informed if my data are being queried by the tax authority?

If you have FinanzOnline access, you will receive notification only in your inbox, even if you have not activated “Electronic delivery” there. 

No notification will be given in the event of a query by fiscal penal authorities / courts. 

Is data privacy ensured despite the Accounts Register / inspection of accounts?

Another purpose of the Accounts Register is the easy and quick search for purposes of criminal investigations. So far, about 770 institutions had to be contacted, whereby about 1,500 people learned that a Public Prosecutor was investigating a suspect. Insofar, the Accounts Register even supports data privacy. The openness and transparency of Accounts Register queries is optimally guaranteed, which is why the Accounts Register is supported by advocates of data privacy.
The inspection of accounts is subject to judicial control, since the inspection must be approved and an appeal is possible for the persons concerned, but not for the credit institutions.

Can tax advisors with a power of attorney obtain information?

No, since Accounts Register queries may also cover accounts that are not those of the taxpayer in question, but over which the same has rights of disposal (e.g. signatory rights over spouse’s account).

When is an inspection of accounts permitted?

However, the opening of accounts in the course of court proceedings but also of financial criminal proceedings is still possible only with judicial authorisation.
An inspection of accounts according to § 8 of the KontRegG can also be carried out during a fiscal investigation if

  • there is reasonable doubt about the veracity of the information provided by the taxpayer,
  • it is to be expected that the inspection is a suitable instrument to clarify the doubts, and
  • it is to be expected that the interference with the legitimate confidentiality interests of the customer of the credit institution that is associated with the disclosure is not disproportionate to the purpose of the investigative measure.

Before the Federal Tax Court issues a decision on an inspection of accounts, the taxpayer is to be heard, and his/her opinion to be appreciated.
Other agencies and individuals will be granted neither information from the Accounts Register nor inspection of accounts. In this respect, banking secrecy persists. Furthermore, each query is documented and archived for ten years.

Could potential tax evaders not tunnel their money abroad before the entry into force of the Act?

No, because the law has entered into force retroactively. The Accounts Register maps the status of 01 March 2015. In addition, according to the Austrian Capital Outflow Reporting Act, the credit institutions are under obligation to report outflows amounting to at least € 50,000 from accounts or deposits of individuals to the Federal Ministry of Finance.