Tax in the anti-fraud context
The aim of control measures in the field is to examine the factual and legal circumstances relevant for the collection of levies and thus to ensure the uniformity of taxation, as well as to prevent tax evasion and to ensure compliance with social security provisions within the framework of the joint audit of wage-dependent taxes.
Through their independent and responsible activity, auditors ensure uniformity of taxation and safeguard the revenue of the state. This makes an important contribution to fair competition and to strengthening Austria as a business location. The areas of activity include small and medium-sized enterprises or large companies and corporations.
Auditors are employed in various areas of the tax administration. E.g. in the tax offices for the auditing of small and medium-sized enterprises, and in the audit unit for large traders for the auditing of groups. Moreover, in addition to auditing in the customs sector, some auditors also cover special areas of expertise – for example the auditing of wage-related taxes.
In the course of external audits, all factual and legal circumstances of significance for the collection of duties can be examined for those tax debtors who are obliged to keep books or records or to make payments against clearing with the tax authority.
In accordance with the substantive and local competence of the authorities, the external audit bodies are responsible for reviewing all duties and contributions and for establishing earnings. In the course of the external audit, facts of importance for other levies and contributions regulated by federal law, as well as within the framework of the joint audit of wage-dependent taxes for compliance with social security provisions, must also be collected and forwarded to the competent authority.
Performance of house and personal searches is the responsibility of the fiscal penal authority, which usually employs the tax or customs investigation for this purpose.
Fiscal penal authority
The tax and customs offices act not only as federal tax authorities, but also as fiscal penal authorities. They are therefore an essential part of the anti-fraud fight in the area of tax and customs offences. Each tax or customs office has a fiscal penal authority set up. In Vienna, the tax office for the 9th, 18th and 19th districts and Klosterneuburg is responsible for all Viennese tax offices as the fiscal penal authority.
The staff working in the respective tax or customs office have an enormous range of tasks to cope with: all audit reports and investigation results of all organisational units of the Federal Revenue Administration acting in the field of combating fraud must be checked for their relevance under fiscal penal law, unless they were not investigated in their own area of activity anyway. The bodies of the fiscal penal authorities are active in the service of the criminal justice system in the investigation of financial offences to be punished by the court and have the tasks and powers to which the Criminal Investigation Department is entitled under the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure. Communications from other authorities or reports are also to be assessed under fiscal penal law.
The fiscal penal authority must examine all facts that it recognises from its own perception and the notifications and communications it receives with regard to the content of the fiscal penal law. If this examination shows that the punishment of the financial offence does not fall within the jurisdiction of the court, it has the duties and powers as stipulated in the Austrian Code of Fiscal Offences (Finanzstrafgesetz, FinStrG). For example, it is entitled to obtain information, to order inspections and checks in accordance with the tax and monopoly regulations, to request special information from postal and public communications operators as well as parcel service providers, and to inspect certain registers and the land register.
If there are sufficient grounds for suspicion, criminal investigations must be conducted. Competence depends on the so-called penally relevant amount (e.g. reduction amount, fair market value or levy amount). Thus, on the basis of the investigation results, either penal decisions are to be made by the authorities themselves, or a report is to be made to an appraisal court, or to the Public Prosecutor’s office, respectively, by means of an opinion. The interests of the Republic of Austria will be represented by the staff members, both in administrative and judicial proceedings.
The court is competent to punish financial offences (only) if they were committed intentionally and the penally relevant amount of the fine exceeds € 100,000. In the case of smuggling, evasion of import duties and deliberate tax evasion, the threshold value is € 50,000. If the court has jurisdiction to punish the financial offence, the bodies of the tax and customs offices, as fiscal penal authorities, have criminal police duties and powers. Especially in cases of serious tax and customs crimes, such as major cases of fraud with international ramifications, investigations are complex and require extensive legal knowledge and cooperation with domestic and foreign authorities.
If the court does not have jurisdiction, financial criminal proceedings must be conducted before the administrative authorities. In these cases, the respective tax or customs office, as the fiscal penal authority, is responsible not only for independently conducting the investigations, but also for conducting the oral proceedings and making the penal decision, as well as the execution of the sentence. The fiscal penal authorities must also coordinate the measures ordered by them and, in the case of necessary coercive measures, issue the necessary decisions or obtain the necessary orders. If the penally relevant amount exceeds € 33,000 (or € 10,000 in the case of smuggling, evasion of import duties and deliberate tax evasion), an appraisal court of three members, chaired by a judge, shall be responsible for conducting the oral proceedings and rendering the decision.
Criminal decisions and judgements are often contested by means of appeals. The filing of appeals and the monitoring of the proceedings up to the highest courts is also the responsibility of the tax and customs offices as the fiscal penal authority.
Safeguarding of tax revenue
The tax safeguarding teams are responsible for tax collection and recovery. This includes in particular the following tasks:
- payment transactions and accountancy
- the collection of charges (due date, payment, late payment surcharge, payment facilities)
- the enforcement of levies (the compulsory enforcement of the tax claim within the framework of the fiscal and judicial execution proceedings)
- the assertion of cases of liability (security deposits, guarantees)
- the filing of requests for the opening of insolvency proceedings and the activities arising in the course of insolvency proceedings that have been opened (e.g. deadline monitoring, filing of claims, participation in meetings, quota monitoring, …),
- the management of money and property (e.g. seizure, safekeeping and delivery of safekeeping items as well as any exploitation, safekeeping and delivery of printed matter subject to charge)