COVID-19: Liquidity measures of the Austrian Ministry of Finance, social insurance providers, and other authorities
The Austrian Ministry of Finance (BMF) has introduced facilitations for tax payments, which will relieve the liquidity situation of taxpayers affected by the coronavirus epidemic. Taxpayers need to credibly demonstrate that the measures introduced by the authorities (stay-at-home policies, as well as the closure of educational institutions, cancellation of events, and general restrictions on daily life) have caused liquidity shortfalls. Further facilitations are envisaged by the Austrian Social Security Institution for the Self-Employed (SVS) and the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK), as well as the Austrian federal states, municipalities and professional organisations.
This blog post was updated on 25 March 2020 and includes the latest information available to us.
Measures of the Austrian Ministry of Finance (BMF)
Reduction/non-assessment of pre-payments of IT and CIT
Pre-payments of income tax and corporate income tax that have already been assessed can be reduced (to EUR 0.00 if necessary). The precondition is that a reduction of the anticipated tax base for 2020 can be made credible based on the specific circumstances.
If the taxpayer is affected to such an extent that he cannot pay the reduced amount, the tax authorities are able to waive advance payments (partially or completely) on application.
If the deferred income tax or corporate income tax assessments for 2020 later result in an additional tax claim due to a previous non-assessment or reduction of pre-payments, the tax office has a duty to refrain from charging “claim interest”.
Deferral of payments and payment plans
If the taxpayer has been affected, the tax authorities are required to approve the deferral of tax payments, or payment in instalments, on application. A deferral of payment or a payment plan (due to COVID-19) may be granted until 30 September 2020 at the latest. If additional reasons exist, additional facilitations may be granted on application. On application, deferral interest will not be charged until 30 September 2020.
Surcharge for late payment
The surcharge for late payment may be reduced or not charged on request. If a taxpayer is affected and can demonstrate this, the authority must assume that no gross negligence caused the delay of payment. Such requests are therefore to be approved.
Processing by the Tax Office
The above-mentioned applications (reduction, non-assessment, facilitation) must be processed by the competent tax offices without delay.
For all of the above-mentioned measures, a combined application form is available (“Kombinierter Antrag zu Sonderregelungen betreffend Coronavirus” Form SR1-CoV). According to BMF information, the application may be submitted either via FinanzOnline or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. However, for procedural reasons, it is not advisable to submit the application by email. This is because, in accordance with the Austrian Federal Fiscal Code (BAO), email does not constitute a valid form of submission. Taxpayers who are represented for tax purposes should submit the applications using the structured application forms in FinanzOnline to ensure fast and efficient processing by the tax office. PwC is happy to assist.
Exemption from stamp duty
No stamp duty will be charged for official documents and acts which result directly or indirectly from the measures to combat the COVID-19 crisis. This is intended to ensure that no stamp duty or federal administrative levies are charged, e.g. for applications for support payments under the Austrian Epidemic Act. The exemption will apply for the period 1 March 2020 to 31 December 2020 and should cover both future and ongoing proceedings at the time the provision enters into force.
Measures of the Austrian Social Security Institution for the Self-Employed (SVS)
The Austrian Social Security Institution for the Self-Employed (SVS) has introduced the following simplification measures for those covered by SVS insurance:
- Deferral of payment of contributions
- Payment of contributions in instalments
- Reduction of preliminary calculation base for contributions
- Full or partial relief on late-payment interest
Applications for reduction of the preliminary calculation base for contributions can be submitted using the online form “Anpassung (Herabsetzung, Hinaufsetzung) der vorläufigen Beitragsgrundlage”, which can be found on the site svs.at/formulare.
Applications for the other measures can be submitted using the online form “Allgemeiner Antrag” on the site svs.at/formulare.
Measures of the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK)
The Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK) has introduced the following simplification measures for employers in the event of notification delays and payment difficulties arising due to the COVID-19 emergency measures:
- Relief from late payment surcharge in the case of notification delays due to COVID-19.
- Deferral of a maximum of three months due to liquidity shortfalls as a result of COVID-19.
- Approval of payment by instalment for a maximum period of 18 months, due to liquidity shortfalls as a result of COVID-19
- Suspension of enforcement measures and insolvency applications, even without assurances of a connection to COVID-19-related liquidity shortfalls
Currently, to submit an application, it is necessary to contact the responsible Single Point of Contact (SPOC) at the ÖGK by telephone or by email. The Single Point of Contact is normally the regional office for the company’s domicile (Austrian federal state). The ÖGK published an information letter on this in the context of the organizational changes at the beginning of the year. According to ÖGK information, the Call Center is available to deal with such queries.
Update of 23 March 2020:
The second COVID-19 Act, announced on 21 March 2020 (BGBl I 2020/16), now provides numerous clarifications, which also cover measures regarding statutory contributions:
Whether the interest exemption for deferred payments of social security contributions, and of contributions pursuant to the Corporate Employee and Self-Employed Pension Act (BMSVG), is granted automatically or only on application, depends on whether the company has been affected by an access prohibition or restrictions and closures under the Epidemic Act. In accordance with the Austrian directive on preliminary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (BGBl II 2020/96), businesses in the former category include retailers and service providers, as well as leisure and sport companies (with certain exceptions, such as pharmacies, grocery stores, and drugstores). If businesses have been affected by these restrictions, the contributions for the contribution periods February, March and April 2020 will be deferred without any need for action. For all other businesses, the social security contributions for these months can be deferred on application, if it can be made credible that the contributions cannot be paid for liquidity reasons arising due to the coronavirus pandemic. The regional service desk of the ÖGK is responsible for applications of this kind; no special requirements regarding form need to be observed (telephone or email).
It remains the case that overdue contributions for the calendar months March, April and May 2020 will not be pursued, and no applications for the initiation of insolvency procedures due to non-payment of overdue contributions will be made. Furthermore, until May 2020, no late payment surcharges will be charged.
If the coronavirus pandemic is prolonged, the measures may be extended by government directive by up to three calendar months or contribution periods.
These facilitations also apply to the collection of the “bad weather contributions”, the Austrian Chamber of Labour levy, the insolvency fund (IESG) surcharge, and the contribution to the social and vocational training fund.
Additional facilitating measures
- Various Austrian federal states and municipalities have announced additional facilitations with regard to the municipality tax, land tax, sewer tax, or tourism contribution. We recommend evaluating these measures individually.
- Several Austrian “Chambers” (including the Economic Chamber and Medical Chamber) have also introduced measures for their membership. The Vienna Economic Chamber has announced that it will not charge the basic levy (Grundumlage) for 2020. Furthermore, it is possible to apply for deferral or payment by instalment of the Chamber levy (KU) and the surcharge to the employer contribution (DZ), as well as non-assessment of interest for late payment.