Special Issue, March 2020

COVID-19 – Special issue No. 1

The COVID-19 pandemic has created major challenges for business. Every company is looking for ways to negotiate the crisis in the best possible way. The Austrian government and authorities will be announcing measures on an ongoing basis which are intended to support businesses in this regard.

Below we have provided a summary of the measures that have already been announced, which aim to ensure that liquidity can be maintained and compliance can be eased.

In this issue

Measures of the Austrian tax authorities
by Mario Wegner

Measures of the Austrian social security providers
by Evelyn Kappel & Daniela Meßner

Measures of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce 
by Ines Hofbauer-Steffel

Measures of the Austrian tax authorities

Easement with respect to cash tax

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). This ensures that the coronavirus epidemic is qualified as a fiscal emergency caused by force majeure.

Non-assessment of claim interest

If the 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 must refrain from charging “claim interest”, provided that the taxpayer was actually affected.

Deferral of payments and payment plans

If the taxpayer is affected, the tax authorities are required to approve applications for deferral of payment or a payment plan (payment in instalments). Deferral interest will not be charged on request.

Surcharge for late payment

The surcharge for late payment may be reduced or not charged on request. If a taxpayer is affected and can prove it, the authority must assume that no gross negligence caused the delay of payment. Such requests are therefore to be approved.

The applications mentioned above (reduction, non-assessment, deferral of payments/payment plans) have to be dealt with immediately by the responsible tax offices.

Deadline for filing tax returns

Annual tax returns

Annual tax returns (IT, CIT, VAT) normally have to be filed (electronically) by June 30th of the subsequent year (i.e. filing of tax returns for 2019 falls due on June 30th 2020).

The Austrian Ministry of Finance (BMF) can extend the filing deadline for tax returns by regulation. In the past, the BMF has not extended filing deadlines by regulation. The current situation may see this happen for the first time.

The tax office can choose to extend individual deadlines upon reasoned request (individual extension). If the extension is not approved by the tax office, a grace period of at least one week must be granted.

If a taxpayer is represented for tax purposes, the so -called quota system (Quotenregelung) for tax returns applies. Under this system, tax returns must be filed by March 31st of the second following year. This means that tax returns for 2018 must be filed by the end of March 2020.

We have received the following informal information of the BMF regarding the current situation:

The Austrian Chamber of Tax Advisors and Public Accountants is in contact with the BMF and other authorities in order to extend deadlines more flexibly in the quota system and in various other areas of law (e.g. individual extensions). An extension of the current quota by the BMF has already been promised. The duration of the extension has yet to be decided, because this also depends on how long the current restrictions will last.

The BMF is also working on a solution to generally extend all imminent deadlines as unbureaucratically as possible. We will be able to provide you with more details in the next few days.

Monthly VAT returns/pre-payments

Monthly VAT returns normally have to be filed by the 15th of the second following month. Individual extensions for monthly VAT returns can be granted by the tax office upon reasoned request. Also, general extensions of the deadline can be granted by regulation of the BMF.

The BMF has also promised an unbureaucratic extension of the deadline for submitting monthly VAT returns if taxpayers are affected.

Deadline for appeal

The deadline for filing an ordinary appeal is one month after the date of delivery of the respective assessment notice. The deadline for an ordinary appeal must be extended on request for reasons worthy of consideration, and repeatedly if necessary.

Deadline for requests for annulment/amendment of notices (sec. 299 Federal Fiscal Code)

Attention: The period of one year from the date of delivery of the assessment notice to file a request in accordance with sec. 299 Federal Fiscal Code is a non-extendable deadline. It is important to bear this in mind.

Tax audits

The BMF has stated that the coronavirus crisis will lead to further simplifications in the audit and control area of the tax authorities.

According to the BMF, external audit activities, inspections and surveys by the tax offices, the financial police, the customs offices and the audit service for wage-related levies and contributions to taxable persons will not be commenced for the time being if the companies concerned can credibly demonstrate that they cannot provide sufficient support for these audit activities due to the coronavirus crisis.

Official acts that have already been started will also be suspended or interrupted for the same reasons.

Investigations under fiscal criminal law are excluded from these measures.

Actions with respect to cash registers

We have been informed informally that the closure of business premises due to COVID-19 is not an incident requiring mandatory notification of the tax authority via Finanz Online (e.g. as would be required when taking a cash register out of operation, or if a cash register malfunctions). Hence, no action is required in this regard.

by Mario Wegner

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Measures of the Austrian social security providers

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 applications and insolvency applications, even without assurances of a connection to COVID-19-related liquidity shortfalls

Generally, to submit an application, it is necessary to contact the responsible Single Point of Contact 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.

Due to COVID-19 the ÖGK will automatically defer social security contributions for the contribution periods February, March and April 2020, in cases of partial payment or late payment. No application needs to be submitted. No overdue notices will be issued for late payment amounts. No collection measures will result and no insolvency applications will be filed. Legal regulations to clarify the situation are currently being prepared.

by Evelyn Kappel & Daniela Meßner

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Measures of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce has already announced that it will temporarily refrain from charging the basic membership fee (“Grundumlage”) for 2020.  As well, payment of the other parts of the membership fees (“Kammerumlage 1 und 2”) may be deferred or payment in instalments may be agreed upon. Deferral interest will not be charged on request.

Please note that the information provided here is based on the situation as of 17 March 2020. Frequent new announcements are expected. For the latest information, please consult our website www.pwc.at.

For tailored advice from PwC or PwC Legal, please contact our PwC COVID-19 HelpLine, which is available 24 hours a day via +43 (0) 664 96 77 960.

by Ines Hofbauer-Steffel

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We encourage feedback on the newsletter and the content. Equally, we welcome any of your thoughts on topics that you would like to see addressed in future issues.

Copyright and Publisher: PwC Österreich GmbH Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft, Donau-City-Straße 7, 1220 Vienna, Austria

Editor: Christof Wörndl, christof.woerndl@at.pwc.com

The above information is intended to provide general guidance only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional advice or as the basis for decisions or actions without prior consultation with your advisors. While every care has been taken in the preparation of the publication, no liability is accepted for any statement, option, error or omission.

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.

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