On March 13, 2017 our law firm hosted a presentation in cooperation with the Chamber of Chartered Accountants and Tax Consultants Tyrol on the subject “What is Left of Banking Secrecy”. On the invitation of our law firm, the renowned banking expert University Professor Dr Gottfried Haber of the Donau University Krems spoke to a large number of interested listeners at the Tyrol Chamber of Commerce.
About 17 years ago it was last possible to open an anonymous savings book in Austria. A short time afterwards passing anonymous savings book on to other persons was also prohibited. And the trend continues: in times where a harder approach is being taken against money laundering, the funding of terrorists and especially tax fraud, the call for transparency is becoming louder by the day. The prevailing opinion is “someone that hasn’t got anything to hide won’t be against disclosure”. Or will they?
Professor Haber explained what the new banking package 2015/2016 entailed. A weakening of banking secrecy, the establishment of a central accounts registry for the round 33 million accounts, savings books and securities accounts in Austria, the duty to notify the authorities of certain financial transactions as well as the global exchange of financial data with 140 other countries in tax matters. The Austrian financial authorities expect additional revenues of € 600 million in 2017 alone as a result of these new measures.
Professor Haber said, “Basically now banking secrecy only exists between private parties. It is unrealistic to expect that the new measures will be reversed. Banking secrecy was limited to reach fair taxation. Nowadays its no longer possible to argue against transparency and for anonymity. Further restrictions of banking secrecy can be expected”.
The conditions under which the authorities, including the financial authorities, can look into the accounts registry and when a detailed examination of individual accounts is possible was explained, as well as the remedies available to individuals or enterprises that are affected. These questions and many more were discussed in depth with the audience.