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Austria; Council of Europe; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development: Ratification of Tax Convention

(Sept. 10, 2014) On August 28, 2014, Austria deposited its instrument of ratification of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. The Convention and its amending Protocol will enter into force for Austria in three months, on December 1. (Convention and Protocol on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters – Austria Deposits Instruments of Ratification, TAX NEWS SERVICE (Sept. 1, 2014), International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation online subscription database; Status of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters andAmending Protocol – 28 August 2014, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) website.)

The Convention, which was formulated jointly by the OECD and the Council of Europe, was opened for signature on January 25, 1988, and amended by the Protocol in 2010. The amended Convention was opened for signature on June 1, 2011. (Exchange of Information: Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in TaxMatters, OECD website (last updated Sept. 2014).)

According to an introduction to the text of the Convention on the OECD website, the purpose of the Convention is “to help governments enforce their tax laws” and provide “an international legal framework for co-operation among countries in countering international tax avoidance and evasion.” (The Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters:Amended by the 2010 Protocol (June 1, 2011) [scroll down to view hyperlinked Table of Contents for Convention ].) To do so, it provides for “assistance in tax collection and service of documents” and “facilitates joint audits and information sharing to counter other serious crimes (e.g. money laundering, corruption) when certain conditions are met.” (Id.) In addition, the OECD asserts, it “preserves the rights of taxpayers, [with] extensive safeguards to protect the confidentiality of the information exchanged, in particular in relation to personal data.” (Id.)

Austria was one of nine countries to sign the amended Convention on May 29, 2013; on the same date, another three countries signed a letter of intention to sign, and six countries deposited instruments of ratification. (Austria, Luxembourg and Singapore Among Countries Signing-On to End Tax Secrecy, OECD website (May 29, 2013).) On that occasion, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría stated, “[t]his is a historic moment for the Convention and another winning round in the fight against tax cheats, … . In the past 2 years more than 60 countries have signed the Convention or stated their intention to do so, marking an important milestone on the road to closer cooperation and more transparency – to making the international system fair to all taxpayers.” (Id.)

According to the OECD webpage on the status of parties to the Convention, 42 countries have deposited instruments of ratification of the Convention and 67 countries have signed it. (Status of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters and Amending Protocol – 28 August 2014, supra.)