Supporters call for strengthening of stationary trade
Vienna (PK) – Today, the Economic Committee discussed the petition for a referendum “Kauf Regional”, which was supported by 146,295 signatures, at an expert hearing. The competitive disadvantage of regional commercial enterprises in relation to the “establishmentless” on-line trade is to be balanced by legal changes, so the demand of the Unterzeichner:innen. Examples for it are a purpose-bound regional transfer tax of on-line trade or the lowering of the value added tax of the stationary trade. Beside the representatives of the people petition Eduard Egger and Andreas Palli were Gunter Mayr of the Ministry of Finance as well as Rainer Will and Patricia Grubmiller of the Austrian trade federation as Auskunftspersonen loaded. All parliamentary groups welcomed the concerns of the popular petition, but disagreed on the measures to be taken.
Specifically, according to the popular petition (1180 d.B.), multinational digital corporations should be required to pay tax on their profits in Austria in the future. Sales tax rates should be differentiated according to the contribution to regional job preservation, according to which less sales tax should be incurred for the same product if it is purchased locally. With a temporary regional transfer tax, online retailers should make a contribution to maintaining local centers. As an obligatory contribution to the activation of regional town centers, the ORF should also advertise the towns and cities, for example with a fixed volume of advertising time for individual regions. Furthermore, the initiators demand a public vote in parliament on the measures listed “without club pressure.
Volksbegehren initiators: It is for the policy at the time to act
“It concerns to set an indication, in order to support the regional trade”, stressed the representative of the Volksbegehren Eduard Egger in its entrance statement. “We must act together now, so that one by one business does not disappear”. The task of the state, he said, is to compensate for the competitive disadvantages of stationary trade compared to online trade. More and more stores would stand empty in local centers, resulting in the loss of jobs and apprenticeships.
According to Egger’s deputy Andreas Palli, it is also “time for politicians to act”, as the issue can no longer be “discussed away”. “Kauf Regional” is an issue throughout Europe, he said. Small stores currently have “no chance against Amazon and Co” although they are “the backbone of the economy”. However, the EU was founded to compensate for competitive disadvantages. Parliament must also fulfill its control function here. In this context, Palli underlined one of the basic demands of the petition for a referendum. It is a matter of treating stationary trade differently from the point of view of sales tax, like companies without a domestic branch. Austria could play a pioneering role here.
Mayr: Global regulations are needed for the taxation of large online groups
In principle, the concerns of the petition for a referendum are to be welcomed, because it is a matter of tax justice, Gunter Mayr, tax law expert at the Ministry of Finance, stated. “Digital must not pay less taxes in Austria.” However, it is necessary to clarify what is feasible within the framework of EU and WTO law. As far as higher taxation of multinational corporations is concerned, Austria is already an international pioneer with its digital corporation tax introduced in 2020. Nationally, however, one can only set initiatives, it is a matter of global regulations to force the large online corporations to more tax justice, said Mayr. The expert considered the proposals for a global tax reform, which were broadly supported by the OECD and the G20 countries last year and which are aimed at higher taxation of digital corporations and a global minimum taxation of 15%, to be a success. Mayr was skeptical about the sales tax reduction for stationary trade proposed by the initiators. The EU is characterized by the single market, which is why the same product must be taxed the same everywhere. In addition, different levels of taxation would lead to more bureaucracy.
Will: Fair play must also be established online
“Fair play must also be established online,” emphasized the managing director of the trade association Rainer Will. The general conditions must be the same for all market participants. However, he said, it was important to distinguish between online retailers based in Austria and third-country companies without a domestic operating facility. Will, too, was skeptical of “national go-it-alones” and welcomed the agreements reached at the OECD level. However, the trade association managing director was critical of the delay in implementation towards 2024. Will also saw the proposals for a lower sales tax for established trade as difficult, as there would often be mixed forms between “online and offline trade”.
To strengthen stationary trade, however, there are other proposals on the part of the trade association. According to Will, these include the abolition of lease fees, the expansion of childcare facilities to increase the flexibility of employees, and no further corona-related restrictions. A Sunday opening is not to be financed by the double surcharges at present.
Parliamentary groups welcome Volksbegehren, are however over measures united
All delegates who spoke spoke spoke of an important initiative and thanked the Initiator:innen and Supporter:innen of the Volksbegehren. With the problem outline and that regional purchase behavior increases the creation of value locally, all are of one opinion, held Eva Maria Himmelbauer (ÖVP). However, the ÖVP member was skeptical about the proposed measures, as they could counteract projects and subsidies for companies to participate in online trade. For her parliamentary group colleague Christoph Stark, it is primarily a matter of raising awareness. The petition for a referendum has contributed to this. According to Stark, there is currently a general change in the retail landscape and in the purchasing behavior of customers, which is why it is important to continue to support businesses in digital marketing measures and to remove restrictions.
Maximilian Lercher (SPÖ) countered that raising awareness alone would not solve the problems. “We are experiencing a systemic failure of the market and must intervene” to change “the framework conditions on a large scale,” said the SPÖ member of parliament.
Erwin Angerer (FPÖ) also spoke of an important issue that the referendum had triggered. He was skeptical, however, that until an agreement was reached at the OECD level, there was a commitment at the international level not to take any further steps at present.
According to Elisabeth Götze (Greens), the strengthening of local centers is a major concern for her, but this cannot be achieved without stationary trade. The Green Party member described the proposals of the petition for a referendum as legally difficult. Breaking EU law would not make sense, she said. She said it was important to strengthen the competition authorities and to quickly introduce a global minimum tax. For Jakob Schwarz (Greens), the reduction of income tax as part of the tax reform is an important step towards relieving the burden on labor. In addition, the introduction of the CO2 price would make returns more expensive.
“We share your concern, but not your proposals,” emphasized Gerald Loacker (NEOS). He added that there were many ways to support stationary trade without violating EU law. For Loacker, the main issues are reducing bureaucracy, liberalizing opening hours, abolishing lease fees and no further lockdowns due to the Corona pandemic. His parliamentary group colleague Karin Doppelbauer agreed with this. For the NEOS Mandatarin are in addition changes in the regional planning and spatial planning necessary, since these would often make the wirtschaften in city centers and local centers more difficult. (continued by the Economic Committee) med
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