Austria – land of contrasts

Austria can perhaps best be described as a land of contrasts. It was once the center of one of the largest empires in history; today, it ranks among the world’s smallest republics. A country without a shoreline, it once boasted a great navy. Its scenery varies from towering Alpine peaks in the west to broad plains in the east, only a few hours drive away. Unemployment and inflation are relatively low; federal expenditure for social programs is extremely high. Austria is more Roman Catholic than Italy but celebrates pagan pre-Lenten rituals. Every year, its 7.5 million inhabitants play host to more than 19 million foreign visitors, well over half of them from the country which once invaded Austria and plunged it into war. Hitler was born there but so were Mozart and Freud. The USA objected to Kurt Waldheim but adopted Arnold Schwarzenegger. The list could go on and on.

This report is intended to familiarize you with this often-overlooked country (a T-shirt sold there proclaims “AUSTRIA: No kangaroos” for those who confuse it with Australia) and to help you learn to understand and appreciate it. The site was written for people interested in living and/or investing in Austria. We hope to provide you with a concise, readable report that will both inform you before you go, and serve as a reference work for questions which may arise later.

Don’t be daunted by the German banking terms and officialese written in italics: these translations are meant to help you recognize vital words and expressions you’re likely to come across in Austria and Liechtenstein and to help you make sure you’re getting what you want.
Part I of the report (chapters 1-4) is general information on Austria from an American with 16 years of first-hand experience. Chapter 1 gives basic background information about the country, its history and its people. Austria is a clean and orderly country: it is safe, stable and prosperous, its public services are reliable, and its people enjoy a high standard of living and security. Austria’s central location, efficient transport facilities, and excellent hotels and restaurants make it a “must” on any European itinerary. Chapters 2 and 3 provide you with information about getting around and going out in Austria.
Traditionally, Austria has been known in Europe as a country which opens its doors to political refugees in need of safe transit or temporary asylum. Strict rules limit the number of foreigners living here and prevent an overburdening of the federal budget for social services. For financially solvent individuals from the West, however, resident status is easy to attain, and we’ll explain how it works. Chapter 4 also tells you about various aspects of life in Austria, including what it’s really like to live there.
Part II of the report turns to specifics on banking, finance and real estate provided native Austrian investment expert. One of the best kept secrets in the financial world is the fact that while neighboring Switzerland is famous for its banks and banking secrecy, Austrian banks offer the same services, the same excellent quality, and banking laws that surpass even the Swiss for stringency and discretion. Chapter 5 takes a closer look at the banking facilities available, how to use them, and the laws that govern them. Two special banking enclaves are presented in Chapter 6, and Chapter 7 introduces you to the Vienna Stock Exchange. Chapters 8 and 9 deal with the most important Austrian taxes and how they apply to foreigners, followed by a brief discussion of business enterprises, laws and taxes which affect them, and their attractiveness for foreigners.
Part III, Chapter 12 introduces Liechtenstein, Austria’s tiny neighbor which offers foreign investors some opportunities not found in either Austria or Switzerland. Chapters 13 and 14 discuss banks and trusts in Liechtenstein and how you can take advantage of them. Chapter 15 is a concise comparison of banking practices in Austria, the enclaves and Liechtenstein, and Chapter 16 is a list of special tips and hints for anonymous investors.
In researching this report, we talked to dozens of officials and experts and have every effort to provide readers with complete, accurate, up-to-date information. Unfortun everything from exchange rates to fiscal law to residency guidelines exists in a state of flul r ules in effect today may be gone tomorrow. We therefore urge you to get the latest inforn available before making major decisions. We would also appreciate any comments, critic suggestions which could help us to provide a more effective, usable report. If you would like a personal consultation on any of the information presented, contact the authors care of the publisher. Dr. Reinhard M Stern is an international entrepreneur and investor. He serves private clients and businesses all over the world as a banking and privacy consultant and speaks at seminars and conferences on privacy, asset protection and offshore banking. The Guide to Profit from the Secret and Tax free Austrian Bank Account, and his popular seminars have helped investors take advantage of the investment opportunities his native Austria offers. He also publishes Austrian Secrecy Hotline, a bimonthly newsletter with an international readership.
Lee Anne Kestler is a native of Pennsylvania and a graduate of Clarion State College. She taught German and French until 1977, when she moved to Austria. She was a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in Austria public schools while earning her master’s degree at the University of Innsbruck. She now teaches English for the university’s business studies language department and holds professional language training seminars. A translator and editor, she has worked closely for many years with Dr. Stern on his international books and newsletters.
Our thanks to Mr Hannes Looser of Zurich, for specifics on the inheritance of secret bank accounts; to Mr Schweissgut, of Jungholz, for his information on Austrian banking in the enclaves; Mr Peter Minsch, Dr Markus Wanger and Dr Markus Mayr for their input on Liechtenstein and secret tax loopholes between Austria and Liechtenstein; Mr Wolfgang Wiegele, of Campione d’Italia, for his contribution on banking in Kleinwalsertal; Mr Horst Berlemann of Stuttgart, for his brilliant and humorous fireworks on offshore Austrian banking; Mag Rupert Rechberger for his explanation of Austrian tax laws and loopholes for the foreign investor; and Mr Armin Ennemoser of Innsbruck, for his valuable contributions to the chapter on real estate.
Thanks are also in order to the many owners and managers of five-star Austrian hotels and restaurants who cordially invited us to sample their cuisine and enjoy their hospitality.
Mr Simonitsch, of the federal police in Innsbruck, and Mr Patzl, of the provincial Residence Commission, took time to provide most of the information on residency; Ms Gundi Bertolini, of the American Consulate in Salzburg, provided knowledgeable answers to questions about current laws on citizenship and work permits; and Ms Susi Oberegger of the Austro-American Society in Innsbruck helped locate American and British organizations elsewhere in Austria. Ms Erika Reininger typed her way through endless dictaphone tapes and drafts, Ms Camilla Lambert assisted putting it all together and Dr Elisabeth Lott did the final editing.