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Vienna, 20 February 2012 Fekter: “We want to significantly relieve the pressure on families” Focussing on families: Dr. Fekter intends to present a tax reform package favouring families before the end of the current legislative period.

In the view of Austrian Finance Minister Dr. Maria Fekter, the bundle of debt consolidation measures most recently presented by the Austrian government is a major package of structural reforms. “By introducing this package we have started a reform dialogue of enormous significance. The measures we have planned in the realm of public subsidies alone will implement 70 recommendations of the Austrian Court of Audit”, Dr. Fekter emphasised. The Finance Minister dismissed concerns that the Austrian Federal Länder are not being asked to pull enough weight: “The Austrian Länder are being required to consolidate to the tune of more than five billion, 1.8 billion of which is in the health-care sector. The Länder are thus up against huge challenges in terms of the cuts they are being asked to make.” Dr. Fekter also noted how pleased she was at the willingness of the Länder to cooperate in these efforts.

At the same time, Dr. Fekter seized upon a proposal of Niederösterreich governor Erwin Pröll, who had argued in favour of setting up a permanent council of representatives of the federal and Länder governments to more closely coordinate reform efforts.

In addition, Dr. Fekter announced a round of tax reforms that she intends to present before the current legislative period ends. She stated that main areas of focus will be on simplifying the tax system, lowering the basic rate of tax and, most notably, prioritising families. “The goal is to cut through the thicket of exceptions and special rules and in this way to pave the way for a reduction in the basic rate of tax. Our current rates of tax are unfair, because there are 2.7 million taxpayers who pay no tax at all, and we are not talking just about the poorest people”, Dr. Fekter emphasised. In addition, Dr. Fekter intends to relieve the burden on the middle >

One model Dr. Fekter mentioned was the creation of a tax-exempt maintenance amount for children of EUR 7,000 per year. But the transfer payments currently being made to Austrian families should likewise remain in place, she stated. “I could picture a kind of option to elect between drawing direct payments and claiming tax exemptions”, Dr. Fekter stated.

In any event, Dr. Fekter explained, it is important to her to see protections and targeted tax relief implemented for Austrian families, who represent both the foundations of society and Austria’s future potential. “I shall make every effort to achieve this”, Dr. Fekter stated in closing.