Austrian conservatives target multinationals and QE in economic draft

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 28, 2017 2:07 PM

VIENNA (Reuters) - The front-runner in Austria's parliamentary election, the conservative People's Party, wants to fight tax avoidance by multinationals and backs a swift end to the European Central Bank's bond purchases, a draft of its economic program shows.

The People's Party has been leading in opinion polls since 31-year-old Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz took over as its leader in May. Kurz has until now provided few specific policies ahead of the Oct. 15 parliamentary election.

A draft of his party's economic program, seen by Reuters on Monday, outlines broad objectives like slashing the country's debt, without giving details.

The document will do little to quiet critics who say Kurz lacks experience, particularly when it comes to the economy. But it provides an initial indication of his economic priorities.

"We cannot accept that global companies use the international tax system to shift profits to where the least taxes are owed while our domestic companies are at a competitive disadvantage because they dutifully pay their taxes," the draft says.

It calls for more work to be carried out on creating a system that would determine how much of a company's profit should be taxed in a given country. It says transfers to shell companies in tax havens should be banned.

The issue of multinationals' taxes has often been raised since the European Commission ruled last year that tech giant Apple should pay billions of euros in back taxes to Ireland because a scheme to route profits through that country was illegal state aid.

Apple is appealing the ruling.

Chancellor Christian Kern, a Social Democrat, has seized on the issue, repeatedly saying it is unfair that multinationals like Starbucks should pay less tax in Austria than a tiny sausage stand on the street.

The draft People's Party program says the European Central Bank (ECB) should end its bond purchases.

The ECB has bought over 2 trillion euros' worth of bonds, depressing borrowing costs and fuelling growth.

"We clearly call for the ECB to turn away from the monetary policy of recent years as soon as possible," the draft says, describing the purchases as a short-term measure that rewards some countries "that previously pursued irresponsible policies".

(Reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich; Writing by Francois Murphy; Editing by Andrew Roche)