Full text: Taxation of foundations in Europe

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Liechtenstein fiduciary, the creation of a foundation can be laid down by contract. Moreover, 
the mandate agreement regulates the delegation of the bodies, the day-to-day administration 
of the foundation and similar matters. Thus, in this situation, the founder can exercise factual 
control over the foundation without having to act as an executive body of the foundation. As a 
consequence, the foundation profits are attributed to the founder for tax purposes pursuant 
Sections 21 et seq. of the Austrian Federal Fiscal Code (Bundesabgabenordnung) according 
to which the beneficial ownership prevails over the legal ownership . 
 
As of 1 January 2008, a foundation entrance tax in the amount of 25% is levied on an Aus-
trian founder upon creation of a foundation in Liechtenstein. The lower foundation entrance 
tax rate of 2.5% levied on Austrian private foundations does not apply in that case because 
no administrative and enforcement assistance agreement was concluded between Austria 
and Liechtenstein. As regards the regular taxation of foundation profits, the Austrian tax au-
thorities recognise the so-called non-transparent foundation; as a result, the profits of these 
foundations are, as a general rule, not subject to taxation in Austria. The case of transparent 
foundations is different. Here, the profits are generally attributed to the founder from an eco-
nomic perspective and hence taxed in accordance with Austrian income tax regulations. In 
the case of non-transparent foundations, a 25% income tax rate at the level of the beneficiary 
is levied on payments to the beneficiary in Austria.  
With regard to foundations created (or assets dedicated) on or after 1 August 2008, the dis-
tributions of assets (Substanzausschüttungen) are tax-exempt (as are distributions of assets 
by Austrian private foundations according to Austrian regulations). The same regulations are 
applicable if distributions are paid to the beneficiaries as part of the winding-up of a Liechten-
stein foundation. 
6.4. Conclusion 
The Liechtenstein foundation has fallen in international disrepute – even more so as a result 
of the tax evasion cases discovered in Germany at the beginning of 2008. An examination of 
legal provisions shows that the Liechtenstein foundation does in fact provide extraordinary 
advantages. It enables pure family foundations to continue to remain largely anonymous ex-
ternally. The foundation can be established very easily and supervision of these foundations 
remains weak. Establishing a foundation is not associated with any significant costs or du-
ties, and regular income from foundations with a relationship outside Liechtenstein are virtu-
ally tax-exempt with the exception of a very moderate capital tax. In addition to this capital 
tax, taxes which largely correspond to the tax burden of an Austrian private foundation con-
tinue to be levied on Austrians who establish a foundation in Liechtenstein. Despite this, the 
Liechtenstein foundation remains very attractive from a tax-related point of view. Although a 
reform of foundation law is being drafted in Liechtenstein, it can be assumed that the general 
terms will not be significantly changed.
        

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