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Tourism law: Secondary residence tax in Styria - Schladming is now also implementing it

In October 2022, the Secondary Residence and Vacancy Tax Act (StZWAG) of the Austrian province of Styria (Steiermark) came into force. It allows Styrian municipalities to levy a tax on secondary residences based on a resolution of the municipal council. f an apartment is only used for tourism purposes and not as a secondary residence, for example, the burden of proof shifts to the owner. This should help to curb the emergence of more and more second homes, which are considered unsustainable for the development of communities in tourism regions.

At the end of March 2023, the municipal council of the Styrian tourist community of Schladming decided to levy the tax.

Secondary residence tax

The subject of the levy is secondary residences – any residence that is not a principal residence (the latter is established where a person has settled with the demonstrable intention or the intention evident from the circumstances to create the center of his or her living relations) is considered a secondary residence if the person concerned occupies a dwelling there, provided that the circumstances indicate that he or she will retain and use the dwelling. For this purpose, dwellings are considered to be premises suitably equipped for residential purposes, which can be used by the owner without substantial modification to meet a need for living, even if only on a temporary basis.

Explicitly excluded from the obligation to pay the levy are dwellings that are used

- serve almost exclusively for professional purposes (commuting), educational purposes, purposes of study, apprenticeship, or military or civilian service;

- serve agricultural or forestry purposes, such as the cultivation of alpine pastures or forestry crops;

- are no longer used by owners as their main residence for health or age-related reasons;

- Are used by caregivers or serve a care residence.

Who must pay the secondary residence tax?

Those liable to pay the tax are the property owners of the dwelling, but in the case of a building lease, the persons entitled to the building lease. However, if the dwelling is rented, leased or otherwise provided for an indefinite period or for at least six months, the other owners (such as tenants, leaseholders) are liable to pay the tax for the duration of the provision. The tax claim arises at the end of the respective calendar year.

Caution: Obligation for self-calculation!

Persons liable to pay the tax must calculate the tax themselves and notify the competent tax office of the self-calculated amount for each calendar year and the usable floor space of the dwelling by March 31 of the following year and pay it within four weeks of notification of the self-calculation.

Reversal of burden of proof

The person otherwise liable to pay the tax must prove that there is no secondary residence in a specific case (e.g. because the apartment is used for tourism) or that one of the exceptions listed above applies to an existing secondary residence. If the circumstances of the individual case make it unreasonable to expect the taxpayer to provide such proof, a prima facie case will suffice.

Amount of tax

With regard to the amount of the levy, the Styrian legislature has given the municipalities some leeway; it may not exceed EUR 1000 per calendar year for apartments with 100 m² of usable floor space and is to be reduced or increased accordingly, depending on the actual size. In Schladming, the municipal council has decreed the maximum value.

Attorney for real estate law

Attorney at Law Dr. Simon Harald Baier LL.M. advises on all questions in relation to a secondary residence, on business law and real estate law.

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