Austrian minister backs tax-free earning increase only for Ukrainians

Talks about raising the limit on bonus benefits have been going on for weeks in Austria, with the government looking into whether the tax-free additional income should be raised from €110 to €485 per month and whether this should apply to all refugees or just Ukrainian ones. [Shutterstock/Vanja Stokic]

The amount of money refugees should be able to earn tax-free should be increased only for Ukrainians, not those from elsewhere, according to Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP).

Talks about raising the limit on the amount of earnings that are tax-free have been going on for weeks in Austria, with the government looking into whether the tax-free additional income should be raised from €110 to €485 per month and whether this should apply to all refugees or just Ukrainian ones.

According to Karner, it should not apply to all refugees.

European countries that have welcomed Ukrainian refugees with open arms since the start of the war in Ukraine have been criticised for not being as welcoming during the 2015 refugee crisis.

The proposal to extend the limit has also received strong criticism. Ukrainians and Afghans should not be treated differently without a factual reason for it, constitutional lawyer Heinz Mayer told Ö1‘s Mittagsjournal on Tuesday (17 May).

The province of Carinthia, led by the Social Democratic SPÖ party, has already rejected the proposal, citing legal reasons.

The Greens, the coalition partner of the ruling ÖVP, have instead asked for the proposal to be relaxed to reduce bureaucracy and tensions among refugees, Green politician Georg Bürstmayr told Ö1 in an interview.

Karner responded to the criticism on Thursday (19 May), citing an expert opinion that points to “substantial differences in factual circumstances” between displaced Ukrainians and those from other target groups “which can objectively justify a different legal regulation of the supply benefits.”

The opinion also points to the “provisional character” of the right of residence and labour market access as justifying the different treatment.

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