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WORKING IN AUSTRIA

Can I work for my foreign employer as a self-employed person in Austria?

Setting yourself up as self-employed in Austria is a fairly complicated process, which means you can't necessarily continue doing the role you did in your previous country.

Can I work for my foreign employer as a self-employed person in Austria?
Even if you and your employer both want to continue working together after your move to Austria, you still have bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

As part of our service to our readers and members, we often answer questions on life in Switzerland via email when people get in touch with us. 

When these have value to the greater Local Austria community, we put them together as an article, with ‘reader question’ in the headline. 

Have you got a question, query, comment or issue to raise? Get in touch at [email protected]

I’m moving to Austria for my partner’s job, and I’d like to continue working for my current employer. They don’t have an office in Austria but they are happy for me to work remotely. Can I do this on a self-employed basis?

This is a situation many foreign residents may find themselves in, if you’re moving to Austria for a reason other than your own work, so we’ll look at a few scenarios. 

The simplest case is if your employer is already established in Austria. In this case, it may well be possible for you to be employed by their Austrian entity, either through an internal transfer or by applying for a job there.

READ MORE: How to prepare for your Austrian tax return if you’re self-employed 

Even if their Austrian branch is in a different city or region to the area you’re moving to, it would be possible for them to employ you from the perspective of Austrian employment law, so it’s just your company’s policy you’d need to look into.

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If your employer is not established in Austria (ie. does not have its business registered there and does not pay taxes to Austria), things will be trickier.

The key issue is not whether your employer already does business with Austria-based clients, but whether the employer themselves is registered in Austria.

In that case, your employer cannot directly employ you if you are registered for tax purposes in Austria.

What if my employer is not registered in Austria?

Assuming that you are registered in Austria, that leaves you with two main options.

The first is to become self-employed. There are set processes for this in Austria, including getting a trade licence (Gewerbeschein) for some types of professions, and registering with social security (SVS) and the tax office (Finanzamt).

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about becoming a freelancer in Austria

If you are able to establish yourself as a self-employed worker in Austria, you could work for your former employer, but you’d need to ensure you met Austria’s strict conditions for true self-employment.

When you register, SVS will ask you questions about your work to determine which category of employment you fall into.

You and the company you work for cannot decide this; it’s up to SVS who use a range of criteria to assess the working relationship.

The reason for this is to avoid “bogus self-employment” where companies do not pay taxes in Austria but hire people under conditions that effectively amount to employment.

“Signs for an independent business are: having more than one client; not being dependent on the “employer”; having your own structure/not being part of a corporate work structure (in terms of workflows, reporting etc); having your own work materials; having the right to be substituted by someone else (to carry out the work set); issuing invoices after completing a project rather than issuing the same amount on a monthly basis,” explains Claudia Barton, a tax consultant who specialises in working with expat clients.

There’s no one criteria which will determine your employment status, so SVS will make an overall assessment.

This means that if you want to continue working for your former employer as a self-employed person, you would need to look over the contract very carefully and would most likely need to make some changes to your working relationship, including the workflow and work structure as explained by Claudia above.

Note also that taxes and especially social security contributions are quite high for self-employed workers in Austria. A rule of thumb commonly cited by self-employed people is to set aside 50 percent of your income to pay business-related fees.

Depending on which country you worked in before, this may mean that you need to charge your former employer higher rates; when you were an employee, in most countries it will be the case that they were paying social security contributions and taxes in addition to the fees you paid, whereas self-employed people shoulder all these payments and need to adjust their rates accordingly.

READ MORE: How to survive as a freelancer in Austria

Pros of this approach are the increased flexibility, and the opportunity to add new clients to your roster, but the downsides are that your role may not work on a self-employed basis of it was designed as an employee role.

If you’re new to self-employment in Austria, it is highly advisable to seek help from a tax advisor and/or other advice services such as the Expat Business Agency in Vienna if that’s where you’re based.

There is an alternative option which some expats choose to take: using an umbrella company or employer-of-record. In this scenario, you are officially employed by one company which hires you out to the company you want to work for.

The employer-of-record charges a fee to your ’employer’ to cover a salary which is paid out to you, the necessary employer taxes and social security contributions, and usually a fee.

As an example, the umbrella company Oyster HR has a salary calculator, which shows that to pay someone the equivalent of a €40,000 gross annual salary, the company would need to pay €4,992 each month.

This is the route which British national Tom Barron took after moving to Vienna in 2019. He initially worked for multiple clients on a self-employment basis, but slowly began to spend most of his time working for one company.

Telling The Local why he chose to go down this route, he explained: “Having had a mix of experiences, both employed and self-employed, I decided I would like to establish a consistent income. Also, I had learned from my self-employment experience that I needed to improve my German before doing my own taxes and paperwork again. I found it difficult to manage self-employment with my own German level and so then having an umbrella company do this, whilst little changes were made to my day to day work, made total sense.”

EXPLAINED: How freelancers in Austria can pay four times less in social insurance

His client spoke with the umbrella company (it’s usually the employer who needs to do this, rather than the person who will become their employee) and received a contract which his legal advisor reviewed.

He notes: “If you have various projects from various companies, self-employment will usually work just fine. If you plan on working for one foreign company, it’s safer to go through an umbrella company.”

Advantages of this option include the limited paperwork and administration compared to self-employment, and accessing the benefits that come with being an employee. 

Useful links

Examples of umbrella companies operating in Austria: Deel, OysterHR, Remote

Self-Employed in Austria

Vienna Business Agency

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WEATHER

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

With violent storms becoming increasingly common in Austria, here’s how to protect yourself (and your home) this summer.

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

Storms are a regular occurrence in Austria during the summer months, but the strength and frequency seems to be increasing.

Overnight on Tuesday, June 28th, both the Pöllinger and the Treffner rivers in Carinthia burst their banks causing widespread flooding, mudslides and damage across the region.

Reports on Wednesday morning said the villages of Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach (Villach-Land district) were still metres under water and several people had been rescued from the deluge.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

According to ORF, emergency services were still struggling to reach some areas and there were unconfirmed reports of missing people.

A Tweet from Unwetter-Freaks said: “Bad pictures from #Arriach in #Kärnten , which was hit by several storm cells last night. According to ORF, the place is currently cut off from the outside world and cannot be reached by the emergency services.”

Earlier this week, rural areas in Upper Austria were also hit by storms (overnight, June 27th) bringing torrential rain and hail the size of golf balls, which caused extensive damage to crops and grassland in the key agricultural state.

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

The Klaus reservoir had to be drained of 200 cubic metres of water to avoid flooding and trees were brought down across the province by wind gusts – some up to 91 km/h.

The Kronen Zeitung reports the storm caused damage to around 16,000 hectares of agriculture land, with insurers estimating the cost to be up to €6.5 million.

One Tweet showed the size of the hail on Monday night and read: “In the night we had ‘light’ hail.”

Storms then hit the region again on Tuesday night leading to a lightning strike on a hay barn in the Mühlviertel and the flooding of an underground car park in Linz.

With the summer season far from over and the possibility of more wild weather in the coming months, here’s how to stay safe during storms in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

Check the weather report

It might sound obvious, but checking the weather forecast should be at the top of the list of summer storm preparations.

Unlike in the past, weather reports are now typically reliable, and apps like Bergfex and Accuweather are well-known for providing detailed forecasts and weather warnings.

However, long-range forecasts can change quickly, so if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, be sure to check the weather between 24 and 48 hours before to avoid being caught out.

Additionally, the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) has regular updates about storms and weather forecasts for Austria and users can sign up for email and SMS notifications.

Stay indoors

According to the organisation, Die Helfer Wiens (The Helpers of Vienna) one of the biggest risks during a storm is being hit by a fallen tree or flying debris.

For this reason, they advise people (and pets) to stay indoors during a storm and close all windows and doors. 

If staying in a tent or campervan, it’s also a good idea to seek shelter in a building (if possible) until the storm has passed.

However, if you are outside during lightning, the Austrian Red Cross says the best approach is to crouch down into a ball to reduce the amount of contact you have with the floor.

READ MORE: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Stay away from the cellar

Cellars and underground car parks can quickly become flooded during heavy rain – as seen in recent storms in Upper Austria and Carinthia, and last year during violent storms across Austria.

Flash flooding can happen quickly (the clue is in the name), so stay away from cellars and underground spaces during a storm and call the emergency services if you suspect a flood in your home.

Remove plants and furniture from balconies

Having plants and flowers on a balcony is a lovely way to brighten up an outside space, but they risk being damaged during a storm.

To safeguard your pots and lovingly-planted flora, move them inside – especially during a thunderstorm with strong wind gusts and lightning.

The same applies to any outdoor furniture that could be damaged by wind or hail, like cushions, decorative objects and sun umbrellas.

Park cars under shelter

Hail is one of the leading causes of dents to bodywork on cars and damage to windscreens, both of which can be costly to repair.

If hail is forecast during a storm, park a car in a garage or under shelter, if possible. 

If strong wind is expected, then avoid parking a car under trees as debris, or even the tree itself, could end up landing on the vehicle.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Don’t go into the forest

Whether walking or driving, the best advice is to stay from the forest or areas with lots of trees during a storm.

While sheltering under a tree can protect from rain or hail, lightning or strong wind can bring down trees. This makes the forest a dangerous place to be in a storm.

But if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a forest when a thunderstorm hits, stay away from low branches and tree trunks and crouch down low. Place any walking sticks or metal poles away from you and stay away from metal fences.

Avoid risky activities

Certain outdoor activities are especially hazardous if there’s a lightning storm. 

Any activity in an open area or that puts you into contact with water or metal is strongly advised against. So that means fishing, swimming, boating, cycling and golfing are out until the storm is over. 

Keep torches and candles ready

Power cuts are common during storms, so keep a stock of candles and torches ready in case you end up without electricity for several hours.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable USB charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery during an emergency.

Who to call in an emergency

These are the numbers to call if you need help from the Austrian emergency services during a storm.

122 – fire service (Feuerwehr).

133 – police (Polizei).

144 – ambulance (Krankenwagen or Rettungswagen).

120 – ÖAMTC emergency breakdown service.

123 – ARBÖ emergency breakdown service.

140 – mountain rescue.

Finally, 112 is the single European emergency number, whose operators will direct you to the relevant services. This number can even be called on a locked mobile phone without needing the pin.

Find out more with The Local’s guide on who to call and what to say in an emergency.

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