Introduction to differential taxation Austria

Differential taxation in Austria is an important tax instrument that is particularly important for resellers of second-hand goods such as cars, antiques, works of art and similar items. This procedure allows retailers to pay VAT only on the difference between the purchase price and the sales price, instead of on the entire sales price. This avoids a double tax burden, which is particularly advantageous when trading in used goods purchased by private individuals.

Basic principle of differential taxation

The basic principle of differential taxation is based on the idea of reducing the tax burden for resellers. As a rule, VAT is levied on the total sales price of a product or service. With differential taxation, on the other hand, tax is only applied to the difference between the purchase and sales price of the item. This principle is particularly advantageous for those traders who buy used goods from persons who are not entitled to deduct input tax and subsequently resell these goods.

Differenzbesteuerung Österreich

Goal and advantages

The main aim of differential taxation is to ensure fair taxation and avoid distortions of competition that could arise if goods were subject to full VAT more than once. By only taxing the increase in value of the goods, equal treatment is achieved with new products, for which VAT is also only paid once. The advantage for retailers is that their products become more competitive in terms of price, as the tax burden is lower.

Areas of application

Differential taxation is used in particular when trading in certain used goods. These include used cars, antiques, works of art and collectors’ items. It is important that the seller is considered a reseller, i.e. that he regularly buys and sells such items. However, not all product groups qualify for margin taxation. For example, the application is limited to precious metals or precious stones, unless they are not traded in their original form but as part of another object.

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Table: Differential taxation Austria

Section Key points
Introduction – Definition of margin taxation<br>- Objective: Avoidance of double taxation<br>- Area of application: Trade in second-hand goods
Principle of differential taxation – Tax is only levied on the difference between the purchase and sales price<br>- Target group: Resellers of used goods<br>- Purpose: Fairness and promotion of competition
Forms of differential taxation Individual differential taxation: Individual calculation per item<br>- Total differential taxation: Calculation based on the total difference of all transactions<br>- Decision criteria: Type and value of the goods, administrative costs
Calculation – Formula: Sales tax = (sales price – purchase price) x sales tax rate<br>- Example with used car purchase
Invoicing – Reference to differential taxation required<br>- No separate VAT statement<br>- Complete invoice details must be available<br>- To be avoided: Display of sales tax, lack of reference to differential taxation
Application in practice – Industry-specific application<br>- Challenges: Documentation, verification by tax authorities<br>- Solutions: Use of software, specialist advice, adaptation of business processes
Legal framework – Fundamentals of the VAT Act and EU directives<br>- Current and future developments: Legal changes, digitalization, harmonization in the EU, adaptation to ecological goals

Principle of differential taxation

The principle of differential taxation is a tax procedure that is used in particular in the trade in used goods. It allows traders to pay VAT not on the entire sales price of an item, but only on the difference between the purchase and sales price. This system is designed to avoid multiple taxation and to facilitate the trade in used goods for tax purposes. The margin scheme helps to ensure fair taxation and make the resale of used goods more attractive.

Key aspects of differential taxation

  1. Tax base: Under differential taxation, VAT is not levied on the entire amount of the sales price, but only on the difference between the purchase price (paid by the retailer when purchasing the goods) and the sales price (paid by the end customer).

  2. Target group: The scheme is primarily aimed at dealers in second-hand goods, such as used cars, antiques, works of art and other second-hand goods. These traders often buy goods from people who are not entitled to deduct input tax and sell them on.

  3. Purpose: The main purpose of differential taxation is to avoid double taxation and to promote trade in second-hand goods. If the goods change hands several times, the aim is to prevent the full VAT from being charged on the entire sales price for each sale.

  4. Scope of application: The margin scheme is intended in particular for trade in certain types of goods. It does not apply to all product groups and is often limited to used goods purchased by persons not entitled to deduct input tax.

Advantages of differential taxation

  • Reduction of the tax burden: For retailers, the VAT payable is reduced as it is only levied on the margin (profit margin).
  • Competitiveness: Products can be offered at more competitive prices as the tax burden is lower.
  • Avoidance of double taxation: The regulation helps to avoid potential double taxation of goods that are already used and therefore do not allow input tax to be deducted.

Challenges and restrictions

Despite the advantages, there are also challenges and restrictions when applying the margin scheme. This includes the need for careful bookkeeping in order to accurately document purchase and sales prices as well as the corresponding margins. In addition, the regulation is not applicable to all goods, which can increase the complexity of the tax regulations for traders.

Forms of differential taxation

There are basically two forms of differential taxation in Austria: individual differential taxation and total differential taxation. Both approaches aim to minimize the VAT burden for dealers of used goods by only charging VAT on the difference between the purchase and sales price. However, they differ in their application and calculation method.

Taxation of individual differences

In the case of itemized taxation, VAT is calculated individually for each item sold. This means that the tax is applied to the difference between the purchase price and the sales price of each individual item.

Decision criteria:

  • Applicable if the reseller can document exactly at what price each item was purchased and sold.
  • Particularly suitable for retailers who sell high-quality or more expensive individual items, where the profit margin per item can vary significantly.

Example: A dealer buys an antique piece of furniture for 1,000 euros and sells it for 1,500 euros. VAT is only charged on the difference of 500 euros.

Total differential taxation

Total difference taxation is a simplified method in which the tax is calculated on the total difference of all sales in a certain period, for example a month or a quarter. All purchase and sales prices are added together and the tax is applied to the total difference.

Decision criteria:

  • Suitable for traders who trade a large number of items with low individual values.
  • A good option for retailers who prefer to minimize the administrative effort, as not every item has to be billed individually.

Example: A used car dealer sells ten cars in one month with a total purchase price of 50,000 euros and a total sales price of 70,000 euros. VAT is calculated on the total difference of EUR 20,000.

Forms of differential taxation

The differential taxation is calculated on the basis of the difference between the sales price and the purchase price of the used goods. The general calculation formula for differential taxation is as follows:

Sales tax=(sales price-purchase price)×sales tax rate

It is important to note that VAT is only charged on the difference, i.e. the profit that the seller makes on the sale of the used item, and not on the entire sale price. The VAT rate varies depending on the country; in many EU countries it is 20% or 19%.

Example calculation with a used car

Let’s assume a used car dealer in a country with a VAT rate of 19% buys a used car for 8,000 euros and sells it for 10,000 euros.

  • Purchase price: 8,000 euros
  • Selling price: 10,000 euros
  • Value added tax rate: 19%

Calculation of the difference:

Difference=sales price-purchase price

Difference=10,000 Euro-8,000 Euro

Difference=2,000 Euro

Calculation of sales tax on the difference:

Sales tax=difference×sales tax rate

Value added tax=2,000 Euro×0.19

Let us carry out this calculation to determine the exact amount of VAT.

The sales tax that the used car dealer must pay on the difference between the sales price and the purchase price is 380 euros.

This means that EUR 380 of the profit (EUR 2,000 difference between purchase price and sales price) must be paid to the tax office as sales tax. The net profit after deduction of VAT would therefore be EUR 1,620.

Invoicing under the margin scheme

Invoicing under differential taxation has special requirements and requires certain information on the invoice. The most important points are summarized here:

Requirements and notes

  1. Reference to differential taxation: It must be explicitly noted on the invoice that differential taxation is applied in accordance with § 25a UStG. This note is necessary to clarify that the VAT is not calculated on the total amount as usual, but only on the difference between the retailer’s purchase price and sales price.

  2. No VAT shown: In contrast to regular invoices, VAT is not shown separately. As the tax is levied on the difference and not on the total amount, the tax amount may not be listed on the invoice as usual.

  3. Complete invoice details: Despite the special nature of differential taxation, all other legal requirements for an invoice must be met. This includes details such as the date of issue, a unique invoice number, full names and addresses of the supplier and customer, a description of the goods or services supplied, the delivery date or performance period and the payment.

What should be avoided?

  • VAT disclosure: A common error is the separate disclosure of VAT on the invoice, which is not permitted in the case of differential taxation. This can lead to confusion for the buyer and cause problems during a tax audit.

  • Lack of reference to differential taxation: The omission of a reference to the application of differential taxation can also lead to misunderstandings and legal problems. It is important that it is clearly stated on every invoice that the margin scheme is applied.

  • Incomplete invoice details: As with every invoice, the legal requirements for an invoice must be met in full. Neglecting these requirements can lead to problems when asserting the invoice for tax purposes at a later date.

In summary, special care is required when invoicing under the margin scheme. Clear references to the application of differential taxation and compliance with all other legal requirements for invoices are essential in order to avoid complications under tax law.

Advantages and disadvantages of differential taxation

Differential taxation offers certain advantages for both the seller and the buyer, but also brings with it some challenges. Here is a summary of the key aspects:

Advantages of differential taxation

  1. Tax savings for the retailer: The biggest advantage is the potential tax savings for the retailer. As VAT is only levied on the difference between the purchase and sales price, this can lead to a lower tax burden, especially if the trading margin is small.

  2. Competitive advantages: The reduced tax burden can enable traders to offer their goods at more competitive prices, which can provide a competitive advantage over suppliers who apply standard taxation.

  3. Simpler stock valuation: For used goods, differential taxation can simplify stock valuation, as the tax calculation is made on a flat-rate basis and does not have to be calculated individually for each item.

Disadvantages of differential taxation

  1. Complexity and administrative effort: The application of differential taxation can lead to increased administrative effort, as the purchase and sales prices must be precisely documented for each item in order to correctly calculate the tax difference.

  2. Limited right to deduct input tax: A significant disadvantage is that the retailer cannot claim input tax deduction for goods sold under the margin scheme. This can be particularly disadvantageous if significant input tax is incurred on the input services.

  3. Not applicable to all goods: The margin scheme is not applicable to all goods and services. It is limited to certain types of products, such as second-hand items, works of art, collectors’ items and antiques, which restricts its applicability.

Application of differential taxation in practice

Areas of application

  1. Industry-specific application: The margin scheme is mainly used in sectors in which used goods are traded. This includes the car trade, the trade in art and antiques, as well as the sale of used electronic devices and collector’s items.

  2. Identification of goods subject to differential taxation: One of the first challenges in practice is the correct identification of goods subject to differential taxation. Not every used product automatically qualifies.


  1. Documentation and bookkeeping: A major practical challenge is the precise documentation of purchase and sales prices and the calculation of the tax difference for each item. This requires a reliable accounting system.

  2. Review by tax authorities: Companies that apply the margin scheme may be subject to close scrutiny by the tax authorities. The correct application of tax regulations and complete documentation are therefore essential.

Solution approaches

  1. Software solutions: Many companies use specialized software to manage the accounting and documentation requirements associated with the margin scheme. Such systems can help to minimize errors and reduce administrative costs.

  2. Advice and training: In view of the complexity of differential taxation, it is advisable for companies to seek advice and train their employees accordingly. This can help to avoid mistakes and ensure that regulations are followed correctly.

  3. Adaptation of business processes: Companies may need to adapt their business processes in order to effectively meet the requirements of the margin scheme. This includes the introduction of new processes for recording and evaluating goods.

Legal framework and developments

Legal basis

  1. Value Added Tax Act (UStG): In Germany, the Value Added Tax Act forms the legal basis for differential taxation. In particular, the regulations on differential taxation are set out in certain paragraphs of the UStG, which define the scope of application and the requirements.

  2. EU directives: As VAT is harmonized in the European Union, EU directives also play an important role. These define the framework conditions within which the Member States can apply the margin scheme. The transposition of these directives into national law ensures a certain degree of uniformity within the EU.

Current developments

  1. Changes in legislation: Changes in national tax laws or in EU directives can have an impact on the application of differential taxation. Companies must therefore always stay up to date to ensure that they comply with current regulations.

  2. Digitization and e-commerce: The increase in online trade, including the sale of used goods over the Internet, presents new challenges and opportunities for the margin scheme. Adjustments to the legal framework may be necessary to take account of these developments.

Future developments

  1. Harmonization at EU level: In view of the ongoing integration of the internal market, there could be further efforts to further harmonize the rules for differential taxation within the EU. This would pursue the goal of simplifying and promoting cross-border trade in used goods.

  2. Alignment with environmental and social objectives: Differential taxation could also be seen as a tool to support circular economy and sustainability objectives. Legal adjustments could aim to further promote the trade in used goods in order to conserve resources and reduce waste.

Conclusion: Differential taxation Austria

The margin scheme in Austria offers important tax relief for dealers of used goods by limiting taxation to the difference between the purchase price and the selling price. The aim of this system is to avoid double taxation and to make the trade in second-hand goods more attractive and fairer.

We have seen that differential taxation not only brings tax advantages for resellers, but also promotes competition by potentially lowering prices for end consumers. However, the application of differential taxation requires a good understanding of the legal framework and careful bookkeeping in order to meet the requirements of the tax authorities.

The challenges of differential taxation, particularly with regard to documentation and compliance, should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, modern software solutions and expert advice offer ways to overcome these challenges effectively.

The legal framework and developments in the area of differential taxation show that it is a dynamic field that is evolving in line with technological advances and market conditions. Harmonization within the EU and adaptation to environmental and social objectives could lead to further changes in the future that will further promote the trade in used goods.

In conclusion, it can be said that the margin scheme is an essential instrument for the trade in second-hand goods in Austria. It not only offers tax advantages, but also supports sustainable business practices. Companies operating in this sector should keep up to date with the latest developments and best practices in order to make the most of the advantages of differential taxation and minimize legal risks.