After EU Council Decision: Cash cap now also coming to Austria

Will reaching for cash soon be illegal? © Anne Nygard / Unsplash

The Council of the European Union has agreed on a cash ceiling of 10,000 euros. According to the Council's plans, cash transactions over 10,000 euros are to become illegal. With this, the governments of the member states are finally putting this limit, which was already demanded last year by the EU Commission as a measure against money laundering and the fight against terrorism, on track!

Austria outvoted in Council of Ministers

Austria's Finance Minister Magnus Brunner had recently spoken out against the planned cash ceiling. Germany, which is also skeptical and actually pro-cash, ultimately abstained from the vote after the German Finance Minister Christian Lindner had initially expressed criticism.

The Council of the European Union is the EU body through which the national ministers of the member countries coordinate and jointly coordinate policies.


Guillaume Périgois / Unsplash

As a rule, a qualified majority is sufficient for decisions in the Council. This means that the consent of 15 of the 27 EU states, which together must represent at least 65 percent of the total EU population, is sufficient.

Thus, the regulation is now probably coming despite the rejection or skepticism of traditionally cash-friendly countries such as Austria and Germany.

Does this mean that the introduction of cash restrictions is fixed?

Before a cash limit can come into force, the EU Parliament must also approve the introduction of such a limit. In the so-called trilogue, the Commission, the Council and the Parliament must reach an agreement in order to then start a legislative process.

A regulation becomes effective three years after it has been published in the Official Journal of the EU. Assuming that a new Money Laundering Regulation is also adopted by Parliament next year, we in Austria are likely to have the cash ceiling in 2026, or 2027 at the latest.

What is the situation at the moment?

Around two-thirds of EU countries already have maximum amounts for cash payments. In France and Portugal, for example, only 1,000 euros, in Spain a maximum of 2,500 euros, and in Belgium a maximum of 3,000 euros may change hands in cash - and thus without identity checks. Most recently, Italy's Prime Minister Meloni made people sit up and take notice when she announced that the existing cash limit in Italy would be raised from 2,000 to 10,000 euros.

Austria has so far been one of the most liberal EU member states with regard to cash payments. There is no upper limit on cash payments. In Austria, the love of cash is also traditionally strong. This was demonstrated most recently in the summer of 2022, when more than half a million Austrians signed the referendum "For unrestricted cash payments", clearly opposing any restrictions on cash payments.

Limitation of personal freedom

There are good reasons for cash and against the introduction of restrictions on cash transactions. After all, cash not only means freedom, it also protects privacy and is one of the most secure payment methods.Read our older article on this subject:

7 good reasons to keep paying cash!

Proponents of cash caps argue that it is an important tool in the fight against money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorist financing.

But not everyone who prefers to pay with cash is money laundering or a terrorist. Criminals have long since found completely different ways to transfer their money. Nevertheless, limiting the use of cash puts citizens under general suspicion.

That a restriction on free payment transactions would make money laundering and terrorism more difficult is window dressing, as the annual statistics of the Money Laundering Reporting Office show: In 2021, there were a full 85 convictions in Austria out of just under 5,000 suspected cases.

What about gold?

As far as owning gold is concerned, there are currently no bans or restrictions either in Austria or in the EU, but there are as far as buying gold is concerned.

Gold can also be purchased anonymously only up to 10,000.

As soon as the purchased gold exceeds the equivalent value of 10,000 euros, the Austrian Money Laundering Act obliges gold dealers to record the buyer's data, keep it for 7 years and hand it over upon official request. An anonymous gold purchase is therefore only possible up to the limit of 10,000 euros.

In contrast to other EU countries, the regulation in Austria is still moderate with an anonymity threshold of 10,000 euros. In Germany, for example, this threshold has only been 2000 euros since 2020!

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