Austria meets Switzerland - An Exchange of Experiences
11.07.2019 At the beginning of May the first exchange of experiences took place between an employee of the University of Applied Sciences in Graz (Austria) and the Department of Economics of the Bern University of Applied Sciences (Switzerland). Therefore, Rolf Grünbichler visited his colleagues Thomas Längin and Daniel Fankhauser for a guest lecture. The impressions from the exchange experience are described as followed by Rolf.
The first hurdle to get over was the regional distance between the universities of applied sciences. If one drove the distance by car, it would take about 9 hours and 850 km in one direction. However, one can also travel more or less comfortably by night train. It goes directly from Graz to Zurich and the journey takes about 9 hours. In Zurich one needs to change the train and it takes approximately one hour to get to Bern. The total travel time is a little over 12 hours.
Now I've finally arrived. It's half past eleven in the morning and Thomas was already waiting at Bern main station to accompany me to the hotel for check-in. After leaving my luggage there, we started our day trip by train towards Kandersteg, where we wanted to take a short hike to Lake Oeschinen. Before the tour, we strengthened ourselves with lunch: a traditional Swiss Rösti in the Valais style.
After lunch, we started our ascent to the Oeschinensee, which is located at an average altitude of about 1,600 m. After a little more than an hour, a lively exchange and a very steep ascent we arrived at our destination and were rewarded with a fabulous view over the lake. Although the weather was not very good - it was cloudy and it was even snowing for a while- there was a pictorial view over the lake, which I won’t forget easily.
At about 4 p.m. we left to return to the station. The way back was faster due to gravity, so that we had time for coffee in a restaurant before departure.
We arrived at the hotel at about half past six. Daniel was already waiting in the restaurant of the hotel. Now we had to be fast: up to the room, change, freshen up and down again to go to the city for dinner. The way led us to Restaurant Harmonie, a traditional inn in the center of Bern, which exists since 1915 and is run by the third generation. The visit almost failed due to limited space at the restaurant. Thanks to Daniel we were still able to have dinner at the restaurant and got the regulars’ table. Of course we ordered a traditional Swiss dish: a cheese fondue. It goes without mentioning that it was the best cheese fondue I've ever had. Fruit pieces were served with the fondue, which was a new experience for me. Pear pieces in particular give the cheese its fruity aroma. For this purpose, about two pear pieces are put into the fondue and heated with the cheese. Altogether, it was a very comfortable evening, which was used predominantly for the exchange of experiences. Tax issues played just as important a role as business management.
The whole excursion and the dinner were dedicated to the exchange of experiences. In general, the participants talked about the system of universities of applied sciences in the two countries, the curriculum up to the individual courses, the examination modalities up to cultural differences and tax law peculiarities. In particular, there are differences in the examination dates. While examination weeks are offered at the end of the semester in Switzerland, the examination dates in our university usually take place two weeks after the last course and thus spread over the semester.
The second day was completely spent at the University of Applied Sciences. After Thomas picked me up at half past seven, we went together to the university. The first two-hour lecture was held by Thomas on the subject of IFRS. I was especially impressed by the interest of the students, who constantly asked exciting questions. I also used the opportunity at the end of the second lecture to give a small lecture on the tax burden in Austria. Following the lunch in the canteen, I got to know other colleagues and we exchanged our experiences.
My guest lecture followed at 12:30 am: The taxation of legal entities in Austria. I presented it in the auditorium, which offers space for 200 students. I was particularly impressed by the equipment: two projectors, a microphone with loudspeakers, a control element for quickly switching monitors, a document camera, a computer, etc. In the context of the guest lecture, it was also possible to calculate examples, which were displayed on the projectors. The focus was on the taxation of corporations as well as the Austrian specialty of group taxation. The possibility to summarize the company results in a group of companies and thus subject them to corporate income tax in their entirety. This is therefore unique, since the principle of individual taxation applies in tax law, i.e. each tax subject is taxed individually. At the end of the lecture there was still time for questions, which some students used to get answers to their remaining questions. In particular, the fact that wage tax – as opposed to Switzerland - is paid by the employer to the tax office on behalf of the employee was of interest.
Afterwards I took the opportunity to listen to Daniel's lecture on Swiss VAT (parts 9 and 10). It is interesting to note that the main features of VAT law are similar and the same problems arise. In both countries, for example, the distinction between delivery and service is a problem. Furthermore, I gained important knowledge from this lecture. The day ended at 4:30 pm at the university - unfortunately, I can only add. I would have liked to see even more.
In the evening, I went to the city for dinner and was strolling through the center of Bern. The train took me back home; the journey took eleven hours. Finally, I would like to thank Thomas, Daniel and the nice colleagues for the two exciting and interesting days and the exchange of experiences. I am looking forward to visiting you again and to giving a guest lecture!
See you soon,
Rubrik: International, Fachhochschule