Vienna’s position on the doorstep of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) make it the ideal location for international businesses to take advantage of new trading opportunities opening up between the western and eastern Europe.
“Export and foreign trade have always been crucial to Austria, and Vienna is perfectly placed to take advantage of this,” explains Andrew Dickson, International Business Director at Grant Thornton Austria. “It is firmly established as a gateway city and probably has been for more than 400 years, since the time of the Hapsburg empire.”
“Around 25% of the population of Vienna actually have a migration background: the vast majority of those are from central and eastern Europe and the Balkans. And the trading links that the city has with other countries have been there for a long time – they are already significant but we see further potential to develop.”
Dickson adds: “Vienna is right on the eastern border of the country, which means that it is on the doorstep of economies like Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary. It has access to a market of 300 million people within a five-hour drive – so it is perfectly placed in terms of logistics.”
An ideal place to set up
“Another important factor is that Vienna is a very attractive place both for companies and for individuals to come to,” Christoph Schmidl, Partner at Grant Thornton Austria, points out. “From an individual’s point of view, Vienna is a very safe city to live in and there are a wide range of activities from culture to outdoors activities. A lot of people come here with children and we have an excellent and broad educational system, from schools to universities.”
Indeed, Vienna has been ranked the most liveable city in the world for the 10th year in a row by the Mercer Quality of life survey., a study that takes into account a wide range of economic, environmental, cultural, infrastructure and health factors.
“Meanwhile, from a company perspective, Austria has a high number of double-taxation agreements with other countries,” Schmidl adds. “And we have a regime known as group taxation where we can put the taxable results of a group of companies into a single pot and have taxation only at one level.” This means businesses can include foreign group companies in Austrian taxation – so, for example, if a Viennese business has a subsidiary in Slovakia which is showing a loss, this loss can be used to reduce the corporate income tax burden in Austria. “There are also favourable tax rules for expats,” he says.
While Austria has a strong automotive and manufacturing sector across much of the country, Vienna’s focus is more in sectors such as financial and professional services – especially banking, legal and insurance. “There are over 400 international companies which have their regional or international headquarters in Vienna itself,” Dickson explains. “Samsung, Shell, McDonald’s, HP, Siemens and DHL all have regional headquarters here.”
But Vienna can also boast a thriving startup scene, underpinned by strong research and development incentives from the government as well as the city’s highly skilled workforce. Schmidl says: “We have a very strong biotech sector and software development is getting more and more important. Over the past few years the government has steadily increased R&D grants, so the environment will get even more attractive for companies.”
The Austrian Business Agency can provide assistance and advice to businesses thinking of setting up in Vienna, Dickson says.
Gateway to central and eastern Europe
As a key member of the EU, Austria has unfettered trading access to economies across the continent – and Vienna is the ideal place to take advantage of these opportunities, especially in eastern and central regions.
The city’s attractive business tax regime and high quality of life are two more compelling reasons to come here.
Want to know more?
Vienna’s trading history and excellent business environment make it the ideal gateway for companies looking to expand into central and eastern Europe, as well as other EU member states. To find out more about establishing your business here, contact Andrew Dickson or Christoph Schmidl.
Vienna quick facts
- Location: Eastern Austria
- Time zone: Central European Time GMT +0100
- Population: 1.9 million
- GDP: US$105 billion, 2018 
- Industrial strengths: Financial and professional services, technology
- Growth sectors: Biotech, fintech, software
- Regional access: Budapest 45 minutes by air; Munich 1 hour; Berlin 1 hour 20 minutes; Rome 1 hour 40 minutes; Paris 1 hour 50 minutes.