STEP

Title Research

Liechtenstein

In 1719, Emperor Charles VI of the Austro-Hungarian Empire united the Barony of Schellenberg and the County of Vaduz, creating an imperial principality. In 1806, the principality obtained complete sovereignty, acceding to the Rhine Confederation. Since 1921, Liechtenstein has been a constitutional hereditary monarchy with a democratically elected Parliament.

The principality has 11 separate and somewhat autonomous communities. The population is approximately 35,000, most of whom are Roman Catholic.

STEP Switzerland and Liechtenstein website
STEP Switzerland and Liechtenstein branch pages

New developments
  • In April 2009 a new foundation law entered into force.
  • A major tax law reform, now scheduled for 2010, aims to adjust existing tax law to the changed economic and legal environment in Liechtenstein and abroad.
  • In December 2008, the USA and Liechtenstein signed a tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) that allows the exchange of information on tax matters between the two countries.
  • Liechtenstein and Luxembourg are planning to conclude the first double taxation treaty pursuant to OECD standards.
  • Liechtenstein has implemented the 3rd Money Laundering Directive of the EU into national law by overhauling the Liechtenstein Due Diligence Law.

1. Introduction

a. History and background

In 1719, Emperor Charles VI of the Austro-Hungarian Empire united the Barony of Schellenberg and the County of Vaduz, creating an imperial principality. In 1806, the principality obtained complete sovereignty, acceding to the Rhine Confederation. Since 1921, Liechtenstein has been a constitutional hereditary monarchy with a democratically elected Parliament.

The principality has 11 separate and somewhat autonomous communities. The population is approximately 35,000, most of whom are Roman Catholic.

The Parliament consists of 25 members who are directly elected under a system of proportional representation. The government, elected for a period of four years, comprises prime minister, deputy prime minister and three other ministers.

Liechtenstein is a member of the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the World Trade Organisation, and the European Economic Area.

The currency is the Swiss franc (CHF) and the official language is (high) German.

b. Legal system

Liechtenstein has a civil law system, based in part on Austrian law and in part on Swiss law, the major exception being the Law on Persons and Companies 1926 (PGR), which was drafted in Liechtenstein.

There is a distinction between civil and criminal matters (private law) on the one hand, and administrative and constitutional matters (public law) on the other. Courts dealing with private law are the District Court, the Upper Court and the Supreme Court. Civil cases are dealt with at first instance by a single judge, and criminal cases are dealt with by one or more judges, depending on the seriousness of the crime. Appeals are heard by Upper and Supreme Courts.

Public law courts are the Administrative Court (VGH) and the Constitutional Court. The VGH hears appeals from governmental or local authorities and aims to protect citizens against the state. Its decisions are final. The Constitutional Court decides as the first and only instance with regard to appeals relating to protection of constitutionally guaranteed citizens’ rights and acts as a guarantor of the European Convention of Human Rights. It can overturn what would otherwise have been final judgments of the Administrative Court or the Supreme Court.

The EFTA Court in Luxembourg and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg have certain jurisdiction in Liechtenstein.

c. Resources

Principality of Liechtenstein www.liechtenstein.li

The Princely House of Liechtenstein www.fuerstenhaus.li

Government offices’ portal www.llv.li

Constitutional Court www.stgh.li

EFTA Court www.eftacourt.lu

Lawyer magazine www.juristenzeitung.li

Editorial board
Andrew J Baker TEP
Miselva Establishment, Vaduz, Liechtenstein

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