Accountancy in Switzerland

Country overview

Territory

Switzerland has an area of 41,285 square kilometres (15,940 square miles).

Switzerland borders Germany in the north, Austria and the Principality of Liechtenstein in the east, Italy in the south and France in the west. This means that three important European cultures meet in Switzerland – those of the Germanspeaking region, the French and the Italian.

Population

About 8.3 million people live in Switzerland. Switzerland has a high population density, with 256 people per square km (663 per square mile) of the productive area. In the agglomerations, which cover about 20% of the total area, the density is 637 per square km (1,650 per square mile).

Religion

‘I have a Protestant culture inside me and a Catholic background. Seriousness and pleasure. Intransigence and balance.’ Jacques Chessex (1934 – 2009) Poet, novelist, art critic.

The Church, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, have been important in shaping modern Switzerland and its people’s identity, even if the religion is no longer relevant to many people’s lives.

Languages spoken

  • Italian (8.1% of the population)
  • French (22.5% of the population)
  • German (63.5% of the population)
  • Romansch (0.5% of the population)

Administration

Switzerland is a federal country formed by 26 Cantons with very large legislative powers. Rules and regulations for setting up and running a business in Switzerland depend, therefore, on the location of the business itself.

Federal and Cantonal incentives can be granted to new investments.

Economic overview

Economic activity / Labour force

Switzerland is one of the most important financial and service centres in the world and has one of the hardest currencies.

Internationally recognized institutes consistently give the country top ranking for legal security, long term stability, guaranteed protection of free competition and property ownership and minimal bureaucracy.

These fundamental aspects make Switzerland an advantageous European location for establishing business.

It is a prime location for international headquarters and management centres. Successful multinationals from all over the world have moved to Switzerland, and the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU are an important factor in the continuing expansion of the trade and investment relationships between them.

The highly developed transport and telecommunication systems, a highly qualified and motivated workforce, high quality and productivity, the absence of strikes, one of the highest number of working hours per year in the world, and the very low capital costs are just some of the features which make Switzerland a competitive business location.

The banking industry is one of the most important sectors of the Swiss economy. The laws regulating the banking system offer extensive protection for domestic as well as foreign investors.

A highly skilled population, very good universities and technical high schools, 2 Institutes of technology among the best in the world (ETH Zurich and EPFL Lausanne) and an excellent school system guarantee the availability of a skilled workforce.

The labour market is characterized by a liberal legal framework and the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons with the EU allows the free movement of individuals with the EU.

Exchange controls

Switzerland is traditionally neutral and is not a member of the European Union Economic Area. It derives however a big portion of its natural income from exports and is therefore well connected with all European Countries, the USA and the Far Eastern Countries.

Switzerland is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and is one of the first countries to sign the agreement with the European Union for the establishment of a European Free Trade Zone. It is a member of OECD and GATT, the Bretton Woods Institutions and actively co-operates with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

In addition to the EFTA Conventions and the Free Trade Agreements with the European Union (EU), Switzerland currently has a network of 28 free trade agreements (FTAs) with 38 partners outside the EU, including a Free Trade Agreement with the People’s Republic of China and one with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Since December 12, 2008, Switzerland has formally been part of the European Schengen Area, a zone covering 4.85 million square kilometres and offering unrestricted travel to 650 million Europeans. Switzerland has now access to the instruments for cooperation on security within the EU.

There are no more passport checks at country borders, but police checks are being stepped up and replaced by random controls within border regions and in international trains.

Swiss tourism will benefit from this: tourists requiring a visa for travelling from growing markets such as China, India or Russia no longer require an additional visa for Switzerland when travelling to Europe.

As Switzerland is not a member of the EU custom union, controls of goods will continue to be carried out as before.

Imports and exports of industrial products are exempt from custom and contingent restrictions. Contrary to most countries, Switzerland has custom duties based  on weight.

Transport infrastructure

As international ratings confirm, Switzerland has the best-maintained and developed infrastructure in Europe after Denmark and Finland.

The country’s business infrastructure is also very well developed and maintained. No other country invests as much per capita into telecommunications as does Switzerland.

Postal services, air, road and train transportation, are safe and reliable:

  • The Swiss Post provides nationwide postal services including money transfer services. Business travellers have a choice of three major airports, which provide direct transcontinental flights.
  • The Zurich airport is one of the international hubs, at present, 190 destinations in over 80 countries are served. From the two other international airports, Geneva and Basel, there are many flights to the most important European business centres and some direct flights to overseas destinations.
  • To use the national highways, every domestic or foreign vehicle up to 3.5 tons must have a windshield sticker (CHF 40, approx.: USD 40/EUR 40). This sticker is valid for an entire calendar year.

Energy supply is ensured at all times, and renewable energy sources such as waterpower and highly reliable nuclear reactors, grant cheaper energy then other European countries.

Information technology and e-communication companies will find the Swiss infrastructure first–rate and able to meet their stringent performance requirements.


Latest version updated 1st November 2017

Country Breakdown

8.372

Million

Population

CHF

Swiss Franc

Currency

$ 658.8

Billion

GDP

41,285

km2