Accountancy in Switzerland

>> Employment in Switzerland

General

Foreigners wanting to work and live in Switzerland need to obtain a work permit. The same applies for temporary work assignments.

Special concessions exist for people living within a certain distance from the borders. The granting of the permits depends mainly on the availability of an equivalent workforce in Switzerland.

In case of new investments there are usually no problems in receiving the necessary permits.

However, according to the bilateral agreements with the EU, Switzerland  has liberalized the labour market and reached full freedom of movement for  EU nationals.

Social security

The Swiss social security system provides that a portion of the employee’s salary must be withheld for minimum pension insurance, unemployment insurance, insurance against professional and nonprofessional accidents. The charges for the employer are on average about 11.3% of the salary, the charges paid by the employee are on average about 9.2% of the salary. Rates may however change depending on the canton and on the  total salary.

A second private pension insurance is also compulsory for a maximum insured salary up to CHF 84’600, rates vary however depending on the age of the employee (rates from 7% up to 18%) and on the pension insurance scheme agreed by  the company.

Medical insurance is compulsory and generally paid privately.

Taxation of individuals

Except for some few exceptions (e.g. foreigners working in Switzerland), Switzerland does not operate the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system.

Individuals are taxed on income (federal, cantonal and community level) and capital (cantonal and community level) on their worldwide income/capital. As a general rule, all kinds of income are taxed together (employment income, business income, financial income etc.)

In various cantons and at federal level a reduction in the taxation of dividend income from qualifying participations has been introduced.

Capital gains are exempted (on real property there is however a special cantonal tax on capital gains), unless related to a commercial activity of the individual.

Rates and allowances vary in each Canton, so no general indications can be given.

Some cantons levy a real property tax.

Taxation based on consumption

In certain cases, it is possible for individuals to be taxed based on “consumption” instead of income and capital, which can mean a very low fiscal charge in case of high income from assets.  The regulations may again vary in each Canton. Conditions are usually:

  • foreign or Swiss citizenship;
  • individual coming from abroad (not already resident in Switzerland), and
  • no remunerative activity in Switzerland.

Every case should be discussed in advance with the fiscal authorities.

Individuals may apply for the applications of Tax Treaties, if the relevant income is declared and taxed in Switzerland (some exceptions may apply).

At the Federal level, tax on consumption has been revised and the new law has entered into force starting 1st January 2014. The Cantons had two years to adapt their rules. The minimum taxable income is 7 times the rental value of the accommodation. The minimum taxable income at Federal level is CHF 400’000.

Gifts and inheritance tax

Gift and inheritance tax is only levied at Cantonal level (some Cantons do not even have this tax), not at federal level. Gift tax is due at the seat of residence of the donor, inheritance tax is due where the individual had his last residence. No gift or inheritance tax is therefore due in Switzerland by non-residents, except for real property located in Switzerland. Accordingly, no Swiss inheritance tax is due on real property located abroad.

Rates vary in each Canton and depend on the grade of relationship and on the amounts involved. In most Cantons, gift and inheritance tax is not levied  on descendants/ascendants.


Latest version updated 10th November 2017

Country Breakdown

8.372

Million

Population

CHF

Swiss Franc

Currency

$ 658.8

Billion

GDP

41,285

km2