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FOREIGNERS

Fresh bid to ban Swiss deal for rich foreigners

A fresh proposal to abolish Switzerland's special tax breaks for rich foreigners was lodged with Swiss federal authorities in Bern on Friday, only a month after the country voted on a similar issue.

If passed into law, the proposal would see all 26 Swiss cantons ban the arrangement, which is already the case in five cantons, including Zurich.

Latest government figures from 2010 indicate that more than 5,000 people benefited from the deal which nets the state nearly 700 million francs ($760 million) in revenue.

Left-wing and green party supporters of the proposal described the existing deal as offering "shameful inequality".

The tax break — instigated in Vaud canton in 1862 — also ran contrary to the Swiss constitution and created rivalry between cantons, supporters of the "Stop Tax Privilege" initiative maintained.

Before it becomes law, the proposal must pass a host of administrative and legal obstacles and then a national referendum, most likely no earlier than two years from now.

While tax exiles pay much less tax in Switzerland than in their own country, the federal government raised the bar recently when it said wealthy individuals would have to pay tax in future at a rate of seven times their rent or the rental value of their home as opposed to the current rate of five times.

To date, five cantons have banned the existing tax deal, following Zurich's lead in 2009.

But the western Swiss canton of Bern, home to French rocker Johnny Hallyday in the ultra-chic ski resort of Gstaad, voted to keep the tax deal in the national referendum on September 23rd.

Those opposed to the latest proposal point out that after Zurich eliminated the system, the canton saw almost half its foreign millionaires leave.

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TRAVEL

What do Switzerland’s foreigners miss most during the pandemic?

New survey reveals which activities members of the international community are looking forward to most when life in Switzerland gets back to normal.

What do Switzerland’s foreigners miss most during the pandemic?
Expats miss travel most of all. Photo by NA FASSBENDER / AFP

Many people experience the so-called “pandemic blues” and foreigners in Switzerland are no different.

In fact, their feelings are often exacerbated by the isolation from their home countries. This is evident from a new survey, carried out by Glocals expat group. 

“On our social network, we perceived a feeling of frustration”, in particular concerning inability to see families, said Nir Ofek, one of the managers of Glocals.

“In this, their needs undoubtedly differ from those of the local population”.

Not surprisingly, the desire to resume travelling is the number one wish of 69 percent of respondents.

“Travel is not only linked to family contacts, but it also symbolises freedom”, Ofek said.

And there is also likely to be a rush on restaurants and bars, the survey found.

Some 43 percent of those surveyed said they will eat out the first week restaurants reopen, while 35 percent plan to do so in the first month.

Of those, 68 percent believe they will be safe there, even indoors, if social distances are maintained.

Overall, foreign respondents are not too optimistic that the pandemic will develop favourably. Sixty-three percent believe that new shutdowns will happen in the future. And 60 percent doubt that Switzerland will be able to vaccinate the majority of the adult population by the end of the summer.

Their outlook on the Swiss management of the pandemic is mixed. Only quarter of those polled rate it positively, a fifth find it poor, while more than half (52 percent) answer “so-so”.

Respondents also shared some of their experiences of living in Switzerland during the pandemic.

On a personal level, vast majority (86 percent) said they have missed social contact, experienced stress (66 percent) and decline in mental (61 percent) or physical (43 percent) health.

A fifth faced concerns about professional stability.

One person said that after she lost her job, “my residence permit expired and I had to leave Switzerland where I had lived for seven years and which had become my home.”

READ MORE: How do the Swiss really feel about foreigners?

What do you miss most about normal life – and what are you looking forward to the most when things return to normal. Get in touch at [email protected]

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