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Man pays $10,000 for glass of rare whisky at Swiss hotel

Have you heard the one about the guy who walked into a bar and ordered a $10,000 shot of whisky?

Man pays $10,000 for glass of rare whisky at Swiss hotel
Photo: AFP/Waldhaus am See Hotel St. Moritz
A young Chinese man paid 9,999 Swiss francs ($10,000, 8,733 euros) last week at a Swiss hotel for a glass of whisky made in 1878 by the revered Scotch maker Macallan, 20 Minuten said.
   
The report was confirmed by an employee of the luxury Waldhaus Hotel in St. Moritz, northeast Switzerland.
   
The hotel's Devil's Place Whisky Bar has been honoured for its 2,500 bottle collection, including by the Guinness Book of World Records.
 
   
But proprietor Sandro Bernasconi told 20 Minuten he never expected to open this particular treasure.
   
After entering the bar with a group of people, the client expressed particular interest in the Macallans — the hotel has 47 options, ranging from seven Swiss francs to ten grand.
   
“I told the customer that the most expensive Macallan was not for sale”, Bernasconi was quoted as saying by 20 Minuten.
   
The client persisted, so Bernasconi called his father, who had run the hotel for 20 years and never had a client order the 1878. The elder Bernasconi told his son to go for it, even if the customer was not going to pay in advance.
   
“I was nervous,” Bernasconi told the paper, explaining that he was concerned the ancient cork would disintegrate.
   
But everything went down smoothly, including the two-centilitre (0.66-fluid-ounce) measure, Bernasconi said.
   
Now that the bottle is open, the hotel hopes to sell the remaining shots and may consider dropping the price, 20 Minuten said.
   
Before it was uncorked, the bottle had been valued at 50,000 Swiss francs, a relatively modest price compared to recent record sets by whisky bottles at auction.
   
The identity of the young — but presumably well-heeled — connoisseur was not immediately available.
   
A special collector's blend of Macallan's sold at auction in Hong Kong for nearly $630,000 in 2014.
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EXPLAINED: What is ‘church tax’ in Switzerland and do I have to pay it?

Switzerland is one of only a handful of countries where most people must pay taxes to support religious institutions. This is what you should know about it.

EXPLAINED: What is ‘church tax’ in Switzerland and do I have to pay it?

Switzerland is already widely known as a tax haven, but it seems it could be called a tax heaven as well, with millions of Swiss regularly contributing a portion of their wages to religious institutions. 

However, not everyone in Switzerland pays church tax. 

Whether or not you must pay the church tax depends on where you live and what religious denomination you belong to.

If you have moved to a Swiss community, chances are you had to declare your religious affiliation while registering your arrival at the Gemeinde / commune / comunità locale.

And if you identified yourself as a member of a Roman Catholic or Protestant (including Reformed) Church, then you can expect to be slapped with a so-called ecclesiastical tax. 

People in other religions, such as Islam or Judaism, or some of the less common protestant faiths, are not required to pay this tax. 

As is also the case in Austria, Finland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, Switzerland’s churchgoers must finance the costs of their local churches, with funds ultimately being used to upkeep the facilities, clergy’s salaries, as well as other operating costs.

This is a long-standing and common practice in most cantons, with the exception of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Vaud, and Ticino.

People attending religious institutions of other than Catholic and Protestant denominations, or those living in the four cantons that don’t impose this tax, are free to make a voluntary, tax-deductible contribution to their church, but are not obligated to do so by law.

And it’s not just private individuals who are liable to pay church tax — most cantons, except Basel-City, Schaffhausen, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, and Aargau also levy it on businesses.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s strangest taxes – and what happens if you don’t pay them

This is a somewhat paradoxical situation, as Switzerland recognises the principle of separation of church and state, which would normally preclude public funding of religious groups.

Yet, the country’s main denominations are authorised to collect church taxes; in fact, Swiss Constitution expressly allows cantons to regulate the relationship between church and state on their territories — including the right to levy taxes.

How much is this tax and do you have to pay it?

Again, the amount depends on the canton you live in, but on average it is 15 percent of the income and wealth tax for Roman Catholics and 10 percent for those attending Protestant churches.

If you officially declared your religious affiliation and if you live in a canton other than Geneva, Neuchâtel, Ticino, and Vaud, then yes, you must pay this tax.

How do you opt out of paying the tax?

There is, however, a relatively simple way to opt out of the church tax.

If you move to a new community, just don’t declare yourself as a member of either a Roman Catholic or Protestant parish.

If you already have done so, then send a registered letter to the parish in your municipality and inform them that you are no longer a member of the church.

Importantly, if you have already declared yourself a member of the church in one municipality, this information will follow you to your next municipality, i.e. the communes will pass on information between each other. 

Therefore, simply moving a declaring no religious status will be insufficient. You will need to send the resignation letter. 

Send a copy of this letter to your cantonal tax office. If you are in Valais, you should send your letter to the baptism parish. 

A copy of the form you need to send is available here (in German). 

You don’t have to give a reason why you chose to leave the church; certainly don’t mention it is because you don’t want to pay taxes!

READ MORE: How to navigate your way to a lower Swiss tax bill

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