Here’s how much tax Swiss people can expect to pay in a lifetime

Swiss daily the NZZ recently crunched the numbers to work out that an average worker in Switzerland could pay a grand total of €1,144,000 in taxes over the course of a lifetime.

Here's how much tax Swiss people can expect to pay in a lifetime
Photo: Depositphotos

The paper came up with the figure by creating a fictitious taxpayer from Aarau in the canton of Aargau where taxes are not particularly high or low. This fiscal John Doe began his working life earning the median Swiss income of 5,200 francs a month, a figure which climbed to 89,000 a year by the end of his 45-year-working life.

His total lifetime tax, meanwhile included everything from money spent on cigarettes when he was young to the 39,000 in tax payed to the church.

And if the sum of €1,144,000 seems large, it is offset by annual lifetime earnings of 3.7 million francs up until retirement age.

The total tax money might not go as far as you think either. As the NZZ pointed out, the 28,000 francs its taxpayer would give over for roadbuilding in a lifetime would pay for 36 centimetres of motorway, while the 241,000 handed over to the local municipality could pay for three BMW police patrol cars.

We thought this was a good occasion to look at some other surprising Swiss stats.

24.6 percent

That is the figure for foreigners as a percentage of the total Swiss population and it compares to 10.5 percent in Germany, 6.6 percent in France and 8.6 percent in the UK. Of course, this figure has to be viewed in the context of the difficult and lengthy process of obtaining a Swiss passport.

Read also: How to apply for Swiss citizenship in 2018

Early this year, for example, Switzerland announced it would simply naturalization procedures for third-generation foreigners, that is people who were born in Switzerland and may have spent their lives here, but do not have Swiss citizenship because their parents and grandparents did not. 

File photo: Martin Abegglen


This is the number of critically endangered species in Switzerland according to the Federal Office of the Environment (FOEN). This means they are near extinction in the country. “Such species tend to have an extremely restricted or fragmented range in this country, arise in significantly reduced population sizes or are only represented by a few individuals,” the environment ministry states. The figure of 554 is 5.3 percent of all species. It is a group that includes the viperine snake and the natterjack toad. 

10.5 kilogrammes

This is how much chocolate Swiss people eat on average every year. That’s equivalent to 105 100-gram blocks of chocolate a year, or almost exactly two a week. It doesn’t seem to be doing too much damage. Life expectancy in Switzerland was at 83.4 years for both sexes in the period 2000–2015 according to the World Health Organization. That is second only to Japan.


A recent wealth report by global recent estate consultants KnightFrank found the amount of money being held in Switzerland fell by 8 percent in the three years up to June 2017, noting that changes to bank secrecy laws and negative interest rates in 2015 might be the cause. But the report also found the number of multimillionaires with net assets above $5 million was up to 52,950 in 2017, a steep rise from 47,000 of a year earlier.


This is the number of cows in the country, according to the Swiss government. They were spread across 33,000 agricultural holdings in 2016, down from 48,000 in 2000. With 8.42 million people in Switzerland, that is about one cow for every 12 inhabitants. Whichever way you look at it, that’s a lot of cow bells.

Photo: Depositphotos

Read also: Swiss cows leap for joy of spring


This was the average disposable income in Swiss francs of household incomes in 2015. Disposable income is calculated by deducting compulsory expenses including taxes, social insurance, health insurance and pensions from gross revenue, which includes salaries and bonuses, plus income from property, savings and investments.

In 2015 compulsory expenses rose to 2,990 francs or 30 percent of gross income, with taxes comprising the largest part of that, at 12 percent.

That same year, just 8.4 percent of Swiss people said they could not afford to go on a one-week holiday and 1.4 percent said the could not afford a full meal every second day, against 7.1 percent in Germany and 11.8 percent in Italy.

However, a report released in 2017 showed that around 500,000 Swiss people, or around seven percent of the population were living below the poverty income threshold. This means they could not pay for the “goods and services necessary for a socially integrated life” which in 2015 applied to those with a monthly income below 2,239 francs for a single person or 3,984 for two adults and two children. 

For members


Which Swiss cantons have the strictest citizenship requirements?

The central Swiss canton of Aargau has just voted to make the process of naturalisation more difficult. Which other cantons have tough naturalisation processes?

Which Swiss cantons have the strictest citizenship requirements?

The federal structure of Switzerland means there can be wide variances in laws, cultures and customs in what is geographically a relatively small country. 

That differences from place to place are especially strong in regards to citizenship and naturalisation. 

Not only does the process of naturalisation have a heavily regional flavour – take for example an Italian man’s failure to accurately describe the living arrangements of bears and wolves at the local zoo as a reason his application was rejected – but the standards for migration can differ from canton to canton. 

Just under two-thirds (64 percent) of voters in Aargau on Sunday voted in favour of stricter nationalisation processes. Specifically, applicants in Aargau now cannot have received government social assistance for a period of ten years prior to the application. 

READ MORE: Stricter rules approved for Swiss citizenship after canton referendum 

Exceptions will be made for special cases of hardship, such as an illness, disability, or genuine financial need.

The new law also requires candidates for Swiss citizenship to take a multiple-choice test on their historical and geographical knowledge of the country.

Only those who correctly answer three-quarters of the questions can start the naturalisation process. 


Where else sets the bar high?

At a federal level, the minimum period of time before an application without receiving financial support is three years. 

Alongside Aargau, Bern also has a ten-year period. In Grisons (Graubünden), the same period applies however applicants have the option to pay back the social assistance money before lodging an application. 

Basel-Country, Thurgau and Nidwalden adopt a five-year period, while other cantons have gone with the federal minimum. 

Applying for a passport: The process of becoming Swiss

Although the process for becoming a Swiss citizen is one of the more difficult in Europe in the present day, it’s dramatically easier than it used to be. 

For instance, in the past Swiss women would lose their citizenship simply by marrying a foreigner. 

To even begin the process to obtain citizenship in Switzerland, you need to have lived in the country for more than ten years.

For kids and teenagers, the period can be slightly shorter as the years spent in the country between the ages of eight and 18 count for double (although a minimum of six years is required). 

TAKE THE TEST: Would you pass Switzerland’s citizenship exam?

Language-wise, you must have at least a B1 level of the relevant Swiss language (spoken) and A2 (written). 

You’ll also need to have no criminal record and a means of income.


But what about living in the actual canton before applying?

Not only do you need to live in Switzerland for a minimum of ten years, but there are also minimum time periods of residence in each canton. As reported in Swiss online newspaper Watson, these also vary widely from canton to canton. 

The standard period is five years residence in the canton in which you apply, although others have different time frames. 

Two years of residence is required in Bern, Jura, Neuchâtel, Schaffhausen, Vaud and Zurich. 

Ticino, Freiburg, Lucerne and Appenzell Ausserrhoden have a three-year minimum, while in Solothurn there’s a four-year wait. 

Finally, as with all immigration and naturalisation reports on The Local, this has been drawn up as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice.