Why it might not make financial sense to get married in Switzerland

Why it might not make financial sense to get married in Switzerland
Photo: Depositphotos
In Switzerland, married couples file a combined tax return. But some 700,000 married couples pay more tax than unmarried ones. Why is that and will things change?

Switzerland uses a progressive income tax system, so higher incomes are taxed at a higher rate. If both spouses work, this arrangement – called ‘marriage tax penalty’ —can be quite costly.

It is unconstitutional for a married couple to pay more than 10 percent of the amount they would be charged if they were living together without marriage. In practice, however, many couples pay considerably more.

In 2016, Swiss voters narrowly rejected the initiative to scrap the marriage tax penalty. However, it turned out that the information on this subject published by the government seriously underestimated the number of couples that were subjected to the tax penalty.

The authorities said only 80,000 couples were affected. 

The vote was therefore reversed by the Federal Tribunal, Switzerland’s highest court.

Last month, Switzerland’s upper house, the Council of States, narrowly voted to temporarily offer married couples higher tax deductions.

The motion calls for a transitional solution to reduce the tax burden by 1.4 billion francs, which could include an increase in the social deduction for spouses.

However, the Federal Council, Switzerland’s seven-member government, is against this temporary relief.

Instead, it is proposing that the tax be calculated twice: once assuming that the couple is not married, and then assuming that it is. The lower amount would then be taxed.

The issue will be debated again when the parliament convenes in December so for now married couples who feel they are paying too much in tax will have to wait before a solution is found.


Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.