Taxes For Members

Five essential things to know about Swiss taxes before deadline day

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Five essential things to know about Swiss taxes before deadline day
A Steuererklärung - or German tax return - on a typewriter. Photo: Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Tax in Switzerland is a complex subject, but you must be able to navigate it if you live here. From deductions to asking for deadline extensions, this overview will help you find a way through this intricate maze.


The March 31st deadline for filing taxes in Switzerland is fast approaching, and by now you will have received the paperwork necessary to file your tax declaration.

But are you ready to tackle the process?

And even more importantly, do you actually know how the Swiss tax system works?

While it is impossible to cover this vast and complicated subject in detail, here are some  important things you should know if you are not yet fluent in what your responsibilities are, tax-wise.

Keep in mind that we're writing about general information, but there are many nuances involved in this process. For example, the amount you will pay will depend on whether you are married or single, have children, and whether you are a permanent resident or a cross-border worker.
READ MORE: Tax rules cross-border workers in Switzerland need to know


Three different levels

The Swiss system is based on three levels of taxation: federal, cantonal, and municipal.

The federal income tax is actually the smallest share of your taxes: according to Moneyland consumer platform, it amounts to around 15 billion francs per year.
Cantonal tax

Consisting of income and wealth tax (see below), cantonal tax makes up the highest portion of the overall taxation.

Swiss cantons collect nearly 28 billion francs in income and 5 billion francs in wealth taxes.

Municipal tax

Like cantonal governments, municipalities tax both the income and wealth of their residents. Together, Swiss municipalities collect a total of 19 billion francs in income taxes and more than 3 billion francs of wealth taxes every year, according to experts.

What is a ‘wealth tax’?

As the name suggests, it is a tax levied on all your global assets.

They include your bank accounts and investments, as well as the value of properties  or real estate you may own in Switzerland and abroad.

Basically, everything you own is taxable.

The amount of wealth tax levied varies from one canton to another. It is the highest in Geneva (1 percent) and lowest in Nidwalden (0.0665 percent).
But if you think that having to pay tax on all your hard-earned assets is unfair, know that Switzerland is not the only European country that does so — Norway and Spain levy a wealth tax as well.

The Swiss may, however, be champions when it comes to ‘weird taxes.’

They include church tax, dog tax, as well as military service exemption tax . 
READ MORE: Switzerland's strangest taxes - and what happens if you don't pay them 

Yes, he is a tax liability as well. Photo: Pixabay

What can you deduct from your taxes?

Fortunately, you can reduce your tax burden in several ways.

Some of the ‘deductibles’ include any debts you may have, such as mortgage; improvement to or renovation of your house or apartment (if you are the owner); childcare expenses; dental bills; contributions into the third-pillar pension fund; cost of travelling to work on public transport and other work-related expenses; and several other deductions that are detailed in this article:

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland? 

You can deduct your dental bills from taxes. Image by JOSEPH SHOHMELIAN from Pixabay 

Should you prepare you tax declaration yourself or hire someone to do it?

In most cantons you can file your taxes online, which simplifies the process.

However, there is A LOT of information you must provide; having all the necessary paperwork certainly makes this process easier.

According to an official government site, you will need: 
Salary certificate(s) (if you are an employee)
Accounts (if you are self-employed)
Pension statements (if you are retired, etc.)
Bank or post office account statements
Statements relating to investments

For making deductions:

Certificates for contributions made to pillar 2 and 3a pension funds
Health insurance costs and medical expenses
Job-related expenses
Costs of professional education and training courses
Receipts for donations to charities
For homeowners: documents relating to property tax, mortgage interest, bills for maintenance and repairs, running and administrative costs. 


What if you can’t file your declaration before the March 31st deadline?

f your tax return is prepared by an accounting firm, they automatically file every year for extension for all their clients.

You should have received a confirmation letter or email from the firm to that effect.

But if you prepare your tax declaration yourself and you won’t be able to meet the deadline, you must ask the tax authorities in your canton of residence for extension.

The new filing date depends on where you live:

Appenzell-Ausserrhoden, Basel-City, Geneva, Luzern, Schwyz, St. Gallen, Uri, Valais, and Zurich: May 31st.

Aargau, Basel-Country, Fribourg, Nidwalden, Schaffhausen, Ticino, Vaud, and Zug: June 30th

Jura and Solothurn: July 31st.

Only one canton, Bern, allows extensions until September 15th.

This is how you can ask for an extension:

EXPLAINED: How to get an extension on your tax deadline in Switzerland



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