Taxes For Members

What are the tax issues Geneva and Basel will vote on this Sunday?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What are the tax issues Geneva and Basel will vote on this Sunday?
Basel will vote on tax cuts, Geneva on tax increases. Photo: Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

While there will be no national vote in the first of four referendums scheduled in Switzerland for this year, Basel and Geneva voters will weigh in on Sunday on an issue of regional importance: taxes.


In Basel-City, voters will decide on the proposed tax cuts, which would provide financial relief to all taxpayers.
What’s at stake?
This is an interesting issue because instead of seeking more taxes, as is usually the case, cantonal government says residents should get back 88 million francs of the taxes they paid.

The reason is that Basel-City’s coffers are not only full, but even overflowing.

"We have had surpluses for years, and the government wants to give money back to the population," Basel Finance Director Tanja Soland told SRF public broadcaster.


In the last decade, Basel-City has posted an average surplus of more than 300 million francs.

The 88-million-franc tax pacakge would benefit all the canton’s residents, regardless of their income. In addition to tax breaks for families, general cuts in income and wealth taxes would also be implemented.

For instance, in the future, Basel families will be allowed to deduct 8,600 francs per child on their tax return, — 700 fracs more than at present. Parents will also be able to deduct up to 25,000 francs per year for childcare. In addition, the lower income tax rate is to drop from the current  21.75 percent to 21 percent.

For that to happen, however, a referendum must be held, as will be the case on March 12th.

This may sound simple enough, but it isn’t.

A committee made up of left-wing parties is challenging the proposal, opposing the reduction in wealth tax, and arguing that the cut should not benefit the wealthy (even though they pay most taxes).

The committee has put together its own tax package to that effect.

Their counter-proposal calls for a tax cut that excludes the rich, and amounts to about half — 45 instead of 88 million francs — of the canton’s.
However, most parties are in favour of the tax package put forth by the canton, and are urging the voters to accept it, while rejecting the committee’s counter-proposal.

READ MORE: Five essential things you should know about Swiss taxes

What about Geneva?

Currently, the largest shareholders in the canton are only partially — to the tune of 60 to 70 percent — taxed on their dividends.

However, an alliance called Together to the Left (Ensemble à Gauche), which is composed of the Greens, socialists and trade unions, has launched an initiative which, if approved at the polls on Sunday, will impose a 100-percent taxation rate.

Cantonal authorities, on the other hand, say the approval of this proposal would make Geneva less attractive for businesses, and many may choose to leave the canton. 

And, they point out, current dividend taxation rate is sufficient.

“In Geneva, 1,600 taxpayers receive 1 billion francs from dividends per year, which means an average of 50,000 francs in monthly income per taxpayer. 

READ MORE: How ordinary citizens can try to change the law in Switzerland


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