Could foreigners in Switzerland be forced to pay 'immigration tax'?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Could foreigners in Switzerland be forced to pay 'immigration tax'?
Foreigners should pay a tax merely for living in Switzerland, a politician says. Photo: Claudio. Schwarz on Unsplash

A politician wants to make foreign nationals pay for the privilege of living in Switzerland. But could this actually happen?


This is the idea behind a motion that MP Andrea Caroni filed in the parliament before the winter session ended on December 22nd.

He argued that foreigners who come to Switzerland take advantage of the country’s excellent infrastructure and other benefits, and should therefore pay for it.

In effect, he is asking the Federal Council to look into the feasibility of imposing such a tax either directly on foreign workers or the companies that hire them.

“This would make employers wonder whether they should actually recruit someone from abroad instead of from within the country,” he said.

‘Enormous gain in wealth’

Caroni’s move is not exactly ground-breaking: the same idea has already been put forth previously by Swiss economist Reiner Eichenberger.

“Those who immigrate to Switzerland have an enormous gain in wealth,” he said in an interview with Neue Zurcher Zeitung.  

For instance, according to Eichenberger, Germans who work in Switzerland earn 30 percent more here and Italians as much as 70 percent more.

And if lower Swiss taxes are taken into account, “an average German immigrant makes a net profit of about 30,000 francs per year. At the same time, he or she benefits from the infrastructure that has already been paid for by the local population."

Additionally, “immigrants generate costs that are borne by the general public,” Eichenberger claims.


How much tax should be imposed?
"Based on the costs to Switzerland and the benefits to immigrants, residence taxes of 5,000 francs annually are justifiable," he said.

Given current migration patterns, this would result in annual revenues of 2.5 to 3 billion francs, according to Eichenberger’s calculations.

“But ultimately, policymakers should decide how high the tax should be.”

Does this move have a chance of actually being implemented?

At this point it is difficult to predict.

The Federal Council has said that such a move would be incompatible with freedom of movement agreement that Switzerland has with the EU and would be discriminatory against immigrants.

Business umbrella organisation EconomieSuisse is also skeptical about the proposal.

It fears that such a move would further exacerbate the existing labour shortage, as it would discourage foreigners from coming to Switzerland and Swiss employers from hiring them.

READ ALSO: Why do foreigners move to Switzerland and how many want to stay?


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also