Taxes For Members

What happens if you don't pay your Swiss taxes on time?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What happens if you don't pay your Swiss taxes on time?
(Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay)

In most cantons, residents have until the end of the month, March 31st, to send in their tax declarations. However, an increasing number of people in Switzerland can’t afford to pay their taxes at all. So what happens to them?


While the majority of Switzerland’s population have no problem paying their taxes, one in six people are not able to come up with enough money to meet their tax obligations in the past several years.

This is what emerges from a survey published on Tuesday by Comparis consumer platform. 

“Those who are unable to pay their bills in general, or pay them late, cited taxes as the primary reason for this difficulty — even before the payment of health insurance premiums,” according to Michael Kuhn, Comparis’ consumer finance expert.

Of all those surveyed who were not able to pay taxes in the past years, 7 percent  had to borrow money from friends, family members or a bank in order to meet this obligation, the survey found. 

READ ALSO: When are the 2024 tax declaration deadlines in each Swiss canton?

About 6 percent who were not able to pay tax bills  benefited from a deferral, which means their deadline was extended.

Finally, 3 percent were unable to pay their taxes in full — or at all.

The young, as well as French and Italian speakers

Among those unable to shoulder their tax burden, a clear pattern emerged: 68 percent of those aged from 18 to 35 year old are not able to pay taxes on their own, without outside financial help.

One of the reasons, according to Kuhn, is that “older respondents have less difficulty paying their taxes with their own means because their incomes are typically higher.”

Also, the younger generation may not have yet mastered how to budget their money efficiently, so that there is enough of it to cover all bills.

There are also regional divergences.

In French and Italian-speaking Switzerland, 9 and 12 percent of those surveyed, respectively, were unable to pay their taxes in full and therefore benefited from a deferral.

In German-speaking Switzerland, on the other hand, this proportion is only 5 percent.

No explanation for this phenomenon was given.


What happens if you don’t pay your tax bill on time — or at all?

Generally speaking, it is a very bad idea to be in arrears on this, or any other, financial obligation.

That’s because penalties could be quite heavy, ranging from a simple reminder if a payment is missed, all the way to summons from the debt enforcement office in your canton.

And having a debt (other than, say, mortgage that you are gradually paying off) is a stain on your record, which will hinder you from renting an apartment, getting a credit card, mortgage, or another kind of loan.

READ ALSO: What happens if I don't pay my Swiss bills on time? 

Also, if you are a foreigner hoping to apply for naturalisation, a debt can prevent you from obtaining Swiss citizenship


What can you do if you really can’t afford to pay taxes?

If you are in a situation of real financial distress because your income is below your municipality's minimum existence level, you can request a reduction or even a full exemption from taxes. 

If you can’t manage to pay the entire amount, send a letter to your cantonal tax office, detailing the reasons and propose a reasonable (for both you and tax administration) instalment payment plan.

You will be asked for bank statements and other information proving your financial situation before such a plan is granted.


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