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Taxes in Switzerland

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Taxation in Switzerland

Switzerland has a decentralized tax system, where both the cantons and municipalities have the authority to levy taxes. In the Swiss taxation system, each canton has its tax laws and regulations, which can result in differences in the tax system across the country.
In addition to the cantonal and municipal taxes, the federal government also imposes taxes, particularly on income. Legal persons, including corporations and companies, are also subject to taxation in Switzerland and individuals. The type of tax imposed on legal persons may vary depending on the canton or municipality in which they are located and their type of business activities. For example, companies in Switzerland pay profit taxes, corporate capital taxes, or other taxes based on their income, capital, or other factors.
Taxes in Switzerland
Corporate Income Tax Rate in Switzerland
Corporate Income Tax Rates by Swiss Canton
The cantons have the authority to set their rates for the corporate capital tax, which can vary significantly between cantons. Some cantons do not impose a corporate capital tax, while others may have relatively high rates. It is necessary to obtain accurate information on how high or low the taxes in Switzerland apply to your specific situation.
The federal profit tax and the cantonal corporate capital tax are separate taxes, which may apply to a share capital company in Switzerland. The total tax bill for a share capital company will depend on the federal profit tax, the cantonal corporate capital tax, and any other applicable taxes, such as value-added tax (VAT) or property tax.

Swiss companies and corporations are subject to federal and cantonal/communal taxes. The federal direct tax applies to the nationwide profits of corporations, while the cantonal and communal taxes are based on the location of the company's headquarters and apply to the profits generated in that specific canton/commune. The cantonal and communal tax rates can vary widely, so the total tax burden on a corporation can differ significantly depending on the location of its headquarters. In the majority of the cantons, legal entities also pay church taxes.

Share capital companies in Switzerland pay a federal profit tax on their net income, calculated based on the company's taxable income and the federal tax rate of 8.5%. In addition, some cantons impose a separate corporate capital tax, which is a tax on the company's share capital.

Here are the contact details for some of the Tax administration offices in major Swiss cities:

Federal Taxes

In Switzerland, companies are subject to federal income tax on their net profit. There is no federal capital tax, meaning that corporations' and companies' tax liability is limited to their net profit and does not extend to their capital or equity. Calculating federal income tax in Switzerland is possible as a percentage of the net profit, and the exact rate depends on the size of the company's profits.
In Switzerland, corporations or cooperatives that hold at least 10% of the share capital or profits and reserves of other companies may be eligible for a reduced federal Swiss income tax rate on the income generated from these investments. The reduction in the federal tax rate is proportional to the net income ratio from these investments to the company's total net income.
This is meant to incentivize companies to make long-term investments in other companies and to encourage business growth and expansion. The exact amount of the tax reduction will depend on the specific circumstances of each company and the tax regulations in the canton where it is headquartered.

Cantonal and Municipality Taxes

The cantons in Switzerland have significant autonomy in tax policy and are authorized to impose any tax that the federal government does not claim for itself exclusively. This means that each canton can impose its own taxes, set its tax rates, and determine its tax policies as long as they do not conflict with federal law. As a result, the tax burden on companies and individuals can vary widely from canton to canton. It is one of the factors that businesses and individuals consider when choosing a location for their operations or residence. Municipalities within each canton also have the authority to impose taxes, although their powers are generally limited to imposing local taxes, such as property taxes, on their residents.
The cantons in Switzerland have significant autonomy in determining their tax policies and structures, which can result in substantial variations in tax rates and methods across the country.
The two main types of tax systems used by cantons are:
· The proportional tax rate system;
· The mixed system.

The proportional tax rate system

is a straightforward system where the tax owed by a company is calculated as a fixed percentage of the company's taxable income. Cantons often use this system with low tax rates to maintain a simple tax system.

On the other hand, the mixed system is a more complex one

that combines elements of both the proportional tax rate and the progressive tax rate systems. Under this system, the tax owed by a company is calculated as a combination of a fixed percentage of the company's taxable income and a graduated tax rate scale that increases with the size of the taxable income. This system is often used by cantons that want to maintain a low tax rate for smaller companies and a higher tax rate for larger companies.
These tax systems can change over time and that the tax system used by a canton can significantly impact the amount of tax owed by a company. Some of the most common types of taxes in Switzerland imposed by the cantons include:
  • Corporate tax

    This tax is levied on a company's taxable profits, calculated by subtracting allowable expenses from revenues. The corporate income tax rate varies depending on the canton in which the business is located and the number of profits that the business generates.
  • Personal income tax

    This tax is imposed on the taxable income of individuals who are residents of the canton.
  • Wealth tax

    This tax is on the net wealth of individuals or companies and is based on the value of their assets, such as real estate, investments, and savings. The wealth tax rate in Switzerland varies depending on the canton in which you are located and the value of your assets.
  • Property tax

    This tax is levied on the value of the real estate and is used to finance local public services, such as infrastructure and social services.
  • Value-added tax (VAT):

    This tax is imposed on the value added to goods and services during production and distribution.
For companies, the VAT rates in Switzerland depend on the nature of their business and the type of goods and services they provide. In general, companies must charge VAT at the standard rate of 8.1% on their taxable supplies of goods and services unless they fall into the category of reduced-rate supplies.
The company must submit regular VAT reports to the Swiss tax authorities if registered as a VAT payer.
These are just some of the most common types of taxes imposed by the cantons in Switzerland. The exact types of taxes, as well as the tax rates and bases, can vary widely from canton to canton. Hence, businesses and individuals need to familiarize themselves with the specific tax policies of the cantons where they operate or reside and be able to answer the question of how much money they pay for taxes in Switzerland.

Withholding Tax

Withholding tax is a tax deducted from income at the source of payment before the income is paid to the recipient. It is usually a preliminary tax intended to satisfy the recipient's tax obligation for that income. In Switzerland, withholding tax is most commonly imposed on dividends, interest, and royalties paid to individuals and companies. The withholding tax rate varies depending on the type of income and the recipient's country of residence. Switzerland's standard withholding tax rate is 35% without a tax treaty.

Withholding tax can be an important tax compliance issue for businesses and individuals, as failure to withhold the correct amount of tax can result in significant penalties and fines. Additionally, individuals and companies must understand their tax obligations and plan their affairs to maximize the benefits of available tax treaties and minimize the impact of withholding taxes.

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Double Taxation Agreement in Switzerland (DTA)

Switzerland has entered into double taxation agreements (DTAs) with many countries to avoid double taxation of cross-border income and to promote international trade and investment. These DTAs typically provide reduced withholding tax rates on dividends, interest, and royalties from one country to the other. They can also eliminate double taxation in different ways, such as by applying for foreign tax credits.
Some of the key features of Switzerland's DTAs include the following:
  • Reduced withholding tax rates

    many of Switzerland's DTAs provide for reduced withholding tax rates on cross-border dividends, interest, and royalties. This can provide a significant tax benefit to Swiss and foreign investors and can encourage cross-border investment.
  • Exchange of information

    Switzerland's DTAs typically include provisions for exchanging information between tax authorities in the contracting countries, which can help ensure that the tax benefits provided by the DTAs are not misused for tax evasion purposes.
  • Permanent establishment
    Switzerland's DTAs generally contain provisions defining what constitutes a permanent establishment, which is a taxable presence in a foreign country. This helps ensure that Swiss companies are not taxed in a foreign country simply because they have a sales office or other business presence there.
  • Elimination of double taxation
    many of Switzerland's DTAs have provisions for the elimination of double taxation, either through the application of foreign tax credits or through the allocation of taxing rights between the contracting countries.
Thus, Switzerland's DTAs are complex agreements that can significantly impact the tax treatment of cross-border income.
Social Security Contributions
Social security contributions in Switzerland are intended to finance the country's social security system, which provides benefits such as health insurance, pension, and disability insurance.

If you are an employer in Switzerland, you must register with the Swiss social security authorities and contribute to the country's social security system. The contributions are based on the gross salary of your employees, and they are typically shared between the employer and the employee.

The exact amount of social security contributions you will be required to make will depend on several factors, such as the type of business you have, the size of your workforce, and the individual circumstances of your employees. You should consult with a qualified tax professional in Switzerland who can help you determine your specific social security obligations and guide you through the registration and contribution process.

Cantons with Favorable Taxation

The cantons of Zug and Zurich are two of the most economically developed regions in Switzerland, and both are known for their favorable tax regimes for businesses.

Swiss taxes rates differ by cantons. In Zug, the cantonal Swiss corporate tax rate is one of the lowest rates in Switzerland, at around 3,5%. The canton also offers tax holidays for new businesses and reduced tax rates for holding companies and other particular types of companies. Zurich's cantonal corporate tax rate is slightly higher, at around 11 %.

However, these are general descriptions of the tax regimes in Zug and Zurich. The specific taxes that apply to a particular company can be explained by various factors, such as the nature of the company's operations and structure.

Tax Calculator in Switzerland

Several free of charge calculators of taxes in Switzerland available online can be used to estimate the taxes that apply to a company in Switzerland. Some of these calculators are created for specific cantons or regions, while others provide a more general estimate of the federal and cantonal/municipal taxes that apply in Switzerland.
These calculators, for example, income tax calculators in Switzerland, provide only an estimate of the taxes that apply and that the actual taxes owed by a company may differ based on various factors, such as the company's structure, operations, and taxable income. Furthermore, tax laws and regulations in Switzerland can change over time.

In general, it is a good idea to use Swiss tax calculation as a starting point for estimating the taxes owed by a company in Switzerland. Still, a professional's advice can help ensure the estimate is accurate and up-to-date.


In summary, Switzerland's tax system is characterized by its decentralization, low tax rates compared to many other European countries, and a focus on promoting economic growth and investment. Understanding the specific tax rules and rates in the canton and municipality of residence is crucial for taxpayers to optimize their tax planning and compliance in Switzerland. Additionally, staying informed about changes in tax laws and utilizing available resources like tax calculators can help individuals and businesses navigate the Swiss tax landscape effectively.
Legal disclaimer. This article does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The article should be used for informational purposes only.
Frequently Asked Questions
Switzerland's tax system is decentralized, allowing the federal government, cantons, and municipalities to levy taxes independently. This results in variations in tax rates and regulations across different regions.