FAQ general tax

1. By when do I have to submit my tax return?

The deadlines are different in each canton. In the canton of Bern, the 15th of March is indicated as tax return submission deadline. It is possible however to extend the submission deadline to the 15th of September without having to specify a reason. This deadline extension is free of charge and does not entail any disadvantages. If it is not possible to file your tax return by the 15th of September, a final extension of the deadline to 15th November is possible. However, this will cost CHF 10. Further extensions are not possible.

2. What documents do I need in order to prepare my tax return?

You will find lists of the receipts/invoices and documents necessary for preparing tax returns on our website under the category Tax returns for natural persons.

3. How much does it cost to have a tax return filled out/prepared?

For preparing 'simple' tax returns that are not extensive, we charge flat rates. In the case of extensive tax returns for which additional clarifications are necessary, we charge an hourly rate (link to prices).

4. Can I offset property costs/expenses from the taxes?

Yes, maintenance, restructuring, and repair costs (measures that preserve value) can generally be deducted from taxable income. However, costs that increase value, such as new acquisitions or in the case of a massive increase in comfort, are not tax-deductible. But such costs are not 'lost' from a tax point of view, as they can be deducted from the real estate gains tax during the sale of the property. Thus it is recommended that invoices/receipts which are related to the property be archived 'in perpetuity' and separately.

5. Which is the reference date for property costs/expenses? The invoice date, or the date of payment?

This is also different in each canton. In the canton of Bern, the invoice date applies.

6. Can I deduct the costs for my private home office?

Yes, the costs for a home office necessary for your job are generally tax-deductible. However, taxpayers are already entitled to a flat deductible of 3 % for miscellaneous job expenses from the net income declared, which also includes the deduction for the private home office. Hence, it does not make sense to declare the home office if the costs for it do not exceed the amount of the flat deductible.

7. Until when can I claim the child education credit for my daughter/son?

The child education credit is key date-dependent (31/12) and can be declared for children which were enrolled in an educational or vocational training programme as of 31/12 in the corresponding tax year. If the net salary of a child enrolled in an educational or vocational training programme is already more than CHF 24,000, the child education credit no longer applies. Please do not forget that education and vocational training costs (school costs and additional expenses that are directly related to your child's education or vocational training) may also be deducted.

8. Can I also deduct alimony from taxes?

Alimony for underage children (up to their 18th birthday) can be deducted. Note: the recipient also needs to declare this alimony in his/her taxes. Alimony for adult children can no longer be deducted, and correspondingly the recipient also does not need to pay taxes on it.

9. Can I deduct lease payments from taxes?

As a private individual, you cannot deduct lease payments in the canton of Bern. However, if you are self-employed or if the vehicle is registered via a corporation, these costs — provided they arise due to business-related purposes — can be deducted.

10. In which country do I need to pay taxes?

Generally, a person pays his/her taxes at the location where they have a sense of personal belonging. A civil registration at a certain location is always seen merely as an indication, and generally has no binding character when it comes to taxes. What is important is where the person's life is centred (family, hobbies, membership) and not where he/she is registered. Furthermore, you may also pay taxes at your place of work even if your life is centred at another location overseas. This may be the case for cross-border commuters or international residents, or in the case of persons who work for more than 30 days in Switzerland — regardless of temporary interruptions. Furthermore, you may pay taxes in a country to which you only have economic ties, such as in the case of properties or business operations/premises. International relationships are highly complex in the world of taxes, and may lead to problems with taxation. Thus it is highly recommended that an in-depth review of tax obligations be performed so that double taxation can be avoided wherever possible.

11. How much time do I have to object to a final assessment I have received?

Objections to a final assessment can be made within 30 days. These 30 days cannot be extended. If this deadline is missed, objections can only be raised in special exceptional cases.

12. Can I optimise taxes at/before my retirement?

Taxes can be optimised before retirement according to the law, that is correct. However, it is important that this is not done shortly before retirement, but instead ideally already starting from 55 years of age. retirment planningWe would be glad to advise you on this topic.

13. Can I be taxed at a flat rate in Switzerland (taxed on expenditure)?

Yes, it is possible for a person in Switzerland to be taxed on expenditure. However, the prerequisites are that this person possesses Swiss citizenship, is subject to unlimited tax liability for the first time or after a ten-year disruption, and is not employed in Switzerland. However, taxation on expenditure is only interesting starting from an income of CHF 400,000.

14. Can I request a rate correction for tax at source as a foreign employee?

Yes, provided you are taxed at source, you can apply for a rate correction. However, this is only meaningful if deductible expenditures were made which were not considered in the rate for the calculation of tax at source. This may be the case e.g. if you pay debt interest, alimony, or child support. We would be glad to help you decide if a rate correction is a good idea for your case.

15. As a self-employed person, do I need to prepare an accounting/financial statement (balance sheet/profit and loss statement) and submit a tax return?

A tax return must always be submitted. As a self-employed person, you are also required to at least keep simple accounting records ('Milchbüchli-Rechnung') up to a turnover of CHF 500,000 which list takings and expenditures. From a turnover of CHF 500,000, self-employed persons are also legally obliged to keep accounting records, and are required to keep proper books. If only simple accounting records ('Milchbüchli-Rechnung') are kept, additional information will still need to be provided in the tax return. In certain cases, this may also result in the same amount of work as keeping proper (full) accounting books. Furthermore, tax planning is only possible to a very limited extent. Due to this, we recommend keeping proper (full) accounting books starting from a certain scope and amount of revenue. We would be glad to discuss your situation with you, obligation-free.

16. Which legal form should I choose for my company?

Should I form a corporation (e.g. public limited, private limited) or a partnership (e.g. collective proprietorship, limited partnership) or should I choose the legal form of a sole proprietorship? In order to determine which legal form to choose for a company, an in-depth assessment is usually required for each individual case. There is generally no one-size-fits-all solution. First of all, civil law matters should take priority over purely tax-related considerations. In our opinion, the most important points that should also factor into this decision include liability, the existing/required capital, and the anonymity which may be desired. Once these questions have been clarified, the tax-related aspects can then also be considered. Sole proprietorships, collective proprietorships, and corporations (public limited, private limited etc.) are treated differently under tax law. Depending on domicile and business activities, choosing the correct legal form — particularly in inter-cantonal, but also in international contexts — can result in an enormous tax advantage. Meticulous advance planning can really pay off.

FAQ for Value-added tax (VAT)

1. As a foreign company, can I request a refund of the value-added tax (VAT) incurred in Switzerland?

Yes. According to Art. 151 of the Ordinance on Value Added Tax (MWSTV), a company domiciled overseas is entitled to a refund for the taxes incurred under certain preconditions. In particular, you can request a refund of the input tax on costs related to trade fairs as well as on hotel, petrol, and restaurant expenses. For more information, please refer to our section VAT refund procedure.

2. What will a VAT refund in Switzerland cost me?

You can calculate the costs/non-binding offer for your VAT refund conveniently and online with our Online price calculator.

3. How long does the entire refund process take?

It can vary greatly from case to case. Generally, the Federal Tax Administration (ESTV) is obliged to pay an interest for delays on the refund amount starting from the 181th day after submission of the refund application. Hence, the refund applications are usually processed within 180 days. However, it may also happen significantly faster. Unfortunately, we have no influence over the processing time, which depends on the Federal Tax Administration (ESTV).

4. What happens with the original invoices/receipts?

We will forward them to you as quickly as possible once the procedure is concluded (Hint: electronic invoices that have never been issued in paper form should be accepted as well).

5. As a foreign company, when do I need to have myself registered in Switzerland for value added tax (VAT) purposes?

Foreign companies which offer taxable products/services in Switzerland may need to register for value added tax (VAT) purposes in Switzerland under certain circumstances. Hence, if activities in Switzerland are planned or have already been carried out and the annual worldwide turnover exceeds CHF 100,000, we urgently recommend that any VAT obligations be assessed. It is also good to know that a voluntary VAT registration — without exceeding a turnover of CHF 100,000 in the first few years — is possible, and may even be expedient. For example, when large initial investments are made. However, voluntary tax obligations should be assessed in-depth in advance. Examples of activities which could trigger VAT obligations in Switzerland are as follows:

  • Delivery of goods into Switzerland which are assembled/installed on site in Switzerland
  • Construction and assembly products/services on Swiss territory (e.g. on construction sites, trade fair construction etc.)
  • Leasing out of objects in Switzerland
  • Organisation of events (exhibitions, congresses, seminars etc.)

Foreign companies that need to be registered for VAT purposes in Switzerland need to have a fiscal representative/tax representative located in Switzerland by law.

6. Do I have to pay value added tax (VAT) on proceeds from my property/holiday apartment (in Switzerland)?

Generally, a property owner who rents out property/properties may be considered an entrepreneur under Art. 10 of the Federal Act on Value Added Tax (MWSTG) and be subject to taxation. However, rental income is excluded from value added tax according to Art. 21 MWSTG. This means that VAT generally does not need to be paid on the rental income. However, a voluntary VAT obligation (via the option of rental income) is possible provided that the property is not used purely for residential purposes. Voluntary VAT can even be a good idea, because it may then be possible to deduct the input tax on the construction costs, maintenance costs, renovations, remodelling etc. However, an in-depth assessment is required in each individual case to determine if voluntarily subjecting rental income to taxation is expedient.

When renting out holiday apartments, none of the products/services excluded according to Art. 21 of the Federal Act on Value Added Tax (MWSTG) apply. This means that when the turnover from the renting out of holiday apartments exceeds CHF 100,000 (worldwide), there is a mandatory tax obligation. In light of the fact that this turnover is only taxed at a special rate of 3.7%, and that contrary to other cases, input tax on all operating and maintenance costs can be claimed at a rate of 7.7%, tax obligations may in fact pay off financially. Particularly when holiday apartments are rented out on a large scale, an assessment of this aspect is highly recommended.

7. Starting from which turnover amount do I need to register for value added tax (VAT)?

Mandatory tax obligations exist in Switzerland starting from an annual worldwide turnover of CHF 100,000 from taxable products/services (CHF 150,000 for non-profit-oriented, charitably operated sports or cultural associations, or non-profit institutions).

8. When calculating value added tax (VAT), should I utilise the effective or net tax rate method ('SSS-Methode')?

The method that should be chosen when calculating value added tax (VAT) depends above all on future investments and the profit margin. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. If large investments are to be made when launching the business and if a loss is also expected in the first few years, an effective calculation method might make sense. However, if the expectation is that turnover will already 'blow up' in the first few months and an above-average margin will be achieved, calculations according to the net tax rate method (Ger.: 'SSS-Methode') may pay off. A switch from the effective method to the net tax rate method (Ger.: 'SSS-Methode') can be performed every 3 years, while a switch from the net tax rate method to the effective method is possible every year. An in-depth assessment is highly recommended, particularly when starting new business activities.

9. Which percentage rate do I need to use when calculating according to the net tax rate method ('SSS-Methode')?

The percentage rates are defined in the publications of the Federal Tax Administration (ESTV), Main Section VAT (HA MWST), and can be requested from the tax administration.

10. Do I require a tax/fiscal representative in Switzerland for VAT registration or the refund of value added tax (VAT)?

Yes. According to statutory regulations, your company requires a tax representative/fiscal representative domiciled in Switzerland.