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Swiss Income Tax
Frequently Asked Questions

If you work in Switzerland you will need to pay tax on your Swiss income. If you fill a Swiss tax return your tax rate will be based on your global income.

You will also pay a small tax on your Swiss based capital, at a rate based on your global capital. There is no capital gains tax in Switzerland, except for Swiss real estate gains. 

Swiss source tax is not unlike Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) in the UK, where the employer must deduct income tax at source and remit to the Swiss tax office. You then may fill out a Swiss tax return at the year end for a more complete tax assessment in which case the source tax becomes a "down payment" on your actual tax bill. If you don't have to fill a return then the sourcetax becomes definitive.

A Swiss tax return allows you to deduct allowances for certain tax desuctable items, for example 3rd pillar pension, and certain travel, subsistence and training expenses. However you will be required to declare your global income and capital so the tax return can be complex, and can result in higher tax than was paid at source. It is usually worthwhile to pay a Swiss tax adviser several hundred francs to ensure you fill the return to your best advantage.

Swiss sourcetax must usually be deducted for all employees who are not Swiss or holders of a permanent residence (C) permit. There are some exceptions.

In most cases Swiss source tax, like other Swiss income tax, can be deducted (under the numerous bilateral tax treaties) from any income tax you pay abroad where you are normally resident. We will provde you a Swiss salary and tax certificate each year for your tax returns. 

The Swiss tax year is from 1 January to 31 December

Generally if you earn more than CHF 120'000 per year you will be required to fill out a tax return. However many tax offices will avoid inviting you to do so as it is considerable work for them and often results in a refund to you, so its not always seen to be in their interest.

In these cases, especially if you have a specific reason for claiming tax back, it is often possible to fill a much lighter "sourcetax amendment" form where you can claim for such items as the 3rd pillar pension (see our pension FAQ) or the cost of travelling and working weekly away from your permanent home (Normally you are allowed economy class weekly air or rail travel and the rent of a studio flat or equivalent).  Note that this form MUST be submitted with all receipts and documentation before 31st March the year following the tax year or you lose the right to make a claim. 

If you work through us, although we are not authorized to fill private tax returns, we can point you to a reputable tax advisor or where to find the sourcetax form for your canton.

Primarily, your monthly income: Swiss tax rates are highly progressive with income.
The rate is also dependent on the canton and the difference can be very significant (compare canton Zug with Geneva on our tax calculator). 

Finally the rate depends on if you are single or married, if you wife has income and how many dependent children you have. (Over 16 years a child is usually dependent if still in education).

Be careful also to declare if you are practicing religion in Switzerland or not because if you are then there may be a small churchtax to pay on top of normal income tax.

If you work through Accurity we will take steps to ensure your tax rate is correct and does not result in you paying more than you have to. 

Swiss Income tax (on payroll) is split into three:
*  Federal Tax - paid to the federal government
*  Cantonal Tax - paid to the canton in which you reside
*  Local Tax - paid to the community in which you live

The cantonal and community taxes typically comprise two thirds of total taxation and vary significantly between cantons and communities.

Apart from federal tax, the tax laws are primarily under the control of the 26 individual cantons which means taxation differs onot only in the tax rates, but also how taxes are applied and which deductions are allowed. In short, Swiss taxation is a complex minefield where if you know what you are doing you can save somewhat, but if you havn't a clue it can bite you.

If you are a cross border commuter into Switzerland then you may still have to pay source tax (sometimes at a reduced rate) depending on:

*   which canton you are commuting to
*   from how far into the neighbouring country you are commuting

Contact us if you wish to know what the source tax liability might be in your particular case.

Note that, since you may be paying income tax in your country of residence, the Swiss source tax you pay will normally be deductable from your  local tax bill.

These days, expatriates cannot claim special allowances when they come to work for short periods in Switzerland. However in common with Swiss citizens working away from their normal home, they can claim for the cost of weekly economy class travel (including air travel) and a small flat.

Additionally any business expenses, including travel and subsistence when working away from the normal workplace can be reimbursed directly with no payroll costs or tax payment, but they should be declared on the annual salary statement. 

Depending on your canton of residence, there may be numerous other deductions for married couples, childcare, health costs, commuting charges, etc that can be claimed in a tax return. These need to be checked with the respective cantonal tax office or a profesisonal tax advisor. Although we cannot act on your behalf in personal tax matters, we can provide you a list of cantonal tax office addresses, and a list of reputable tax advisors based on canton and language spoken.  

For those of you paying source tax and not filling a tax return, thee source tax rates do reflect the major deductions for marriage and dependent children. We need to apply for a ruling on this status on your behalf when you join us. To see how tax varies in your canton with status you can try our online sourcetax calculator.

We do this for you so unless you want/have to fill out a Swiss tax return, you need do nothing. At the year end we will provide a tax certificate for any tax declaration you may need to make in another country.

These days our hands are pretty much tied. We can claim legitimate business expenses (for travel and subsistence away from the office in which you normally work in Switzerland). 

One of the most effective mechanisms we have to optimize source tax (we believe this is unique to us) is to provide you a fixed monthly basic salary and pay additional bonus which you may decide when to take. In this way you can smooth out salary (unlike with hourly paid contracts)  and this optimises source tax. This is because in nearly all cantons source tax rates increase progressively based on monthly (not annual) income.

We also provide a choice of innovative, state recognised and proven Swiss pension schemes that can further save you income tax if desired. 

If you come to Switzerland and work through us on a contract of less than 90 days you will pay tax in Canton Zürich (regardless of where you work) which has lower tax rates compared to many other Swiss cantons. You can compare cantonal rates using our sourcetax calculator.

Switzerland has a bilateral agreement with  great many countries (and all EU members) that permits deduction of Swiss tax paid against that due in your country of permanent residence. Since these agreements are in constant motion, to be sure you need to check the precise rules with the tax office in your home country.  

If you have any further questions please don't hesitate to contact us. We are always interested to know what people are concerned about regarding Swiss employment.

Please note the above information is provided without guarantee or warranty. Employment, tax and pension laws are dependent on your specific situation and can change quickly. To be sure of the facts always contact us directly for a verified up to date answer.


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