Switzerland has a unique tax regime designed to encourage wealthy individuals to move to the country, establishing it as their tax domicile. This is specially helpful for companies or professionals moving to Switzerland as part of an expansion strategy because it allows local workers to streamline their tax payments. Lump sum taxation essentially taxes individuals based on their annual living expenses rather than their foreign income.
Individuals who benefit from lump-sum taxation are assessed based on their expenses around the world and can even negotiate the tax rate with the Swiss authorities. While there are specified rules and minimum tax requirements, these tax regulations actively promote moving to Switzerland to enjoy lower tax rates on a variety of income sources. This includes income from retirement funds, dividends, rental income, and more.
Interested in learning more about lump-sum taxation? Here’s what you need to know to streamline your entry into Switzerland.
What Is Lump-Sum Taxation?
Lump-sum taxation, also known as the “forfait fiscal,” is a unique tax regime in Switzerland designed to attract foreign nationals to establish their tax domicile in the country. Under this system, eligible individuals, including foreign nationals and Swiss citizens returning after a minimum of 10 years abroad, can opt for a simplified method of assessing their income and wealth for tax purposes. To qualify, they must refrain from engaging in gainful employment within Switzerland.
Instead of taxing their worldwide income and assets, lump-sum taxpayers are assessed based on their annual living expenses in Switzerland and abroad, covering themselves and their dependents. This approach considers various expenditures such as rent, healthcare, education, and insurance premiums, among others. The tax authorities may negotiate the specific tax base with the taxpayer, and ordinary tax rates are applied to this negotiated base.
While the rules and minimum tax requirements can vary by canton, in practice, the minimum annual tax burden often starts at around CHF 250,000 to CHF 300,000 for non-EU/EFTA nationals. EU/EFTA nationals may enjoy lower tax bases. Additionally, Swiss Social Security contributions are typically required.
Lump-sum taxation offers a simplified and potentially cost-effective tax option for eligible individuals looking to establish their tax residence in Switzerland, provided they meet the necessary criteria and refrain from gainful employment within the country.
What Do I Need to Apply for Lump-Sum Taxation?
To apply for lump-sum taxation in Switzerland, individuals must meet specific criteria and follow a set of requirements outlined by Swiss tax authorities. Here are the key prerequisites and steps to initiate the application process:
Applicants must not have Swiss citizenship and should establish their tax domicile in Switzerland for the first time or after a minimum of ten years spent outside the country.
Lack of Gainful Employment
To qualify, applicants must refrain from engaging in any form of gainful employment within Switzerland. This includes both regular employment and self-employment activities. However, gainful activities outside Switzerland may be permissible, subject to specific regulations.
Spouses living in a legal marriage must each fulfill the above-mentioned requirements individually to benefit from lump sum taxation. If only one party qualifies, then the other will be recognized as a tax resident and be subject to income tax.
Calculation of Tax Base
Tax authorities calculate the tax base on the total worldwide annual cost of living expenses for the applicant and their dependents. This includes various expenditures like housing costs, healthcare, education, and insurance premiums. The specific tax base is typically subject to negotiation with the tax authorities.
Ordinary Tax Rates
Once the tax base is determined, ordinary tax rates are applied. These rates may vary by canton, so it’s essential to consider the specific canton’s regulations.
Minimum Tax Burden
In practice, the minimum annual tax burden for lump sum taxation varies depending on the canton of residence. It generally starts at approximately CHF 250,000 to CHF 300,000 for non-EU/EFTA nationals. EU/EFTA nationals may enjoy more favorable tax bases.
Social Security Contributions
Applicants must make Swiss Social Security contributions of around CHF 25,000 per person annually. This is based on the average rate in Switzerland and can change each fiscal year. While it’s true that not every Swiss person contributes CHF 25,000 every year, this rate applies to individuals who fully support themselves and dependents in Switzerland.
Recent Changes to Lum-Sum Taxation
Lump-sum taxation has come under fire increasingly in recent years, due to the way it provides benefits for wealthy foreigners but deprives Switzerland of tax revenue. As a result, it has been abolished in several Cantons, including Basel Landschaft, Basel Stadt, Zurich, Schaffhausen, and Appenzell Ausserrhoden. However, because of federal laws, lump-sum taxation can still be applied for federal income tax in these areas.
Overall, there is a sense that lump-sum taxation in Switzerland is facing stricter controls and scrutiny, according to official figures, the number of those benefitting from it has decreased. However, more and more foreign citizens are moving to Switzerland, so time will tell whether this tax regime continues in its current form.
As always, it’s best to remain vigilant and up-to-date when considering tax regulations. Working with legal and financial professionals to make the most of lump-sum taxation in Switzerland and similar tax liability rules in other countries can help keep you and your workers safe during periods of expansion.