How to file your income tax in Switzerland in 2024

Discover how you can file your income taxes in Switzerland, who needs to pay them, and how much they cost in 2024.

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Updated 9-5-2024

If you’re new to Switzerland, getting your head around the tax system can be tricky. With taxes levied from three different sources and rates varying from one canton to another, it can be tough to figure out just how much duty you need to pay on your income.

To discover how you can master your income taxes the Swiss way, read on for the following topics:


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Income tax in Switzerland: overview and latest developments

Income tax is the money you pay on your earnings and your wealth. In Switzerland, this is levied by three distinct authorities:

  • The government: The country follows a federalist tax structure, meaning that your money is directly taxed when you earn it
  • Cantons: Tax rates and laws vary between Switzerland’s 26 cantons
  • Municipalities: These follow the laws set by their respective cantons, but may offer their own local tax rates

The Federal Department of Finance (FDF), the government body in charge of tax in Switzerland, takes about 30% of your income tax. Your canton takes the majority at 40%, and your municipality will take the remaining 30%.

Credit Suisse offices exterior, with two large potted plants outside and two business men walking past
Credit Suisse, one of Switzerland’s most popular banks (Photo: Arnd Wiegmann/Getty Images)

Luckily, you won’t need to prepare separate returns to pay your income tax to the three establishments – everything is filled out in the same form and then split between them afterward. What’s more, only one document is necessary for your household, so you can file it on behalf of your spouse and/or any children under 18.

Once your income taxes have been paid, your money will go towards supporting a myriad of local services and programs. These include education, healthcare, public safety, and environmental protection.

In Switzerland, income tax is imposed on (but not limited to) the following:

  • Business income: Profits from businesses
  • Employed income: Salaries, as well as benefits, bonuses, and allowances
  • Pension income: Pension and other related benefits
  • Self-employed income: Any income from freelance work
  • Rental income: Money earned by renting out property

Latest news about income taxes in Switzerland for 2024

2024 saw Switzerland adopt a substantial, new tax motion: the OECD/G20 tax reform. Affecting large multinational businesses as of 1 January, the country will begin implementing the OECD’s global minimum tax rate. This means that sizeable companies will need to be taxed at a rate of at least 15%.

While this news affects corporate income rather than personal income, the move is expected to cause a ripple of new measures to attract qualified workers, such as more competitive income rates.

Otherwise, the most notable updates about income taxes for 2024 are as follows:

  • Interest rates will increase from 4% to 4.75%
  • Income taxes reached a maximum tax rate of around 33.5% at the end of 2023, proving that rates remain stable across the country

Tax rates: how much tax will I pay in Switzerland in 2024?

With its three-tiered system, it will come as no surprise that Switzerland offers no ‘one-size-fits-all’ outline of tax rates. Instead, your ratio will vary depending on how much you earn and where in the country you live.

Income tax rates in Switzerland are progressive, meaning that the amount of tax you’ll need to pay will increase with the more money you earn. As of 2024, federal income rates range between 0 and 11.5%.

Cantonal and municipal income taxes are also progressive, however, rates can vary considerably from one area to another.

To find out how much income tax you need to pay, you can use the Swiss government’s tax calculator. Here, you can also find the relevant tax rates for your canton and commune.

Who pays income tax in Switzerland?

Who needs to file a tax return in Switzerland?

All Swiss citizens and residents in possession of a C permit must file an annual return to cover their federal, cantonal, and municipal taxes. Those holding the latter are individuals who have been living in Switzerland for a minimum of five years and have received a settlement permit. They are otherwise known as settled foreign nationals.

A sign with the text 'Tax the rich' is raised at a protest for environment justice in Davos on 14 January 2024 against the World Economic Forum
A protest held on 14 January 2024 for climate justice in Davos criticizing the World Economic Forum (Photo: Hannes P Albert/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Citizens and residents must pay income tax on their worldwide income and their wealth. The only exceptions to this are the following, which are excluded from the tax return:

  • Compensation for damages
  • Inheritance and gifts
  • Lottery winnings
  • Profits derived from real estate located overseas
  • Profits from a business located overseas

Since self-employed workers are not subject to withholding tax, they will also need to file their own tax return. This also applies if they do not have a C permit and have been living in Switzerland for less than five years.

Switzerland’s income tax for foreigners

Expats who move to Switzerland for work will be subject to income tax from the first day they arrive in the country. However, they do not need to complete a return unless they are a Swiss resident.

If you are an employee who does not have Swiss residency, your income tax will be taken from the source, meaning from any money you earn in the country. As a result, you typically do not need to file a tax return.

There are, however, exceptions to this rule that permit you to file a tax return. Most notably:

  • If you have a spouse who is Swiss
  • If you have a spouse in possession of a C permit

In this case, your spouse can submit a tax return for both of you, since you will be considered as a single tax unit.

To ensure you won’t be taxed twice over, Switzerland has double taxation agreements with over 100 countries. Check out the Swiss Federal Council’s website for a full list of countries that qualify for this.

Who is exempt from Swiss income tax?

If you do not fall into at least one of the following categories, you do not need to file an income tax return in Switzerland:

How do you file your tax return in Switzerland?

The tax year in Switzerland runs in tandem with the calendar year, from 1 January to 31 December.

Your tax return will concern your earnings from the previous year. Therefore, your form in 2024 will target your wealth and earnings from 2023.

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Photo: AscentXmedia/Getty Images

The deadline to file your 2023 income return is 31 March 2024, although this date may differ between cantons. Once your form has been assessed, you will have 30 days to pay your dues.

Which forms do I need to fill out?

When it’s time to file your return, you’ll receive your tax return in the mail from your canon’s tax administration. You can either fill it out at home and then hand it in to the administration, or you can complete your return online. The Swiss government’s website provides links to each canton’s website, where you can fill in your tax return digitally.

The form will be split into different sections, including:

  • Personal information
  • Your income
  • Deductions
  • Securities
  • Your wealth

Before diving in, make sure to have certain documents and certificates at hand. To prove your income, you’ll need:

  • Accounts (if you’re self-employed)
  • Bank/post office account statements
  • Pension statements (if you’re retired)
  • Salary certificate (if you’re an employee)
  • Investment statements

Alongside your income, you’ll need to make note of any assets you possess as part of the wealth tax imposed by all cantons. You will therefore need to make note of the following from the previous year:

  • Bank account balances
  • Life and pension insurance
  • Real estate details

Alternatively, you can register your business online through the Easygov online portal.

Declaring your income

The most essential element of filing your income tax return is – unsurprisingly – declaring your income. This must be done by all tax residents who are employees or are self-employed. This is quite straightforward: simply write down your net annual salary as written in your salary certificate. Otherwise, if you are a pensioner, you can write down your occupational pension.

How do you register for tax in Switzerland?

If you’re an employee in Switzerland, your employer will automatically enroll you in the tax system.

On the other hand, if you work for yourself, you’ll need to register for tax and VAT by contacting the commercial register in your canton. You can find this through the Federal Council’s search tool.

Deductibles and tax relief

Fortunately, taxpayers can benefit from various tax reliefs when filing their income tax returns in Switzerland.

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Photo: Alistair Berg/Getty Images

Most notably, any debts in the form of mortgages and loans can be deducted from your return. This applies to all cantons in the country.

Additionally, you can also benefit from the following subtractions:

  • Alimony: Payments spent on children under 18 years old
  • Business-related expenses: Commuting costs, meals bought at work, general business expenses
  • Costs spent to further your education
  • Daycare expenses: Day-care costs up to a certain amount can be claimed in most cantons
  • Life insurance premiums
  • Medical expenses: Applies to un-reimbursed medical treatment
  • Social security payments: Both in Switzerland and overseas
  • Real estate: Covers maintenance costs

What’s more, expats working in Switzerland for a temporary assignment of less than five years are also eligible for income tax deductions on certain expenses, such as commuting, relocation costs, and housing.

How do I pay my Swiss income tax?

Once your income tax has been calculated, you can pay your cantonal tax administration in 2–3 installments throughout the year. This is typically done through a bank account transfer directly to your canton, who will then distribute your payment to your municipality and the Swiss government.

If you have difficulty paying your tax income, you can contact your cantonal tax administration to request more time to pay your installments or to request that your payments be made in smaller installments.

Income tax refunds

If you’ve paid more tax than you’re owed, your canton will send you a tax refund. Once your return has been processed, you will be notified by your canton and reimbursed within the next 30 days.

Your refund will be sent to the same bank account outlined in your tax return. If your bank account has changed within this period, make sure to notify your canton with your updated bank details.

If you are dissatisfied with your tax calculation, you have 30 days after receiving your tax slip to write to your canton and ask for an appeal.

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Expatica Editor

Bettina Borg

Insider tip

When sending a letter to your canton to ask for a tax appeal, make sure to send it by registered post. That way, you can prove that it was sent within the 30 day period.

In your letter, make sure to re-send your tax slip with your tax calculation, as well as the following details:

  • Full name and address
  • IBAN
  • The name of your bank and their bank identification code (BIC)

What happens if I don’t pay my income tax on time?

If you can’t pay your income tax within 30 days of receiving your form, you can request an extension from your canton.

A middle-aged woman sits at her kitchen table reading a letter with a concerned expression
Photo: Natalia Gdovskaia/Getty Images

However, if you do not inform your canton and do not pay your taxes by the required deadline, you’ll be subject to late payment interest charges. These vary by canton but can be almost as high as the interest rates for personal loans.

As of 2024, penalty rates range from 3–5% depending on the canton and 4.75% for direct federal taxes.

Income tax advice in Switzerland

Overwhelmed by filing your income return? A tax advisor, like TaXperts, can take a load off your shoulders, especially if you’re self-employed and need to sort out your own tax matters. What’s more, an international-friendly accountant can help you navigate financial admin if it’s in a language you don’t understand.

Check out our business directory or EXPERTSuisse to find an accountant in your area.

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