Switzerland – Could this be your Next Move?

Switzerland is an enchanting country, blessed with spectacular hiking and skiing trails, beautiful rivers and lakes, picturesque villages, Swiss festivals throughout the year, and, of course, the spectacular Swiss Alps. It appears on almost every bucket list of places to visit but has succeeded in not feeling over-commercialised – even with the tourists flocking to the country to try the world-famous Swiss chocolates.

Switzerland features almost at the top of the list of most attractive countries for high-net-worth individuals to live. It is one of the world’s wealthiest countries and is also known for its impartiality and neutrality.

Switzerland offers an exceptionally high standard of living, first-rate health service, outstanding education system, and boasts a plethora of employment opportunities.

Switzerland is also ideally situated for ease of travel; one of the many reasons high-net-worth individuals choose to relocate here. Perfectly situated in the middle of Europe means moving around could not be easier, especially for individuals who regularly travel, internationally.

Swiss Residence

There are no restrictions imposed on permanent residence for EU/EFTA nationals and these individuals enjoy priority access to the labour market. Should an EU/EFTA citizen wish to live and work in Switzerland, they can freely enter the country but will need a work permit to stay more than 3 months.

Regarding EU/EFTA nationals who do not want to work in Switzerland, the process is even more straightforward. Individuals must show they have sufficient funds to live in Switzerland and take out Swiss health and accident insurance.

The process is a bit longer for non-EU and non-EFTA (European Union Free Trade Association) nationals. Those who wish to live and work in Switzerland are allowed to enter the Swiss labour market, but must be appropriately qualified (such as managers, specialists, and those with higher education qualifications). They will also need to be registered with the Swiss authorities in order to obtain a work visa, and they will need to apply for an entry visa from their home country.

Non-EU/EFTA nationals who want to move to Switzerland, but not to work, are divided into two age categories. Depending on which category the individual falls into (over 55 or under 55), certain criteria must be met (more information can be provided on request: advice.switzerland@dixcart.com).

Taxation in Switzerland

One of the greatest motivations for moving to Switzerland is the attractive tax regime available to individuals who choose to live there. Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons and each canton has its own cantonal and federal taxes that generally impose the following taxes: income, net wealth, and real estate.

A significant advantage of the Swiss tax regime is that the transfer of assets in Switzerland, before death (as a gift), or on death, to a spouse, or to children and/or grandchildren is exempt from gift and inheritance tax, in most cantons. In addition, capital gains are generally also tax free, except in the case of real estate.

The federal and cantonal tax laws of most cantons provide for a special Lump Sum Tax Regime for foreigners who move to Switzerland for the first time, or after an absence of ten years, and who will not be employed or commercially active in Switzerland. It is an extremely attractive tax regime as it enables individuals to manage their worldwide investments from Switzerland.

Individuals benefiting from the Lump Sum System of Taxation are not subject to Swiss taxation on their worldwide income and net wealth, but on their worldwide expenditure (living expenses). The minimum requirement for calculating income tax based on expenses for individuals with their own household, is the equivalent of seven times the annual rental value of their principle residence in Switzerland. In addition, a minimum taxable income of CHF 400,000 is assumed for direct federal taxation. Cantons may also define minimum expense thresholds, but the amount is at their own discretion. Some cantons have already stated their minimum threshold amounts and these will vary from canton to canton.

Living in Switzerland

Although Switzerland has a variety of beautiful towns and alpine villages to live in, expats and high-net-worth individuals are mainly drawn to a few specific cities. At a glance, these are Zürich, Geneva, Bern and Lugano.

Geneva and Zürich are the biggest cities due to their popularity as centres for international business and finance. Lugano is located in Ticino, the third most popular canton, as it is close to Italy and has a Mediterranean culture many expats enjoy.

Geneva

Geneva is known as the ‘international city’ in Switzerland. This is due to the high number of expats, the UN, banks, commodity companies, private wealth companies, as well as other international companies. Many businesses have set up head offices in Geneva. However, the main attraction for individuals, continues to be the fact that it is in the French part of the country, has a well-looked-after old town full of history and culture and boasts Lake Geneva, with a magnificent water fountain which reaches 140 meters into the air.

Geneva also has fantastic connections to the rest of the world, with a large international airport and connections to the Swiss and French rail and motorway systems.

In the winter months, residents in Geneva also have very easy access to the Alp’s best ski resorts.

Zürich

Zürich is not the capital of Switzerland, but it is the largest city, with 1.3 million people within the canton; an estimated 30% of the residents in Zürich are foreign nationals. Zürich is known as the Swiss financial capital and is home to many international businesses, especially banks. Even though it gives the image of high-rise buildings and a city lifestyle, Zürich has a beautiful and historical old town, and an abundance of museums, art galleries and restaurants.  Of course, you are also never too far from the lakes, hiking trails and ski slopes if you love being outdoors.

Lugano and the Canton of Ticino

The canton of Ticino is the southernmost canton of Switzerland and borders the canton of Uri to the north. The Italian-speaking region of Ticino is popular for its flair (due to its proximity to Italy) and fantastic weather.

Residents enjoy a snowy winter but in the summer months, Ticino opens its doors to tourists who flood to its sunny coastal resorts, rivers and lakes, or sun themselves in the town squares and piazzas.

In Switzerland, four different languages are spoken, and English is well spoken everywhere.

Additional Information

I hope this article has inspired you to visit Switzerland and to consider this incredible country as a place of residence. No matter which canton draws your attention, or which city you decide to settle in, the rest of the country, and Europe, is easily accessible. It may be a small country, but it offers; a diverse range of places to live, a dynamic mix of nationalities, is headquarters to many international businesses, and caters to a large range of sports and leisure interests.

The Dixcart office in Switzerland can provide a detailed understanding of the Swiss Lump Sum System of Taxation, the obligations that need to be met by applicants and the fees involved. We can also give a local perspective on the country, its people, the lifestyle, and any tax issues. If you would like to visit Switzerland, or wish to discuss moving to Switzerland, please do get in touch: advice.switzerland@dixcart.com.

Moving to Switzerland and Want to Work? The Benefits of Forming a Swiss Company

If you are looking for a high quality of life in one of the world’s most economically and politically stable countries, living in Switzerland could provide you with the ideal answer. Not only will you find yourself at a central hub for travel to over 200 international locations, but you will also have access to the beautiful scenery of the Alps and picturesque lakes.

There are two options for moving to Switzerland – but the main question is do you wish to work once you have moved?

If the answer is yes, the procedure is made easier for both EU/EFTA nationals and non-EU/EFTA nationals, if the new resident forms a Swiss company and is employed by it.

This article explores the following:

  1. Why Switzerland?
  2. Who Can Move to Switzerland?
  3. Forming or Investing in a Swiss Company
  4. Criteria for Forming a Swiss Company
  5. How to Invest in a Swiss Company?
  6. Benefits – Tax and Residence
  7. Living in Switzerland

1. Why Switzerland?

Switzerland is an attractive jurisdiction to start and operate a business, as a location for individuals and for family protection and safety. 

Advantages include:

  • Located in the centre of Europe.
  • Economic and political stability.
  • High regard for personal privacy and confidentiality.
  • Most ‘innovative’ and “competitive” country in the world with various strong industries.
  • A well-respected jurisdiction with an excellent reputation.
  • A high quality and multilingual local workforce.
  • Low rates of corporate tax for Swiss companies.
  • Premier destination for international investment and asset protection.
  • Major commodity trading centre in the world.
  • Hub for HNWIs, international families and a wide variety of professionals including lawyers, family offices, bankers, accountants, insurance companies.

2. Who can Move to Switzerland?

  • EU/EFTA nationals: enjoy priority access to the labour market. They can freely enter the country but will require a work permit. The individual will need to find a job and the employer must register the employment before the individual can actually start to work.
  • Non-EU/EFTA nationals: are allowed to enter the Swiss labour market if they are appropriately qualified, for example managers, specialists, and those with higher educational qualifications. The employer needs to apply to the Swiss authorities for a work visa, while the employee applies for an entry visa from their home country. The work visa will allow the individual to live and work in Switzerland.

3. Forming or Investing in a Swiss Company and Becoming a Director or an Employee of the Company

The establishment of a Swiss company is one of the most popular routes for individuals relocating to Switzerland. This is because EU/EFTA and non-EU/EFTA nationals can form a Swiss company, be employed by it, reside in Switzerland, and benefit from the attractive tax regime.

Any foreign national can form a company and therefore potentially create jobs for Swiss nationals. The owner of the company is eligible for a residence permit in Switzerland, as long as he/she is employed by the company in a senior capacity.

4. What are the Criteria?

In principle, non-EU/EFTA nationals need to form a company which must:

  • generate an annual minimum turnover of CHF 1 million, and
  • create new jobs exploiting new technologies and/or the development of the region and contribute to the economic development of the country.

The company must produce a business plan detailing how the amount to be invested will generate a turnover of CHF 1million or more per annum, in the ‘near’ future. The business plan also needs to show that the company will achieve this turnover in a specified number of months, not necessarily in the first year, particularly if the company is a start-up.

The types of economic development objectives for the company, which are regarded positively in Switzerland, include: opening up new markets, securing export sales, establishing economically significant links abroad, and the creation of new tax revenue. Precise requirements vary by canton and more information can be provided on request.

Alternatively…

5. Investment in a Swiss Company

Alternatively, EU and non-EU/EFTA applicants can choose to invest in a company which is struggling to expand, as it lacks the necessary funding.

For non-EU/EFTA applicants this new funding should then enable the company to create jobs and assist the Swiss economy to expand. The investment must add economic value to a particular Swiss region.

6. Benefits – Tax and Residence

  • Taxation of Swiss Companies

Swiss companies can enjoy a zero-tax rate for capital gains and dividend income, depending on the circumstances, and Trading companies are taxed as follows:

  • The effective cantonal and federal corporate income tax rate (CIT) is between 12% and 14% in most cantons. The Geneva corporate tax rate is 13.99%.

Swiss Holding Companies benefit from a participation exemption and do not pay tax on profits or capital gains arising from qualifying participations. This means that a pure Holding Company is exempt from Swiss tax.

Withholding Tax (WHT)

  • There is no WHT on dividend distributions to shareholders based in Switzerland and/or in the EU (due to the EU Parent/Subsidiary Directive).
  • If shareholders are domiciled outside Switzerland and outside of the EU, and a double tax treaty applies, the final taxation on distributions is generally between 5% and 15%.

Double Tax Treaties

Switzerland has an extensive double tax treaty network, with access to tax treaties with over 100 countries.

For more information about Swiss Companies, please read our article: Formation of a Swiss Company.

  • Taxation of Individuals

Each canton sets its own tax rates and generally imposes the following taxes: income, net wealth, real estate, inheritance, and gift tax. The specific tax rate varies by canton and is between 21% and 46%.

In Switzerland, the transfer of assets, on death, to a spouse, children and/or grandchildren is exempt from gift and inheritance tax, in most cantons.

Capital gains are generally tax free, except in the case of real estate. The sale of company shares is one of the assets, that is exempt from capital gains tax.

7. Living in Switzerland

Switzerland ranks among the top countries in the world in which to live due to its high quality of living and reputation as a centre of international trade and finance. It is one of the world’s wealthiest countries and is also known for its impartiality and neutrality.

Switzerland is blessed with spectacular hiking and skiing trails, exclusive swimming spots in the many rivers and lakes, picturesque villages, Swiss festivals throughout the year, and, of course, the Swiss Alps which look spectacular during any season.

Switzerland offers an exceptionally high standard of living, first-rate health service, outstanding education system, and boasts a plethora of employment opportunities.

Switzerland is one of 26 countries in the ‘Schengen’ area and a Swiss residence permit will enable you to enjoy full Schengen travel rights. It is therefore ideally situated for ease of travel; one of the many reasons high-net-worth individuals choose to relocate here. Perfectly situated in the middle of Europe means moving around could not be easier, especially for individuals who regularly travel, internationally.

Although Switzerland has a variety of beautiful towns and alpine villages to live in, high-net-worth individuals are mainly drawn to a few specific cities. At a glance, these are Zürich, Geneva, Bern, and Lugano. Geneva and Zürich are the biggest cities due to their popularity as centres for international business and finance. Ticino is the third most popular canton, as it is located close to Italy and has a Mediterranean culture.

Additional Information

If you would like additional information regarding moving to Switzerland and forming a Swiss Company, please contact Christine Breitler at the Dixcart office in Switzerlandadvice.switzerland@dixcart.com.

How Can I Relocate to Switzerland and What Help is Available?

How Can Individuals Move to Switzerland and What Will Their Basis of Taxation be?

Non-Swiss nationals are allowed to stay in Switzerland as tourists, without registration, for up to three months. After three months, anyone planning to stay in Switzerland must obtain a work and/or residence permit, and formally register with the Swiss authorities.

How can I Become a Legal Swiss Resident?

There are two alternative routes to become a Swiss resident:

  • By working in Switzerland
  • By not working in Switzerland and/or by being retired
    • The ‘Normal System of Taxation’
    • The ‘Lump Sum System of Taxation’

Working in Switzerland

The acquisition of a Swiss work permit allows a non-Swiss national to become a Swiss resident.

There are three ways to be entitled to work in Switzerland:

  • Being hired by an existing Swiss company.
  • Forming a Swiss company and become a director or an employee of the company.
  • Investing in a Swiss company and become a director or an employee of the company.

When applying to work in Switzerland and/or for residence permits, different regulations apply to EU/EFTA nationals, compared to nationals of other countries.

  • It is a straightforward process for EU/EFTA citizens as they enjoy priority access to the labour market in Switzerland.
  • Non-EU/EFTA nationals can work in Switzerland as long as they are appropriately qualified, for example managers or specialists and/or with higher education qualifications.

An alternative route is for non-Swiss nationals to form a Swiss company and obtain a residence permit in Switzerland. Relevant individuals must be employed by the company that they establish in Switzerland.

Non-EU/EFTA businesses need to create jobs and business opportunities in Switzerland. The precise number and nature varies depending on the particular canton in which the business is located.

Normal System of Taxation – Not working in Switzerland

The process is relatively straightforward for EU/EFTA nationals wanting to live, but not work, in Switzerland and taxed via normal system of taxation.

Individuals must have sufficient financial resources to live in Switzerland and ensure that they will not become dependent on Swiss welfare and they also need to take have Swiss health and accident insurance

For Non-EU/EFTA nationals the process is less straightforward but is achievable, under the correct circumstances.

Lump Sum Taxation – Not working in Switzerland

A non-Swiss national, who does not work in Switzerland, can apply for Swiss residency under the system of ‘Lump Sum Taxation’.

  • The taxpayer’s lifestyle expenses are used as a tax base instead of his/her global income and wealth. There is no reporting of global earnings and assets.

Once the tax base has been determined and agreed with the tax authorities, it will be subject to the standard tax rate relevant in that particular canton.

Work activities outside Switzerland are permitted. Activities relating to the administration of private assets in Switzerland can also be undertaken.

Third country nationals (non-EU/EFTA), may be required to pay a higher lump-sum tax on the basis of “predominant cantonal interest”. This will depend on a number of factors and varies case by case.

How can an Individual Become a Swiss Citizen?

  • An EU or non-EU/EFTA national must have lived in Switzerland for at least 10 years, to be able to apply for a Swiss passport.
  • If an EU or non-EU/EFTA national is the spouse of a Swiss national, they need only to have lived in Switzerland for 5 years.

What Advice and Support can Dixcart in Switzerland Provide?

Dixcart in Switzerland is experienced in assisting individuals to move to this country having assisted:

  • Individuals working for Swiss companies
  • Individuals seeking to establish a Swiss company
  • Individuals based in or moving to Switzerland and working for foreign companies
  • Foreign companies looking to set up a Swiss branch or companies
  • Those seeking to take advantage of the Lump Sum System of Taxation

Professional support includes guidance regarding:

  • Choice of location to move to in Switzerland: canton and city.
  • Lump Sum Taxation: the criteria, how to apply for it, the taxation implications for the specific circumstances (dependent on the canton where the individual chooses to live). 
  • For employees, assistance regarding: salary calculations, social security calculations and payments, and payroll tax calculations and payments.
  • For those seeking to set up a business: bookkeeping, business plans, payroll, preparation of annual accounts, preparation of annual returns, Swiss insurance expertise, Swiss social security expertise, and value added tax reporting and payment (VAT).

Additional Information

If you would like additional information regarding moving to Switzerland and the assistance that Dixcart Switzerland can provide, please contact Christine Breitler at the Dixcart office in Switzerland: advice.switzerland@dixcart.com.

An Explanation of The Different Rules For Individuals to Move to Switzerland and The Relevant Bases of Taxation

Restarting the Clock for UK Non-Domiciles and Alternative Residence Options to Help Maximise Days Spent in the UK

Background

Many foreigners move to Switzerland for its high quality of life, outdoor lifestyle, excellent working conditions and business opportunities.

A central location within Europe with a high standard of living, as well as connections to over 200 international locations via regular international flights, also make Switzerland an attractive location.

Many of the world’s largest multi-nationals and international organisations have their headquarters in Switzerland.

Switzerland is not part of the EU but one of 26 countries making up the ‘Schengen’ area. Together with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, Switzerland forms the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Residence

Foreign nationals are allowed to stay in Switzerland as tourists, without registration, for up to three months.

After three months, anyone planning to stay in Switzerland must obtain a work and/or residence permit, and formally register with the Swiss authorities.

When applying for Swiss work and/or residence permits, different regulations apply to EU and EFTA nationals, compared to other nationals.

EU/EFTA Nationals

EU/EFTA – Working

EU/EFTA nationals enjoy priority access to the labour market.

Should an EU/EFTA citizen want to live and work in Switzerland, they can freely enter the country but will require a work permit.

The individual will need to find a job and the employer must register the employment, before the individual can actually start to work.

The procedure is made easier if the new resident forms a Swiss company and is employed by it.

EU/EFTA – Not Working

The process is relatively straightforward for EU/EFTA nationals wanting to live, but not work, in Switzerland.

They must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Have sufficient financial resources to live in Switzerland and to ensure that they will not become dependent on Swiss welfare.
  • Take out Swiss health and accident insurance.

Non-EU/EFTA Nationals

Non-EU/EFTA – Working

Third country nationals are allowed to enter the Swiss labour market if they are appropriately qualified, for example managers, specialists and those with higher educational qualifications.

The employer needs to apply to the Swiss authorities for a work visa, while the employee applies for an entry visa from their home country. The work visa will allow the individual to live and work in Switzerland.

Again, this procedure is made easier if the new resident forms a Swiss company and is employed by it.

Non-EU/EFTA – Not Working

Non-EU/EFTA nationals, without gainful employment are divided into two categories:

  1. Older than 55;
  • Must apply for a Swiss residence permit through a Swiss consulate/embassy from their current country of residence.
  • Provide proof of adequate financial resources to support their life in Switzerland.
  • Take out Swiss health and accident insurance.
  • Demonstrate a close connection to Switzerland (for example: frequent trips, family members living in the country, past residency or ownership of real estate in Switzerland).
  • Abstain from gainful employment activity in Switzerland and abroad.
  • Under 55;
  • A residence permit will be approved on the basis of “predominant cantonal interest”. This generally equates to paying tax on deemed (or actual) annual income, of between CHF 400,000 and CHF 1,000,000. The precise amount of deemed annual income depends on a number of factors, including the specific canton in which the individual lives.

TAXATION

Standard Taxation

Each canton sets its own tax rates and generally imposes the following taxes; income, net wealth, real estate, inheritance and gift tax. The specific tax rate varies by canton and is between 21% and 46%.

In Switzerland, the transfer of assets, on death, to a spouse, children and/or grandchildren is exempt from gift and inheritance tax, in most cantons.

Capital gains are generally tax free, except in the case of real estate. The sale of company shares is one of the assets, that is exempt from capital gains tax.

Lump Sum Taxation

Lump sum taxation is a special tax status, available to resident non-Swiss nationals, without gainful employment in Switzerland.

The taxpayer’s lifestyle expenses are used as a tax base instead of their global income and wealth. This means that it is not necessary to report effective global earnings and assets.

Once the tax base has been determined and agreed with the tax authorities, it will be subject to the standard tax rate relevant in that particular canton.

It is possible for an individual to have gainful employment outside Switzerland and to take advantage of Swiss lump-sum taxation. Activities relating to the administration of private assets in Switzerland can also be undertaken.

Additional Information

If you would like additional information regarding moving to Switzerland, please contact Christine Breitler at the Dixcart office in Switzerland: advice.switzerland@dixcart.com