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Capital tax in Switzerland explained simply – Tax lexicon

Tax revenues in Switzerland were impressive in 2018. The federal government realized CHF 70 billion. The cantons took in CHF 48 billion and the municipalities CHF 30 billion. These figures show how important the Swiss tax system is. It divides tax revenue between the Confederation, cantons and communes.

The STAF tax reform was introduced on January 1, 2020. It ended tax advantages for internationally active companies. The patent box and tax relief for research and development were also introduced. This reform was intended to improve Switzerland’s competitiveness. It also made the tax system more transparent and fairer.

Important findings

  • Switzerland’s financial structure is strongly federalist and is reflected in the tax system.
  • The STAF tax reform of 2020 introduced significant changes to strengthen Switzerland’s competitiveness.
  • The tax system comprises various taxes that serve to finance government tasks at different levels.
  • The cantons and municipalities have considerable autonomy in determining and levying their taxes.
  • New schemes such as the patent box and additional R&D deductions have been introduced to encourage innovation and attract investment.

Would you like to find out more? Discover how Switzerland’s tax laws work. Understand the positive effects of the latest reforms. Immerse yourself in the world of capital tax returns. See why Switzerland is an attractive location for companies and private individuals.

Principles of capital tax in Switzerland

In Switzerland, capital taxes are important for financing state tasks. They help to fill the state coffers, especially for companies. Let’s take a closer look at these taxes.

What is capital tax?

Capital taxes are taxes levied by the state without direct benefit. They finance the needs of the state. For example, they can increase revenue or promote investments. In Switzerland, there are various taxes on capital at federal, cantonal and municipal level. Property tax plays a major role in this.

Differences to wealth tax

Wealth tax applies to all of a person’s assets. Capital tax is aimed at the equity of companies. Capital tax, for example, is more specialized, while wealth tax is more broadly based.

Capital gains are usually tax-free in Switzerland if certain conditions are met. In Germany, on the other hand, they are taxed at a flat rate.

Legal basis and provisions

Capital tax laws vary from canton to canton in Switzerland. The tax is calculated differently depending on the type and amount of capital. For certain organizations, the capital tax is 1 per thousand of the equity capital.

Category Taxation basis
Corporations and cooperatives Taxable equity at the end of the tax period
Associations, foundations and other legal entities Taxable net assets or equity at the end of the tax period
Equity below CHF 50,000 Tax free

The capital tax in Switzerland does not only serve fiscal objectives. It is also important for the economy and makes Switzerland an attractive location.

Fiscal federalism and its effects

Tax federalism is special in Switzerland. It observes the federal, cantonal and communal levels. This creates a diverse tax landscape throughout the country.

Tax sovereignty of the Confederation and cantons

The cantons initially had the power to tax. The federal government had little to say. But over the years, the federal government has gained more tax rights through referendums. Cantons can set their own tax rates. This creates competition between them.

Role of the municipalities in the tax system

Municipalities also have a degree of independence thanks to cantonal laws. The tax burden can vary greatly, even within municipalities. This diversity strengthens direct democracy in Switzerland.

VAT is very important for the federal government. Cantons and municipalities rely on direct taxes. Tax federalism and direct democracy help to adapt tax laws. In this way, Switzerland remains true to its principles. Economists generally take a positive view of competition. Critics are concerned about the finances of public services.

Taxation of capital gains

Capital gains are taxed differently in Switzerland. It depends on the canton and does not follow any uniform rules. For private investors, there is usually no tax on capital gains if certain conditions are met. However, capital gains such as dividends are often taxable.

Investing capital gains

Private investors can avoid taxes on capital gains in Switzerland. This is possible if they keep their securities for at least half a year. Capital gains may not exceed 50% of total income. The volume of transactions should not be more than five times the initial value of the portfolio.

Investors should only use their own money. You should not take out loans. The tax office decides who is considered a professional investor. Often two conditions must be met to be classified as a professional.

A tax ruling can provide clarity. This offer from the tax office answers specific questions about taxes on capital gains. Various cantonal regulations make it possible to optimize the tax burden.

By international standards, taxes on capital gains in Switzerland are very low. They are at 0%, which is much lower than in other countries. This makes Switzerland interesting for many international investors. Even if a withholding tax of 35% applies, you can often get this back via your tax return.

In Switzerland, capital gains are usually taxed in the same way as income. This means that they are subject to a progressive tax rate. It is important to know the exact tax burden. A tax advisor can help you find the best tax strategy.

Taxing capital gains in Switzerland

In Switzerland, capital gains have their own tax rules. These relate to various types of income. A good understanding is important in order to calculate the tax correctly. Here we explain the most important facts.

Types of investment income

There are many types of investment income. For example:

  1. Dividends: Profit distributions to shareholders
  2. Interest: Income from securities such as bonds
  3. License fees: Payment for the use of intellectual property

All of this income must be taxed. The tax depends on various factors.

Calculation and determination of capital gains tax

Capital gains tax is paid directly on the income. This means that the tax is deducted immediately upon receipt of the income. How much tax you have to pay differs from canton to canton. There is often a tax of 35%, which you can get back in part. This is particularly important for investors from other countries.

Here is a brief overview of the tax burden and refund options in Switzerland:

Investor type Capital gains tax Refund options
Private Swiss investors 35% withholding tax Complaint about tax return
German investors 35% withholding tax Refund of up to 15% through double taxation agreements

The rules on capital gains tax may differ from canton to canton. That is why it is important to know the exact laws.

Special tax regulations and innovations

In 2019, the STAF tax reform brought major changes in Switzerland. Old tax benefits for companies have been abolished. New tax rules were introduced instead.

Patent box and tax relief

The introduction of the patent box is an important innovation. The cantons can now tax profits from patents and the like more favorably.

Cantons may also deduct up to 50% of expenditure on research and development. This strengthens innovation and competitiveness in Switzerland.

Tax reform and its impact on capital tax

The tax reform has resulted in changes to capital tax. A cap ensures that part of the profit is always taxed. A minimum taxation of 30% of the profit applies.

Cantons can make a deduction for self-financing. The minimum tax rate is 18.03%. In addition, the cantonal share of federal taxes will increase. This increases the financial resources of the cantons.

Regulation Description
Patent box Reduced taxation of patent profits
R&D deduction Deduction of up to 50% for research and development expenses
Self-financing Effective minimum tax rate of 18.03%
Minimum taxation 30% of taxable profit before application of special rules

The STAF reform follows international guidelines. It implements a minimum tax of 15% for large companies. This is based on OECD rules.


In Switzerland, capital tax is both complex and advantageous. It offers private investors and companies major advantages. One important point is that capital gains are not taxed in Switzerland. This strongly encourages investment and differs from the practice in many other countries.

Private investors in Switzerland do not have to pay any special capital gains tax. Instead, there is a withholding tax of 35 percent on capital gains. However, this can be refunded through the tax return. This regulation applies to everyone, regardless of their income.

The progressive income tax has different effects depending on income. This shows how important it is to consult a tax advisor. This allows you to optimize your taxes. Capital taxation in Switzerland reflects its federal structure. It also shows how well it can adapt to international standards. Regular reforms ensure that the tax system remains attractive for companies and individuals.


What is capital tax in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, a tax is levied on the capital of individuals and companies. It occurs at federal and cantonal level. This tax helps to cover the financial needs of public budgets.

How does capital tax differ from wealth tax?

The capital tax is aimed at the equity of companies. In contrast, wealth tax is applied to the entire wealth of individuals. Both taxes are part of the total tax burden.

What are the legal bases and provisions for capital tax?

The laws on capital tax can be found in the tax laws of the cantons and in the Federal Constitution. Article 3 of the Federal Constitution allows cantons to make their own tax laws.

How does tax federalism affect capital tax?

Tax federalism allows each canton to have its own tax laws. This leads to different tax rates and regulations in the cantons.

What role do the municipalities play in the Swiss tax system?

Municipalities can levy taxes if the cantons allow it. They tend to levy surcharges on cantonal taxes, which increases the tax burden.

How do you invest capital gains?

Capital gains from private assets are normally tax-free. In the case of business assets, they are taxable. The rules may vary from canton to canton, so it is important to know the local laws.

What types of investment income are there?

Investment income includes money from dividends, interest and license fees. Normally, they must be declared on your tax return.

How is capital gains tax calculated and determined?

The capital gains tax is deducted directly from the income. The exact calculation depends on the canton.

What is the patent box and what tax relief does it bring?

The patent box is a special tax rule introduced by the STAF tax reform. It enables companies to pay tax on income from patents at a lower rate.

How has the STAF tax reform affected capital tax?

The STAF reform has ended tax benefits for companies. It introduced new regulations such as the patent box and research deductions. The aim is to make Switzerland more attractive as a business location.

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