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Tax period in Switzerland explained simply – Tax lexicon

In 2018, revenue in Switzerland was divided up as follows: The federal government received CHF 70 billion. The cantons received CHF 48 billion and the municipalities CHF 30 billion. This shows how firmly anchored fiscal federalism is in Switzerland. There are 26 cantons in Switzerland, and each one can make its own tax laws. This results in many different tax regulations.

This tax structure is determined by Article 3 of the Federal Constitution. It allows flexible tax collection that adapts well. Cantons and municipalities may share the tax revenue. They can collect taxes as it suits them financially.

Main points

  • Fiscal federalism is deeply rooted in Switzerland.
  • 26 cantons each have their own tax laws.
  • Article 3 of the Federal Constitution regulates the interaction between the various tax jurisdictions.
  • No direct consideration from the state for taxes paid.
  • Flexibility and adaptability of the tax system at cantonal and communal level.

What is the tax period?

The tax period is an important part of the tax system in Switzerland. It determines when taxes are to be paid and reported. This ensures proper and regular taxation.

Definition and basic information

The tax period determines when taxes are due. The period varies depending on the type of tax and location. In Switzerland, all taxes on individuals and companies must be paid within one year. This helps to spread the tax burden over the year.

Comparison between tax period and tax year

It is important to distinguish between the tax period and the tax year. The tax year refers to the year in which the income was generated. The tax period is the period for which taxes must be paid. There are different rules in Switzerland.

A comparison shows the differences:

Criterion Tax period Tax year
Definition of Period of tax liability Calendar year of tax activities
Application Collection and declaration of taxes Measurement of revenue
Relevance Federal tax system Individuals and legal entities

This distinction helps to keep the system in Switzerland flexible and orderly. The tax period ensures that the tax system works. It suits the needs of Switzerland’s federal system.

How the tax system works in Switzerland

The tax system in Switzerland is complex and multi-layered. It is divided into federal, cantonal and municipal levels. This structure allows taxes to be designed flexibly and appropriately for each region. In this way, the different financial needs of the regions can be taken into account.

Federal, cantonal and municipal tax systems

In 2018, there was tax revenue at all three levels of government in Switzerland. The federal government took in CHF 70 billion, the cantons CHF 48 billion and the municipalities CHF 30 billion. The Confederation, the cantons and the municipalities have different powers to levy taxes. This enables a tax policy that is adapted to local conditions.

Tax jurisdictions and their significance

In Switzerland, tax sovereignty is important for a fair distribution of the burden. Each level of government has its own responsibilities. The cantons can set their own tax rates, but remain within certain limits. Thanks to the STAF reform of 2020, cantons can now claim more federal tax revenue. This helps them to keep their tax rates competitive.

Municipalities often follow cantonal guidelines. One example is the canton of Bern, which uses payments on account. These payments help to cover the tax liability in advance. Such systems support municipalities in maintaining a stable financial policy.

The complex structure of the Swiss tax system ensures that taxes correspond to local requirements. This ensures fair and efficient tax administration. In addition, tax policy changes can be implemented flexibly.

Tax return and deadlines

Tax returns in Switzerland must be submitted on time. This avoids financial disadvantages. The deadlines for this are different in each canton. You must therefore pay close attention to them.

Important deadlines for tax returns

In Switzerland, individuals usually have to file their tax return between the March 31 and the April 30. There are longer deadlines for legal entities. You can request an extension until December 31.

Event Deadlines
Filing a tax return for the 2023 tax year March 31, 2024
Submission of tax return for legal entities (financial year 2023) September 30, 2024
Extension of deadlines on request May 31 to December 31, 2024
Missed deadlines without applications CHF 40 to CHF 60 fine

Consequences of not meeting the deadlines

Late submission of the Swiss tax return can result in a penalty of CHF 40 to CHF 60. If you exceed the deadline extension, you could face similar penalties. To avoid this, the deadlines must be strictly adhered to.

As the cantons have different rules, you should know the specific dates exactly.

Calculation and payment of taxes

In Switzerland, various forms and digital tax calculators are used to calculate and pay taxes. These tools help you to find out exactly how much tax you have to pay. They make sure that you pay on time.

How tax forms and tax calculators are used

Tax forms collect all important information from income to expenses. Digital tax calculators offer a fast, accurate tax calculation. This makes managing taxes easier.

Tax payment: methods and periods

In Switzerland, taxes are paid in installments. There are three installment calculations that cover different percentages of the expected tax amount. You must pay each installment bill within 30 days to avoid extra costs. Amounts under CHF 50 or CHF 20 will be added to the next invoice. In February there is a provisional bill for direct federal tax if you have to pay at least CHF 300.

Tax refund and adjustment

Sometimes you pay too much or too little tax. After the final calculation, you can see what is still open. Amounts paid in excess will be refunded, amounts paid in arrears must be paid at no extra cost. Surpluses lead to a settlement for cantonal and municipal taxes. Amounts over CHF 1,000 are reimbursed, smaller amounts are included in the final invoice.

The Swiss tax system provides detailed overviews of taxes. This helps you to understand exactly what you are paying and receiving.

Tips for optimizing tax accounting

There are ways in which you can pay less tax. This includes good tax advice and smart forward planning. Here we show you how.

Tax advice and planning

A tax advisor can help you save a lot of money. They know the rules and what will be important in the future. For example, a lot can be saved through deferred compensation or payments into pillar 3a. In Zurich, employees can save up to 7056 francs a year.

  • Deduct insurance premiums: In Zurich, you can deduct up to CHF 2600 or CHF 3900.
  • Use the travel expense allowances: You can deduct CHF 700 for cycling and up to CHF 5000 in Zurich for commuting.
  • Deduct donations: You can deduct up to 20% of your net income for good causes.

Relevant tax adjustments and reforms

You should be informed about changes to taxes. One major topic is the STAF tax reform. It helps to deal with demographic change and meet international tax standards.

“The reform brings new tax benefits for individuals and companies,” say the experts from the Vermögenszentrum.

These tips and adjustments can greatly reduce your taxes. Take a look at this table for details:

Cost type Max. Deduction in Zurich (CHF) Max. Direct federal tax deduction (CHF)
Insurance premiums, single person 2600
Insurance premiums, married couple 3900
Travel allowance 5000 3200
Donations 20% of the net income
Donations to political parties, married couple 20000 10300
Child deduction 9000 6600


The tax system in Switzerland is special due to its federal structure. Top income tax rates vary. They average 33.45%. These rates vary from canton to canton.

The wealth tax is just as different. For assets of CHF 1,000,000, the tax rates are between 0.12% and 0.76%. For CHF 5,000,000, they range between 0.12% and 0.90%.

Companies enjoy low tax rates. These amount to between 11.22% and 19.65% in the main towns. This makes Switzerland attractive for companies. VAT is 7.7%, which is internationally competitive.

One important detail is the agreement with Germany. It stipulates a 4.5% withholding tax on income in Switzerland. This simplifies tax life for cross-border commuters and supports the border regions.

It is crucial to understand the complex tax system. Strategic planning can help to avoid penalties and take advantage of benefits. More information can be found here.


What is the tax period?

The tax period determines when taxes must be paid and reported. In Switzerland, it is an important part of the tax system. It ensures regular taxation.

How does the tax period differ from the tax year?

The tax period and the tax year are not the same. The tax period determines the period for which taxes are levied. The tax year is the annual cycle according to which taxes are calculated.

How does the tax system work in Switzerland?

The Swiss tax system is based on federalism. This means that the federal government, cantons and municipalities can levy their own taxes.

What are the important deadlines for tax returns?

The deadlines for tax returns vary from canton to canton. It is important to adhere to them in order to avoid penalties. Normally, the deadline is March 31 of the following year.

What happens if I don’t meet the deadlines for my tax return?

Anyone who misses the deadlines must expect penalties or interest. It is therefore important to know the deadlines and submit your tax return on time.

How do I use tax forms and tax calculators?

Tax forms and tax calculators help you to calculate your taxes. The forms must be completed accurately. Tax calculators offer a quick calculation.

What methods and time periods are there for paying tax?

There are various ways to pay tax, for example by bank transfer or online. Payments are usually made quarterly or annually, depending on the cantonal regulations.

What is a tax refund and when does it take place?

There is a tax refund if you have paid too much tax. The authority then refunds the money or credits it to the next year.

How can I optimize my tax accounting?

You can optimize your taxes with good tax advice and regular reviews. It is worth keeping an eye on tax changes in order to take advantage of them.

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