Table of contents
Tax on expenditure: what is it?
Expense-based taxation, also known as lump-sum taxation, is a unique taxation system for foreigners. Unlike traditional income-based tax systems, this mechanism focuses on the taxpayer's expenditure.
It covers a variety of expenses, from annual rent to property maintenance, children's school fees and so on.
In Geneva, the tax threshold is set at a minimum of CHF 400,000, which is then treated as taxable income. The minimum amount is indexed to keep pace with economic developments, particularly inflation.
Applicants must apply for this scheme as soon as they arrive in Switzerland in order to benefit from it.
Conditions to be met
Expense-based taxation is specifically designed for foreign nationals who choose Switzerland as their place of residence without engaging in gainful employment.
The conditions for benefiting from this system are strict:
- Nationality: Individuals with dual nationality, including Swiss, are excluded.
- Tax liability: Unlimited (income and total assets)
- Duration of residence: For those returning to Switzerland after leaving, an absence of at least ten years is required.
- Restrictions: Beneficiaries must not be gainfully employed in Switzerland.
The spouses living together must both satisfy all the conditions.
The tax base in Switzerland is determined on the basis of the expenses related to the taxpayer's lifestyle, not only in Switzerland but also abroad, as well as the individuals dependent on him.
This mechanism, which is specific to Switzerland, is designed for foreign nationals who choose to reside in Switzerland without being gainfully employed. In general, this amount is discussed and negotiated with the tax authorities of the canton in which the taxpayer resides. However, there are thresholds that must be respected.
The amount may not be less than the highest of the following criteria:
- A minimum threshold defined by the canton, such as Geneva's, which is set at CHF 400,000, treated as taxable income.
- Seven times the annual rent or rental value of the taxpayer's principal residence.
- Three times the annual cost of board, including accommodation and food.
The flat-rate tax, or "taxation according to expenditure", must at minimum correspond to what would be charged under the standard tax system. This calculation is based on several gross elements, such as:
- Property in Switzerland and its yield.
- Moveable assets in Switzerland and the income they generate.
- Securities deposited in Switzerland, including claims secured by mortgage, and their yields. Note that foreign securities, even if held in a Swiss bank, are treated as foreign assets.
- Copyrights, patents and other similar rights exploited in Switzerland and their associated income.
- Pensions, annuities and other similar income of Swiss origin.
- Income that benefits from a reduction in foreign tax under a double taxation agreement signed by Switzerland.
Each year, the tax authority carries out a check by comparing the tax based on these elements with the tax based on the lump sum, the higher amount will be retained.
It is essential to stress that only the items listed above must be declared by taxpayers subject to lump-sum taxation. This means that foreign income that is not covered by a double taxation agreement and assets held abroad are not reportable.
Application procedure and formalities
When settling in Switzerland, in addition to the formalities undertaken with the Cantonal Office for Population and Migration (OCPM), it is imperative for the newcomer to submit a structured request to the competent tax body. This request must contain :
- Extensive correspondence providing a comprehensive overview of the taxpayer's situation, covering civil, professional and financial matters. This letter must also certify that the taxpayer does not intend to take up gainful employment on Swiss territory.
- A preliminary assessment of the amount to be taxed.
- Proof of residence, either a copy of the tenancy agreement (for tenants) or a document showing the rental value (for owners).
- This is the official form drawn up by the tax authorities, which collects relevant details about the standard of living of the taxpayer and any persons financially dependent on him or her. The aim is to capture all expenditure, excluding investments.
In Geneva, all these documents must be sent to the address below:
Administration fiscale cantonale
Service de la taxation des particuliers
Case postale 3937
1211 Genève 3
Form to be completed : taxation according to expenditure
Exemples de calculs
The examples below are provided by the Geneva administration. To illustrate them, they are based on the following situation:
EU taxpayer, married, resident and owner in Cologny, gross rental value of CHF 48,000.
Modifications, adjustments and indexation
Tax treaties are regularly adjusted to reflect economic and inflationary changes.
For example, for the 2023 tax period, the indexation index is set at 106.2, leading to adjustments in taxable amounts.
Deductions, exceptions and implications
One of the special features of this system is the absence of deductions if taxation is based on expenditure or rental value.
However, if the control calculation is used, certain deductions, such as building maintenance costs and administration costs for movable capital (provided these are taxed) are permitted.
For further information: Tax deductions in Geneva in 2023
Expense-based taxation is a unique feature of the Swiss tax landscape, offering foreign nationals an opportunity for tax optimisation. However, navigating this regime requires a thorough understanding and careful planning to maximise the benefits while remaining compliant with the legislation(s).