Bienvenue – Hertzliche Willkommen – Benvenuto

The Swissential team would like to wish you a warm welcome for this new adventure for you and your family. Switzerland has unique customs and rules that are not always straightforward to understand. We specialise in bringing clarity on the questions below and many more you might wonder about.

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What are my rights and obligations as a Swiss resident?

As a Swiss resident and a valid permit holder, you have rights provided by and obligations to fulfil towards your new host country. Some of the rights most relevant to you are: OASI benefits, Mandatory Company Pension Coverage, Accident insurance, Child Benefits, Unemployment Benefits, the right to access all or part of your pension in cash when leaving Switzerland. In terms of your obligations, you have to: enter into a contract with a private healthcare provider, pay your taxes (at source or not) and declare your international assets.
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How does the tax at source system really work?

When you arrived in Geneva you were an AO, then you got married and became a CO, your wife had a child and you became a B1… does this make sense to you? The tax at source system is sophisticated and whilst the general concepts may be understandable, why are you paying your taxes at source, whilst your colleague who owns a house does not? You earn the same as your colleague who lives in the Vaud Canton – you pay taxes at source, he does not. The same colleague tells you about solutions he found to optimise his tax bill, but they do not apply to you. The tax at source system can be a true maze. However,with the right advice you can not only understand but potentially benefit from it.
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Which HI should I pick to protect myself and my family? What should I be wary of?

Basic Cover, Complementary insurance cover, deductibles from 300 to 2500 CHF, various options such as Telmed, HMO, family doctor; the cost for similar coverage can go from 250 CHF a month to 500 CHF a month. The Swiss healthcare system is a hybrid system striving to achieve the best of both worlds: basic protection for all, mixed with many options which can, at a cost, significantly improve the care and “service” provided to you in your time of need. If you missed the end of November deadline to switch from basic coverage, you can at least get yourself suitably prepared for next year.
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What is the most cost-efficient way to manage my financial affairs in multiple countries?

Antonio has the following assets / accounts after a twenty-year career with a multinational:

  • Italy, country of birth – EUR (1 house, 1 savings account, 1 investment account, 1 state pension account, 1 workplace pension plan, 1 company share savings plan)
  • UK, worked for 10 years – GBP (1 apartment, 1 savings account, 1 investment account, 1 state pension account, 1 workplace pension plan, 1 company share savings plan)
  • Switzerland, worked for 5 years – CHF (1 savings account, 1 current account, 1 state pension account, 1 company pension plan, 1 company share savings plan in USD)

Each of those accounts has a specific advisor attached to them, a set of individual log-in and password details to access and review the account and multiple documents provided at year end for tax purposes. When asked, Antonio is struggling to remember when he last spoke to his advisors, how his assets are performing, the type of assets he owns and of course the charges applied to each account. Can you blame him? This scenario, or similar, is far more common than you might think, especially in a high-end labour market such as Switzerland. Sound familiar?
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Which bank best fits my personal requirements? Is it secure and cost effective?

UBS, Credit Suisse, Raiffeisen, PostFinance, Credit Agricole … and so on. Selecting a bank which you are comfortable with and best meets your needs is a key decision which should not be taken lightly. Every institution has its strength and weaknesses: the fee structure, the service provided, the solidity of the bank’s capitalisation, the location of the nearest branch: each factor should be considered. Clients at banks and security dealers authorised by FINMA additionally benefit from the protection of government-backed deposits up to a maximum of CHF 100,000 per client in the worst case scenario of institutional bankruptcy. For “successful” savers who have accumulated more than the guaranteed deposit value , the question of deposit security becomes a crucial topic.
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How does the Swiss pension system work and apply to me?

1st Pillar, 2nd Pillar, 3rd Pillar, Mandatory contributions, Sur-obligatory contributions, lock-in period, buy-back, buy-forward, tax-optimization, access to property using pension funds – when Switzerland is your country of birth  the “jargon” and understanding the pension system can still be tricky. It is even more of a challenge when parachuted in from abroad. The Swiss pension system went from the basic social system established after World war II in 1948, to voluntary pension contributions in the 1960s and finally to the current mandatory company pension plans system established in 1987. Whilst robust and strong, the system is set for major changes in the near future, despite the referendum of the 24th of September rejecting “ Prevoyance 2020”.
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How can I claim child allowance and how much am I entitled to receive?

By any standards, the Swiss childcare allowance system is very generous, ranging from 200 CHF per child to 500 CHF per child, depending on your canton of residence and their age. The cherry on the cake is that your children do not have to live in Switzerland for you to claim these benefits. In addition, there is no time limitation on historical claims, so with the correct advice you can claim “unclaimed child benefits” dating up to a few years back.
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What should I do with my international pensions whilst in Switzerland?

This topic is extremely complex and exposed to regularly changing regulation. Some countries, such as the UK, allow you to take your pension out of the country under certain conditions. Managing your pension whilst being abroad can be an inconvenience. However, being abroad can also open doors and opportunities previously not available to you. If you have full confidence in the economic and political stability of the country where your pension is being managed, then you should leave it exactly where it is. If, however, you have concerns regulatory change may negatively impact your pension pot in the future, you might then want to discuss your options with a professional. Leaving aside the concern of regulatory changes in the county pensions may be domiciled, there may be a more efficient system in Switzerland or you may simply benefit from easier tracking and management if you consolidate different pension pots.
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What is Billag?

At Swissential, we all-too-often meet clients recently arrived in Switzerland who have received a letter from Billag asking how long they had been in the country. In good faith, they answered truthfully only to receive a few weeks later a bill from the Swiss collection agency for radio and television fees. Nobody enjoys receiving a bill for CHF900 because they have been living in Switzerland for two years, with no TV nor radio but a computer which “has capability to receive TV and radio signals”. Therefore, make sure you are familiar with this beloved institution. At least you will not be surprised when they finally send you a bill.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot we can do about this one other than provide this link to Billag so you’re prepared!

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How to read my payslip? What does it really mean?

OASI / AVS / AHV, Maternity Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Non-Professional Insurances, Obligatory Pension, Extra-Obligatory Pension, Specific company savings plan (ISOP, etc..), Tax at source; whilst it is easy to find definitions of these terms on Google , it may not be clear why they are deducted from your payslip and what entitlements they offer in return. To add further confusion, if you work for a mid-size company your payslip will almost certainly be in French or German, making it difficult to understand.
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How to best protect my family and my belongings with the right level of insurance at the appropriate cost whilst in Switzerland?

It would be a lot simpler, if less competitive, if AXA exclusively provided car insurance, Generali home & content insurance, SwissLife life insurance, Helvetia health insurance and Zurich legal protection insurance. Unfortunately, life is not that simple. Often, we realise too late we did not read the fine print or understand the exact what conditions we committed to. Often, we also understand too late why insurance A was half the price of insurance B for what at first glance seemed to be the same coverage and conditions. Whether we like it or not, insuring our family and our belonging is part of life and an important part at that if things do unfortunately go wrong. With professional help, choosing insurance does not have to be an expensive and stressful mistake. .
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How to be as tax efficient as possible from day one? What steps can I take now?

Most people we meet tend to think about tax efficiency after having been in Switzerland for a couple of years. Some have taken the necessary steps to be tax-optimized but have forgotten to notify the tax authorities about it. Unfortunately, there is no way to turn back time. Every passing year is a lost opportunity to save on your taxes. Utilizing the system smartly and legally to reduce your tax burden, whether through buy-back in your second pillar, starting a third pillar, renovating part of your house or drawing your pension from a different canton can be extremely rewarding. Why should you wait? Why not aact in the knowledge of the options available to you?
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How to make the right decisions from the outset to achieve my personal goals?

A good starting point to achieving a personal financial goal is to have one. Whilst it might be difficult for internationals to project themselves in the future (especially nowadays), it is not impossible to still plan efficiently for the future. With a specific goal in mind, you are then equipped to plan and prepare a roadmap (personally, professionally, financially). This plan is by no means set in stone, but whilst your goals change over time, so will the road leading to your goals. Your advisor is part of your team. You set the goal, they will help you find the quickest and safest way to get there.
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