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Apr 08, 2013

Inheritance tax and law


The Global Property Guide looks at inheritance from two angles: taxation, and what inheritance laws apply to foreigners leaving property in Switzerland: what restrictions there are and whether making a will is advisable.

INHERITANCE TAX


How high are inheritance taxes in Switzerland?

No such tax exists at the federal level. The inheritance tax is a cantonal tax, based on the net assets transferred to the statutory or designated heirs or other beneficiaries. Increasingly, the cantons are in the process of eliminating the inheritance tax altogether, at least for descendants.

Inheritance taxes are imposed by the cantons and communes in the following situations:

  • Estates of deceased persons having had their last domicile in Switzerland; and
  • Estates of foreign deceased persons involving the transfer of Swiss real property or unincorporated business enterprises in Switzerland.

Rates depend upon the existing relationship (i.e. the relationship between the deceased and the heirs, or between the donor and the donee) and the size of the inheritance or gift. Interspousal gifts and inheritances collected by the surviving spouse are frequently exempt or taxed at very low rates (up to 6%). Gifts to and inheritances received from unrelated persons attract rates ranging from 20% to 40%.

The taxable base is usually the market value of the property with special provisions for securities and real property. After determining the applicable rate based on the degree of relationship (ranging from 0% to 40%), the canton will then levy a surcharge (from 100% to 300% of the basic rate) based on the value of the property.

Canton of Bern
The inheritance of the spouse and descendants are not taxed in Bern. Inheritance or properties received by other individuals are taxed at progressive rates. An allowance of CHF10,000 (€8,016) can be deducted from the taxable inheritance. For assets utilized in business, only 50% of the net value is taxed.

CANTON OF BERN - INHERITANCE TAX

TAX BASE, CHF ()
TAX RATE
Up to 100,000 (€80,157)
1%
100,000 200,000 (€160,314)
1.25%
200,000 300,000 (€240,471)
1.50%
300,000 400,000 (€320,628)
1.75%
400,000 500,000 (€400,786)
2%
500,000 600,000 (€480,943)
2.25%
Over 600,000 (€480,943)
2.50%
Source: Global Property Guide

The tax amount calculated above is still subject to a multiplier based on the degree of relationship:

TAX MULTIPLIER

MULTIPLIER
RELATIONSHIP OF THE BENEFICIARY TO THE DONOR
6
parents, grandparents, siblings and other persons living together with the donor for at least ten years
11
nephews, nieces, in-laws, aunts and uncles
16
others

Canton of Geneva
For the Canton of Geneva, the following exemptions for inheritance tax are granted:

  • CHF5,000 (€4,008) for descendants, ascendants and spouses; and
  • CHF500 (€401) for others.

The rates depend on the degree of relationship between the deceased and the beneficiaries and the amount the beneficiaries receive.

CANTON OF GENEVA
INHERITANCE TAX RATE

DEGREE OF RELATIONSHIP
TAX RATE
Descendants and ascendants:
First degree 0 6 %
Second degree 0 7.2%
Third degree 0 7.8%
Spouses 0 6%
Others 0 26%

The calculated tax will be subject to a multiplier, which is not equal to the coefficient set for income and wealth tax. The multiplier is set yearly. Descendants and ascendants in line as well as spouses are not subject to the multiplier.

Canton of Zurich
Inheritances left to spouses and descendants are exempt in the Canton of Zurich. The following allowances are also granted:

  • CHF200,000 (€160,314) for parents;
  • CHF15,000 (€12,024) for fiancés, siblings, grandparents, stepchildren, godchildren, foster children and home helps employed for at least 10 years;
  • CHF50,000 (€40,079) for the partner of the deceased or the donor if the couple had lived together for at least 5 years in the same household and none of the previously mentioned deductions apply;
  • CHF30,000 (€24,047) for dependent persons who have a permanent or partial occupational disability.

CANTON OF ZURICH INHERITANCE TAX RATE

TAX BASE, CHF ()
TAX RATE
Up to 30,000 (€24,047)
2%
30,000 90,000 (€72,141)
3%
90,000 180,000 (€144,283)
4%
180,000 360,000 (€188,566)
5%
360,000 840,000 (€673,320)
6%
840,000 1,500,000 (€1,202,357)
7%
Source: Global Property Guide

If the taxable inheritance exceeds CHF1,500,000 (€1,202,357), a flat rate of 6% applies to the whole amount.  A multiplier, which varies according to the relationship of the deceased and the beneficiary, is then applied to the calculated tax.

MULTIPLIER

RELATIONSHIP
MULTIPLIER
Parents
1
Grandparents, stepchildren
2
Siblings
3
Stepparents
4
Uncles, aunts, descendants of siblings
5
Others
6




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