A raft of new laws come into effect on January 1, but few will have much impact on the lives of ordinary law-abiding people. Engaged couples, gamblers and dolphins can be pleased; road racers and paedophiles should be more worried.
One much-talked about law, the subject of years of debate, is the new rules governing married couple’s choice of surname. As of 2013 the default position will be that men and women will keep their own surname at marriage. However, should they so wish, they can decide to share the same name. This will also apply to homosexual couples registering a partnership. Currently many couples add their names together: this will no longer happen.
People who changed their names on marriage can apply to get their original names back, but this will cost them SFr75 ($82).
There is good news for people who win small sums in the lottery: they will no longer have to pay tax on winnings under SFr1,000. Until now they had to declare winnings of just SFr50.
Good news for consumers as well: product guarantees will now apply for two years, in line with most European countries, rather than one.
Speeders and breeders
And there is also good news for road-users – as long as they stick to the speed limit. The first measures of the Via Sicura programme come into force, with harsher punishments for excessive speeding. Drivers caught at more than 80 kilometres per hour above the permitted speed limit – usually 120 kilometres – on motorways, will lose their licences for at least two years. In certain cases the authorities will be able to confiscate the cars of road-racers.
As of 2013, no dolphins or whales can be imported into landlocked Switzerland. The ban was sparked by the death of two dolphins at the Connyland theme park, in canton Thurgau, in the autumn of 2011. Its three remaining dolphins are the only ones in the country, but since they are a mother and two sons, the park plans to sell them to another dolphinarium to avoid inbreeding.One of the attractions Connyland is considering as replacement is a rollercoaster.
Two issues accepted by popular vote come into force on January 1. On the one hand, about 570 communes, which already have more than 20 per cent of second homes, will not be able to grant building permits for any more. On the other, sex crimes against children under the age of 12 will no longer be subject to a statute of limitations.
Tougher banking rules
The new year will also bring tougher rules for the banking industry. In the wake of the financial crisis, banks will have to hold significantly more capital of a better quality to absorb losses more effectively. The greatest impact will be on the two big banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, which have been prescribed the most stringent requirements.
At the beginning of the year, new pacts aiming to make sure that no foreign funds may be hidden on accounts in Switzerland will enter into force. All British and Austrian taxpayers with Swiss bank accounts or securities deposits must either disclose account details or pay a withholding tax, which is deducted directly from their account and transferred anonymously to their country of domicile.
There will also be a small reshuffling within the ministries. One of the more noticeable changes is that the newly named Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER will now be responsible for Swiss universities and the Federal Institutes for Technology in Zurich and Lausanne, and no longer the Department of Home Affairs.