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Tax relief planned for married couples

In Switzerland couples living together, with or without children, have a tax advantage over married couples Keystone

The government has announced plans to relieve the tax burden on married couples in cases where both husband and wife work.

On Friday it proposed new legislation aimed at addressing the tax discrimination suffered by married couples compared with unmarried working couples. Under the draft law, single people would pay more tax.

The government proposes that half the lower of the two incomes would be made tax deductible, with the ceiling at SFr55,000 ($43,000). The changes are planned to come into effect from January 2007.

At present couples living together are taxed individually while married couples are taxed jointly. Only SFr7,600 of their total income is tax deductible.

Under the new rules, SFr7,600 of the lower income will be tax deductible, rising to a maximum of SFr55,000.

Presenting the proposals, Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz said they were good news for married women. “Women will not be as disadvantaged as before,” he said.

Further reform needed

Merz admitted that the government plans would not totally do away with the discrimination against married couples in the field of taxation, saying that far-ranging reform would be required to achieve that goal.

He said the government had opted for a “simple, easy to implement” intermediate solution, which could be easily financed.

One revenue generating measure would be an increase in the single person’s income tax.

In 1984 the Federal Court denounced the fact that married couples paid more tax than couples living together, saying this was contrary to the constitution.

But an attempt to change the federal tax system failed at the ballot box in May 2004.

Merz said earlier this year that “immediate measures” were needed to counter the discrimination of married people under the current tax system.

New injustices

Merz’s Radical Party was the only party represented in government to express its support for the move.

The Social Democrats and Christian Democratic Party said the plan would create new injustices, penalising married couples living on only one income.

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party said it was opposed to the additional burden placed on unmarried taxpayers.

swissinfo with agencies

The current direct taxation system penalises married couples, as the following example shows:

A man has a taxable income of SFr60,000 while his partner earns SFr40,000. If the couple are not married, the man pays taxes of SFr849 and the woman SFr284 – a total of SFr1,133.

If this same couple are married, they pay tax on their combined income of SFr100,000 – a total of SFr2,425.

That means the married couple pay the tax man SFr1,292 more.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR