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Fines on Swiss firms abroad will be tax deductible from 2022

Swiss banks have been at the receiving end of large fines ever since the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Financial penalties imposed abroad on Swiss banks or companies will be conditionally deductible as of January 1, 2022.  

On Wednesday, the governing Federal Council decided when the Federal Act on the Tax Treatment of Financial Sanctions will be effective. Parliament adopted the law in June, taking into account that sanctions imposed abroad may also be politically motivated. Moreover, fines imposed abroad often amount to billions of dollars, whereas under Swiss law, sanctions are generally in the millions. 

While fines imposed in Switzerland will not be deductible, those pronounced abroad will be provided the sanctions are contrary to Swiss public policy or the company penalised can prove that every effort was made to act in accordance with the law. 

Illegal payments such as bribes, kickbacks and commissions paid to individuals will not be tax deductible and treated on par with criminal law. Additionally, expenses which enable the commission of an offence or reparations for the commission of an offence will also not be tax deductible. 

The pressure to legislate on this issue came after the subprime crisis in 2008. Several Swiss banks were fined heavily by the US courts. Many companies tried to pass off these penalties as commercial costs that could be deducted from taxes. 

But Switzerland’s highest court was of another opinion. In a ruling handed down in 2016, it concluded that fines and other financial penalties of a criminal nature imposed on legal entities were not tax-deductible. In the same year, the Federal Council submitted its draft legislation to create a legal basis for such tax deductions. 

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR