Initiatives aim to save families money

Children help deliver the signed petitions calling for tax breaks for families Keystone

Two proposals designed to give tax breaks to families in Switzerland have received well over the required 100,000 signatures to force nationwide votes. On Monday the campaigners delivered their initiatives to Bern.

This content was published on November 5, 2012 - 15:37 and agencies

The first initiative addresses the issue of the taxation of couples. Currently, married couples tend to pay more taxes than couples simply living together. The initiative – launched by the Christian Democratic party – calls on the government to revise the law to allow couples the choice of filing their taxes jointly or singly – depending on which is cheaper.

The party says it gathered 121,460 signatures in support of the initiative. In August, the cabinet also voiced its support of a revision to the law.

However, both the gay organisation Pink Cross and Transgender Network Switzerland have criticised the initiative for its narrow definition of marriage – which describes it as a union between a man and a woman. So if the initiative were to pass, they say it would discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The centre-right Christian Democrats have rejected this criticism, pointing out that Swiss law already defines marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman. A party spokeswoman told the Swiss News Agency that Pink Cross would have to launch its own initiative to legally redefine marriage.

Related initiatives

The second initiative launched by the party aims to make child and education allowances tax-free; campaigners collected 119,681 signatures for this initiative. Parliament has already shot down the party’s call for this change to the law.

These are not the only family-related issues that the Swiss will have the chance to vote on. Last year, the rightwing Swiss People’s Party launched an initiative to grant tax breaks to families that look after their children full time rather than hiring nannies or sending their offspring to a day care facility. Currently, childcare expenses qualify for tax deductions; stay-at-home parents do not.

No dates have been set for any of these votes. Under Swiss law at least 100,000 signatures have to be collected within 18 months to force a nationwide ballot on an issue. 

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