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Social security at stake in tax vote, groups say

Organisations representing the disabled have come out in favour of a temporary tax increase to ensure the future of the state-run disability insurance scheme.

This content was published on August 6, 2009 - 12:28

Voters on September 27 will have their say at the ballot box on a planned 0.4 per cent increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) over seven years.

The alliance of nearly 60 groups and members of the three main political parties stressed the importance of disability insurance for individual beneficiaries and for the country's social security system.

"It is a question of solidarity and of reason," Silvia Schenker of a health umbrella group and member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party told a news conference on Thursday.

Other speakers stressed that the financing scheme failed to keep up with rising healthcare costs and medical progress, as well as the need to integrate disabled people into society.

The scheme has run up debts of SFr13 billion ($12.2 billion) and posts annual deficits of SFr1.4 billion annually.

In line with the government, representatives of the centre-right Christian Democrats and the Radical Party warned that a rejection of the tax hike could endanger a political compromise solution.

However, opponents of the rightwing Swiss People's Party have argued a tax increase will reduce private consumption and weigh down family budgets.

The ballot was initially set for May 2008. It was later changed to September 27 and implementation of the increase was put off for political and economic reasons. The business community had argued it would be too much of a burden for many companies to introduce the higher rate for January 2010.

VAT is currently 7.6 per cent, with reduced rates for the hotel industry and for essential consumer goods.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch

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