Tax amnesty pays off

An amnesty for repentant tax cheats in Switzerland brought millions of francs into the federal, cantonal and communal coffers in 2011.

This content was published on January 19, 2012 - 17:01 and agencies

A survey carried out by the Swiss News Agency among cantonal tax offices revealed that 4,557 people in 24 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons had taken advantage of the chance to admit what they owed and to pay it back without being punished.

Not all the cantons told the agency how much extra money they had collected, but for the 21 cantons which supplied this information, the total was SFr245 million ($261 million).

The amnesty law – which can only be used once in a lifetime – was passed in 2008 and first offered in 2010, when 5,580 people turned themselves in.

Before 2010, people who amended their tax returns were liable to a fine in addition to the back tax. Now people have to pay ten years’ worth of back tax unless they have inherited the hidden money, in which case they have only to pay for three years.

The greatest number of amended declarations – about 1,000 – once again came from canton Zurich, which has the highest population in Switzerland. They confessed to having hidden a total of SFr 612 million.

The biggest single undeclared fortune belonged to someone in canton Valais, who confessed to SFr28 million. Someone in canton St Gallen had hidden SFr20 million.

Two cantons – Appenzell Inner Rhodes and Vaud – did not give the news agency any details; several cantons did not supply information on all the points.

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