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If you have been investing in Switzerland, you probably have heard about the Swiss Stamp Tax or the Swiss Stamp Duty. This Stamp Tax is a tax that is collected when you do certain transactions on the stock market.
Even though this stamp tax is really simple to understand, there is a lot of confusion about it. Therefore, I wanted to cover it in detail to dispel the confusion once and for all.
When you are investing in the stock market, you always want to try to cut down the fees. If you are a Swiss investor, it is essential to know what is the Stamp Tax and especially necessary to understand how to avoid this tax! Because, as we will see, there is a way to avoid this tax!
Swiss Stamp Duty Tax
The Swiss Stamp Duty is a tax levied by the federal tax administration on stock market transactions. It is a tax on the transfer of securities. We are going to focus on securities on the stock market in this article. But there is a similar tax on real estate and on insurance policies.
You will have to pay this tax on each purchase and sale of shares, bonds, ETFs, and other securities as well. Your broker will automatically deduct the stamp tax from the transaction.
How much you will pay will depend on whether you are trading on a Swiss Stock Exchange or a foreign one:
- For a transaction on a Swiss Stock Exchange, you will pay 0.075% of the transaction value.
- For a transaction on a Foreign Stock Exchange, you will pay 0.15% of the transaction value.
And do not forget that you will have to pay this tax again when you sell the securities. So for each of your shares on Swiss stock exchanges, you will pay a total of 0.15% and a total of 0.30% on each share from a foreign stock exchange. And the tax when you sell is likely to be higher since your shares will have (hopefully) appreciated in between the time you buy and you sell.
If you only buy once to invest and sell once when you need the money, this tax will not weigh heavily on your fees. But if you need to rebalance your portfolio, you will need to pay it. And if you need to switch to a new ETF, it could be costly.
This tax may not seem like a lot, but this is not negligible. If you want to sell 50’000 CHF of Swiss shares, you will pay 37.50 CHF in fees. And you will pay twice more if these shares are from a foreign stock exchange.
If you want to look at the official information about this tax, you can read the official page on Tax on securities and insurance premiums.
Examples of Swiss Stamp Tax
To try to understand how much Stamp Tax you are going to pay, let’s run a few examples:
|Buy 1000 CHF||Swiss share||0.75 CHF|
|Buy 1000 CHF||Foreign share||1.50 CHF|
|Sell 5000 CHF||Swiss share||3.75 CHF|
|Sell 5000 CHF||Foreign share||7.50 CHF|
|Buy 20000 CHF||Swiss share||15 CHF|
|Buy 20000 CHF||Foreign share||30 CHF|
These fees are not large numbers. But they still add up, month after month, if you are investing regularly.
We can imagine a scenario when you invest every month 5000 CHF. 1000 CHF goes to Swiss shares, and 4000 CHF goes to foreign shares. Here is what you are going to pay:
- 6.75 CHF per month
- 81 CHF per year
- 810 CHF after ten years
Per month, it does not seem like much, but after ten years, you have wasted close to 1000 CHF. If we can, it is better to avoid paying these kinds of taxes.
And do not forget that you will need to pay the tax again when you are going to sell the shares. If you need to sell shares for one million CHF during your retirement, you will have to pay between 750 CHF and 1500 CHF. And this will go even higher if you have a more substantial portfolio.
So, let’s see if we can avoid the Swiss Stamp Tax!
How to avoid the Swiss Stamp Duty Tax?
Fortunately, we can avoid this tax entirely by using a non-Swiss broker.
Indeed, the government only levies this tax when security dealers are involved in the transactions. And since 2010, the Swiss law does not consider foreign brokers as securities dealers anymore.
This difference effectively means that by using a foreign (non-Swiss) broker like Interactive Brokers, you will save up to 0.15% on each transaction!
I think this is pretty stupid. I understand the need for the government to levy law. But this does a massive disservice to Swiss brokers. They are already expensive, but with this law, they are even less interesting to consider as a good broker. This tax-efficiency is one of the reasons why the Best Brokers in Switzerland are foreign brokers.
If it made sense, I would prefer using a Swiss broker. But mathematically, it simply does not make sense.
Use Contracts for Difference
Just for completeness, I want to mention the other way to avoid the Swiss Stamp Tax: Using Contracts for Difference (CFDs). Indeed, the Swiss Stamp Tax is not levied on CFD trading.
Now, I strongly advise against trading with CFDs. They are among the riskiest of the investing instruments. CFDs are the investing instrument where people are losing the most money. In practice, more than 75% of people using CFDs are losing money!
CFDs are a form of derivatives with which you can bet on the future development of the underlying assets such as stocks. They can have a lot of margins (leverage) and are loosely regulated since they are not traded directly on stock exchanges but over-the-counter.
Again, I just wanted to mention CFDs for completeness, not to encourage you to use them. I have never traded with CFDs, and I never intend to. Simple passive investors do not need such complicated instruments to invest successfully. Let’s keep it simple!
You should now know everything you need to know about the Swiss Stamp Tax (or Swiss Stamp Duty). It is simple to understand this tax. But it is essential to understand it since you are likely to have to pay for many years if you are investing in the stock market.
If you are using a Swiss broker, there is little you can do about this tax.
On the other hand, foreign (non-Swiss) brokers are exempted from this tax. This exemption means that by using a foreign broker like DEGIRO or Interactive Brokers, you can save money on your transactions. And since these brokers have other advantages as well, this makes it difficult for Swiss brokers to compete.
Capital gains taxes in Switzerland is something else that many people do not understand. Find out all about capital gains and taxes in Switzerland.
Did I forget anything about Swiss Stamp Tax?