Switzerland is unfair to married couples

Mr. The Poor Swiss | Updated: | Financial Independence, Switzerland
Switzerland is unfair to married couples

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Marriage is a great thing in which I believe. However, something that not many people know is that in Switzerland, you are better off financially if you are not married. There are several disadvantages to being married in Switzerland.

Do not take me wrong. I am not saying you should not get married! We got married last year, and I do not regret it at all. Marriage is about love, not about money! But I know that in the future, we would be better off financially if we did not marry. It is essential to know the differences between married couples in Switzerland, especially if you plan to retire here.

So in this post, we are going to see what financial difference there are between a married couple and an unmarried couple. You will see that there are some substantial differences in taxes and retirement for married couples.

Marriage in Switzerland

In Switzerland, everybody has a civil status: Married, Single, Divorced, or Separated. The civil status is an official status that the government is keeping track of.

That means that every marriage is made in front of the law. People can then also do a religious marriage. But the religious marriage is entirely optional and does not matter for the government.

For the administration, several things are then dependent on whether you are married or not. We are going to see two things that are very different: taxes and retirement.


One thing that will change a lot, whether you are married or not, is the amount of taxes you will pay. If you are not married, you will fill two declarations for taxes. If you marry, you will fill a single one. The difference is that in the latter case, both your income will be accumulated together.

You may think this is the same, but there is a big difference. If you add two incomes together, you will pay more taxes than if you pay separate taxes on both incomes. The reason is that the more income you get, the more taxes you will pay for extra income. Each additional dollar you earn is taxed at increasing marginal tax rates. So, if you both have a significant income, you may end up paying a lot more.

Since Switzerland is a federal republic, it gets more complicated because each state has different rules. Some states are trying to compensate for the fact that married couples are penalized. It will depend based on which state you are living in. You need to get information from your state tax department. In some states, married couples will pay more. It is the general situation. In some states, they will both pay the same. And in some states, it is better to marry. Overall, married couples are disadvantaged in Switzerland.

I am currently living in Fribourg in Switzerland. I am quite lucky because, in this state, it is not bad to marry. There is a slight tax advantage to be married in Fribourg. It is especially true when we have only one salary as we currently have.

Retirement pension

Another thing that is extremely unfair to Swiss couples is about the retirement pension. The first pillar pension is highly unfair to married couples. The maximum pension for a single person is 2350 CHF per month. So an unmarried couple will get 4700 CHF per month. But a married couple will only get 3525 CHF per month. This pension is more than 1000 CHF less per month than if they did not marry. If we were to divorce before retirement, we could get more than 1000 CHF per month. We are not considering doing that at all. But, sadly, this is the case.

I think this is bad. The reasons for this unfairness are ancient. They date back from the time when only the man was working and bringing the money for the family. Therefore, when they started the first pillar, they decided that the contribution of the wife was less critical, and therefore in retirement, the man should get more than the wife, hence only the 150% for a married couple. This situation may have been the case in the past. But this is not the case anymore. This situation should be fixed. There was a discussion about that. But it was refused because it would have cost too much to the first pillar.

In the future

It is possible that the tax penalty for married couples changes in the future.

In 2016, we voted for this in Switzerland. Unfortunately, the Swiss citizens decided that they did not want to change that. Therefore, it remains unfair.

However, there were some errors in the campaign that was run for this change. Indeed, during the campaign, they announced that only 80’000 couples were subject to this penalty. But shortly after the votation, it was announced that it was an error and that it was, in fact, 454’000 married couples that were impacted.

So it is highly possible that the results of the vote will be invalidated and that we have to vote again on this. And since the previous results were very close, only 50.8% of nos, it is quite possible that this time the initiative passes, bringing fairness to the situation.


As you can see, there are two large disadvantages in getting married in Switzerland. In my opinion, the biggest one is that you do not get two pensions in retirement. You only get 150% of a single pension. This unfairness does not make sense and is quite sad. For me, marriage should play no part in taxes or pension. It is a ridiculous and retrograde idea. Another thing is that the couple is responsible for the previous debt of the two persons.

Nevertheless, this does not mean you should not marry. We got married and did not regret it!

On the other hand, there are also some advantages to marriages. You will pay fewer taxes on inheritance, for instance. And if one of the spouses dies, the other one is entitled, under some conditions, to a widow’s pension.

In the end, money should not play a role in choosing whether to marry or not! Only love and personal reasons should come into play in that decision. Nevertheless, it is crucial to know the differences between a married couple and an unmarried one before your marriage!

To learn more about some of the disadvantages of living in Switzerland, you can read about the five things I hate about Switzerland.

Do you see any other disadvantage of marriage in Switzerland?

Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

6 thoughts on “Switzerland is unfair to married couples”

  1. Hello! I got married in another country, does that mean that I am officially married in Switzerland? Or would we be single in Switzerland? Should we make our documents official here? In the event that the couple has children and is not married, I imagine that nothing changes, they are still single for the issue of taxes and retirement … Thank you very much for your help!

    1. Hi Itziar,

      Normally, your marriage should be recognized in Switzerland, yes. But I am definitely not a specialist in marriage law.
      When you arrive in Switzerland, you should declare trustfully your marital status. And they may validate this with your home country.

  2. Hello Mr. Poor Swiss

    Can you recommend a good side to calculate the tax impact? Or would one just need to calculate the two scenarios with the canton tax calculator?

    I am asking as I know there are some deductions a married couple can make on the tax declaration?

    1. Hi Stefano,

      The way I am doing it, is indeed with the canton tax calculator. I think it’s the more accurate. This is the only tool that will take almost everything into account. It remains an estimate, but it’s the best we can find I think.
      I think that some of the states have some good calculators online, but I am not aware of one that works for each state with enough accuracy.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Thank you for info.
    So sad to be taxed because you are married. I want to get married but when I think our net income after marriage will be less in somehow demotivating me. I prefer from this money to travel than to pay more taxes.

    1. Hi Elle,

      Yes, I agree that it’s sad. Unmarried couples and married couples should pay exactly the same amount of taxes.
      Note that this depends on each state, there are states that are better than others for married couples.
      And if only one person is working, the taxes can go down.

      I would not let that prevent you from getting married though :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

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