The Swiss Federal Tax Administration (FTA) said in a policy statement on 13 September 2017 that from 30 September 2018 it would no longer accept a voluntary tax disclosure regarding elements covered by the automatic exchange of information (AEOI).
The FTA considers that information obtained under the AEOI will be known to the authorities by this date at the latest, and that consequently taxpayers disclosing the information after this date will be doing so solely because they know that the authorities are aware of their irregular tax situations.
For exchange of information arising after 2017, this rule will apply by analogy from 30 September of the year during which the relevant AEOI first occurred.
The statement does not apply to other situations and for these there is no fixed timescale for voluntary tax disclosure. (For example, voluntary disclosure by a taxpayer resident in Switzerland regarding a domestic bank account, as automatic exchange of information does not operate within the country.)
As you will be aware, voluntary tax disclosure is a procedure under which a taxpayer who has omitted to disclose elements of their income or wealth can correct their tax situation without incurring a penalty or criminal proceedings (late payment interest is however due). This procedure also applies to heirs. It covers both cantonal and communal taxes and direct federal tax.
Conditions for using the procedure are as follows:
- the disclosure must be being made voluntarily and for the first time;
- no tax authority may be aware of the omission;
- the taxpayer must cooperate fully with the tax authorities to determine the back taxes to be paid;
- the taxpayer must make every effort to pay the back taxes due.
The information that was omitted is assessed for tax for the previous ten years (for example, if the disclosure is made in 2017, back taxes will be due for the tax periods from 2007 to 2016).
For heirs (who can act independently of one another), back taxes are due only for the three tax periods before the date of death, making the procedure highly advantageous.
This simplified back tax procedure does not apply to estates which are officially liquidated or liquidated under bankruptcy rules.
For all subsequent voluntary tax disclosures, the fine is reduced to one fifth of the tax not paid, if all the other conditions listed above are fulfilled.
If the FTA becomes aware of a failure to pay tax other than via a voluntary tax disclosure, the taxpayer risks:
- additional tax for the last ten years, plus default interest,
- a fine of between one third of and three times the tax not paid,
- criminal proceedings.
CROCE & Associés SA regularly assists individuals in their voluntary tax disclosure process. A preliminary in-depth study is made in coordination with the banks, trustees and public notaries to compile the data and to evaluate the costs of the voluntary tax disclosure, so that the client can make an informed decision.