Hallo Basel answers your questions about moving to Basel

Taxes in Basel and Switzerland

Regarding taxes in Basel, Switzerland’s taxation system works like many other countries: if you live in Switzerland, you will have to deal with Swiss taxation.

This page will give you a general overview of Swiss taxations, but does not replace a knowledgeable tax advisor. For matters such as taxes, a qualified professional will be able to help you best. However, this page will hopefully help you understand a little more about taxes in Basel and Switzerland so that you know what kind of questions to ask your tax advisor!

This page covers income tax, church tax, equity tax, gift tax and inheritance tax, and motor vehicle tax in Basel and Switzerland. Click on any of these to jump straight to that section and learn about taxes in Basel. 

Understanding Taxes by Hallo Basel

Taxes in Basel: Income Tax

If you live in Switzerland, you pay tax on your worldwide income wherever that income is earned.

Even if you get paid from India or the USA or the Netherlands, if you live in Switzerland, you must include all your worldwide income in your Swiss tax return. This also includes any pension income from other countries. (Of course there are rare exemptions, like Embassy personnel or UN workers, but to simplify things, we’ll leave rare exemptions out).

Double Taxation

Sometimes, parts of your worldwide income are also taxed abroad (for example, with real estate income or if you earn income with a fixed establishment in another country). In these cases you may potentially be taxed twice: in the other country and in Switzerland.

Switzerland has tax treaties with many countries to avoid double taxation, so consider looking up the treaty between Switzerland and the other country to discover how the countries prevent this.

Quellensteuer (withholding tax)

If you are a foreigner living and working in Switzerland and employed, the employer will withhold tax at source (Quellensteuer), unless you have a C-permit or your spouse Swiss or has a C-permit. If you no other income than your Swiss employment income and you have no deductibles to cash in on, then that’s the end. You don’t have to file a Swiss income tax return.

For everyone else: they must file a Swiss income tax return.

Municipal, Kantonal and Federal Tax

Across Switzerland, income tax comes in three portions:

  • Federal tax is for the government in Bern to spend and is the smallest portion of your entire tax bill. The federal tax is the same for all Swiss inhabitants.
  • Kantonal tax (Staatssteuer) is for the government of the Kanton you live in. Often, this is the biggest portion of your tax. (Switzerland has decentralized governance; power is organized as close to home as possible and so that is also where the money from taxes is spent). The  Kantonal tax percentage differs from Kanton to Kanton. At the time of writing, the most expensive Kanton for Staatssteuer is Geneva and the cheapest is Zug.
  • Municipal tax (Gemeindesteuer) is for your local municipality. The Municipal tax is expressed as a percentage of the Kantonal tax and varies from around 50% to more than 100%. This large part of your income tax goes to your local community to finance roads, schools, lighting, elderly care and other things that are administered locally.

The federal tax and kantonal tax are issued by the Kanton in which you live. The municipal tax is assessed and invoiced by your Gemeinde (your local community).

In order to limit post-payments or incurring potential interest on money owed, you may receive an invoice to ‘pre-pay’ on the current year in instalments.

Swiss Flag: Taxes in Basel

Taxes in Basel: Your Swiss Tax Return

Either the tax office of the Kanton will issue this, or you (or your tax accountant) need to ask the tax office of your Kanton to issue it.

You must report your entire worldwide income in the tax return and include any and all deductibles you may subtract from the income (Note: from Kanton to Kanton there may be differences in what you can deduct.)

Your income tax is submitted to the Kantonal tax office, either on paper or electronically, or by the tax consultant (Steuerberater) or the public accountant (Treuhand). The actual income tax form is accompanied by all the necessary underlying documents. In many countries, income tax submissions are only looked at by a computer in the tax office and if there’s no significant deviation or the algorithms don’t select the return, a tax assessment is issued. Not so in Switzerland. Every tax submission is looked at by a person, who will eventually issue the tax assessment with the bill to be paid.


Taxes in Basel: Other tax advice and tips

  • Avoid having to pay interest on owed tax; ask for a preliminary assessment that you can pay during the tax year.
  • Try to prevent large, one-time income like pension distributions, and severance payments, because they can raise your taxation level significantly.
  • Be complete in reporting everything, including any foreign-earned income.
  • Extra payments in your pension plan (BVG) are deductible.
  • Homeowners can pre-plan their renovation costs and make most of their deductions.
  • Try to time discretionary income like stock options, severance payments and such.
  • Payments into the third pension pillar (Privat Vorsorge) are tax deductible in the year you make the payment.
  • Payments to Swiss charities are tax deductible. (However, unlike many other countries, donations to churches are not tax deductible in Switzerland.)

American citizens and income tax

As mentioned, the USA taxes its citizens wherever there are in the world, even if you live outside the USA. Even if you have never lived in the USA, if you are a US citizen because you were born there, the USA still requires you to file a tax return. This applies whether or not you have real estate in the US or any other income or assets.

If you are a US citizen and do not file, you will incur fines. And lack of filing may impact you when you next travel to the USA as you go through customs.

In your American income tax return while you are living and earning an income abroad, you might be able to claim the ‘foreign earned income exclusion’, which for 2023 is US$ 120’000. While only ‘bigger earners’ effectively pay US tax on top of their Swiss or other foreign taxes due to Swiss income levels and the exchange rates, you could find yourself over the threshold sooner than you realize.

In addition to the ‘foreign earned income exclusion’ you should check the tax treaty between the US and the country where you live, to check if you are eligible for any other tax relief to prevent double taxation.  

This information is presented as a guide only and does not replace personalised, expert advice on your own situation. 

Tax consultants can help you understand your personal tax situation if you are an American citizen living in Switzerland.  

Church tax

In your income tax submission, or in the form you fill in for your employer (if Quellensteuer is withheld from your salary), you must indicate whether you have an affiliation with one of the state-recognized churches.

If you indicate that you are either Protestant (Evangelisch Reformiert), Roman Catholic, Christian Catholic, Israelian Gemeinde (in some Kantons only) then you will pay extra church tax (Kirchensteuer) on top of your income tax.

The church tax is often a percentage of the Kantonal tax, but calculations differ from Kanton to Kanton and from church to church. If you do not want to pay church tax, for example, because you are not affiliated with one of the mentioned churches, then you must indicate that you don’t have a church affiliation on the form.

For many foreigners in Switzerland, the Kirchensteuer is unexpected and might even seems archaic, however, you do have a choice whether you pay this tax when you fill out your forms.

Equity tax

Equity tax or Wealth tax (Vermögenssteuer) is charged on a person’s net equity and includes all assets in Switzerland and abroad minus their debts.

The rule for computing the net equity differs from Kanton to Kanton, although there is now some harmonization. The percentages charged for equity tax also differ from Kanton to Kanton. It is highest in Kanton Geneva with 10,1 Promille and lowest in Nidwalden with 1,3 Promille.

Just like with concealment of foreign income, also concealment of foreign equity is a punishable offence in Switzerland.

Gift tax and inheritance tax

Gift tax (Schenkungssteuer) and inheritance or estate tax (Erbschaftssteuer) exist in Switzerland. They are both entirely governed by Kantonal rules only. The country (Bund) does not levy any gift or inheritance tax.

Each Kanton sets its own percentage levies (for example Obwalden and Schwyz don’t levy these taxes) and the local municipalities where you live will also profit from them.

Generally, it is the recipient of the gift or the inheritance who must report the gift and pay the tax. 

Note that the current or former country of the giver (or the deceased person in the case of inheritance tax) may also levy taxes. Double taxation might therefore be a consequence where there is not an agreement on double taxation between countries for gift and inheritance tax.

Also, some countries consider their residents for tax purposes for a certain period of years even after they have left the country (for example, Germany follows its former inhabitants for five years after leaving the country and the Netherlands for ten years). 

Given the potential complications, it is wise to involve a local specialist who knows can help you if you find yourself in this situation.

Taxes in Basel: Road tax or Motor Vehicle Tax

If you own a vehicle, such as a cars, moped, motorcycle, quad, tractor, transport vehicle, or camper, etc, you will pay an  annual road tax or Motor Vehicle Tax (called Motorfahrzeugsteuer). There is also tax included in the price of gas/petrol and  when purchasing a new car.

Each Kanton has its own rules how and on what the tax is calculated. Basel-Stadt levies on the empty weight and CO-2 emission while Baselland considers the total weight. You will receive an annual invoice to pay once the vehicle is registered in your name.

Using the Swiss Motorways

If you want to drive on the Swiss motorways/freeways, you also need to purchase an Autobahnvignette. This is a colorful sticker that you display on the front windshield of your vehicle so that it is visible to police and border guards. This sticker is a way of charging Swiss and non-Swiss vehicle owners to use the major roads in Switzerland. 

You can purchase an Autobahnvignette at petrol stations and border crossings. Each sticker is valid for 16 months from October 1st of the ‘previous’ year to January 31st of the ‘following’ year shown on the sticker.

Auto Vignette: insure your car in Basel

Still Have Questions?

If you still have questions about taxation in Basel or the surrounding area, we at Hallo Basel we can point you to the answers.

Ask us a question and we will call you or email you back, completely free of charge. No strings attached. We are are not trying to sell you anything, we’re simply offering a helping hand from those a few steps ahead on a similar journey.


Official Swiss sites that give information on taxes in Basel  include: 

Basel Stadt official webpage

Baselland official webpage