Leaving Switzerland

As an expatriate there comes a time when most of us will move on to pastures new. This guide will explain what you need to do in order to exit Switzerland properly and to make sure you don’t get any unexpected surprises once you have re-located.

The check list is by no means exhaustive but does cover all the major items. We advise that you make multiple copies of the departure document and advise all service providers, pension companies etc. of a forwarding address and a valid email. Keep all documents safe as you will need to refer to them when settling bills that arrive after departure.

Registrations

  • You will need to de-register with your local commune i.e. the office which has issued your permit. To de-register fully you will need to prove that your taxes are up to date and paid in full. 
  • You will be given a Certificate of Departure which you will need to show to all the authorities and service providers to cancel your contracts etc.

Pensions

  • Advise the administration company for the 1st Pillar of departure. You may be able to reclaim some payments so ask for the paperwork or ask your financial advisor to help.
  • Advise your pension provider of your departure - you will need to give them a copy of your departure certificate. Most employers will advise the best pension provider for you, but make sure you have contact details as these will be needed later.
  • Advise your 3rd Pillar provider and ask your advisor for recommendations to either keep or cash out.

There are various options available on what to do with your Swiss pensions. It is highly complex and requires specific advice to ensure that there are no nasty tax demands from your new location. Your financial advisor is able to offer expert advice and solutions to minimise your exit tax and protect the retirement funds from the new tax authority.

Tax

  • Contact your tax office and ask for an up to date statement. Remember that unless you leave on December 31 you will have a tax bill for the current year!

Banks

  • It’s important to keep a CHF account for a year or two for any unexpected payments or credits. Most banks will charge an additional fee and some may even refuse to keep the account open so have this conversation early incase you need to make a alternative arrangement.

Health Insurance

  • This will be cancelled from the date of departure as specified on the certificate of departure. Remember to make alternative arrangements to avoid any uncovered period.

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Bills & Utilities

  • You will need to cancel various direct debits such as home insurances, internet, phone, and all utilities. Check if any refunds are due and advise of account details and forwarding address.
  • Take exit readings of all utilities / meters etc. - preferably also take a photo! Organise the final meter readings.
  • Organise mail forwarding via Swisspost

Property 

  • Send formal registered letter to the landlord / register to terminate lease. Make sure you are aware of the terms and small print in the lease of terms of notice and the handover. You may need to get some of the equipment serviced, for example.
  • Arrange for professional cleaners - the ones recommended by the landlord are always expensive but ensure that they can’t argue with the standard of cleaning!
  • Make sure you understand how and when the deposit is returned - if using a company like Swiss Caution then also notify them and ask if there is a refund due.
  • If you own a Swiss property, complete the necessary tax forms for an overseas property owner, and register as such with the commune. 

Miscellaneous

Organise insurance for personal goods when in transit if not covered by the removal company.

FAQs

What happens if I want to keep making my Swiss social security contributions? 

If you are either a Swiss citizen or an EU national you can continue to make Pillar 1 contributions but only if you relocate to a non-EU or EFTA country and have previously been registered for 5 uninterrupted years in Switzerland prior to leaving. The amount is set annually - 9.8% of income in 2017 plus an admin fee of 5% of the contributed amount. The minimum contribution is CHF 914 and the maximum CHF 22,850. Keeping this coverage is a good idea if you move to a country with no social security scheme or intend to return to Switzerland in a few years. Contributions made are not offsettable against any social contributions made in your new location.

What happens to my retirement pension (AHV/AVS) after I leave?

If you are already receiving benefits then you can continue to receive them as long as you are either a Swiss citizen, an eligible citizen of an EU state or EFTA state or another country with which Switzerland has a social security agreement with. At time of writing these were Australia, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Philippines, Japan, Macedonia, United States, India, Uruguay and San Marino. A surviving spouse’s pension is paid regardless of the spouse’s nationality. 

If you are not receiving retirement benefits then it may be possible to receive a portion of your Swiss pension abroad subject to the social security agreement. If you are not resident in one of these eligible states, a refund of your AHV contributions may be made subject to certain conditions following departure.

Can I keep my Pillar 3?

In short, yes, although it may not be possible to make further contributions and you will not receive any tax relief unless you still have an income in Switzerland. There is also the option to ‘cash out’ subject to providers’ rules and the payment of an exit tax which is normally very small.

What happens to my Pillar 2?

We will fully cover this in a separate article as there are many permutations and advice is specific to each individual’s circumstances, however it is important to seek professional advice as the consequences can be expensive if not correctly handled.

In short, when you leave an employer’s Swiss scheme your pension assets are moved out of that Scheme into ‘Libre Passage’ or, essentially, a cash deposit account with what is generally a separate provider. You no longer accrue the pension benefits or insurances and the cash account pays little to no interest.

If you relocate to an EU or EFTA state then the mandatory piece must remain in a Swiss account until retirement, but the extra mandatory funds can be moved either as a cash lump sum to another pension provider in Switzerland or outside to a different jurisdiction after paying an exit tax. Beware, as your new country may view these funds as income and tax accordingly, hence advice on the best way to do this is key. 

If you relocate outside the EU or EFTA then the whole pension may be taken as a cash lump sum. Again, advice on the most tax efficient way to do this should be sought.

Contact Belgravia Wealth Management to find out more or to book a consultation with a financial consultant.
Guide to leaving Switzerland

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