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CROSS-BORDER WORKERS

Switzerland and France further extend tax benefits for cross-border workers

Switzerland has again extended a set of beneficial tax arrangements for cross-border workers living in France until November, although not everyone is happy.

The Swiss-French border closed during the Covid pandemic. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
The Swiss-French border closed during the Covid pandemic. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The rules were originally put in place during the Covid pandemic, when various laws and regulations in Switzerland and elsewhere encouraged people to work from home. 

Alongside these rules, the Swiss and French governments changed the underlying tax rules to encourage people to work from home. 

These rules were originally put in place in March 2020, but have been extended several times and will now expire on October 31st. 

What are the rules? 

Under normal circumstances, anyone living in France who works in Switzerland can spend no more than 25 percent of their time working from home. 

READ MORE: Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland

If they exceed this time limit, they would have to pay social security contributions and tax charges tin France rather than in Switzerland, which would be much higher.

The agreements between France and Switzerland – along with several other countries where people resident in France work like Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany – “provide that days worked at home because of the recommendations and health instructions related to the Covid-19 pandemic may … be considered as days worked in the state where [workers] usually carry out their activity and therefore remain taxable,” according to the statement from the French Employment Ministry.

In June, cross-border worker advocates called for the agreements to be extended. 

Companies in France’s Haute-Savoie region, where most of cross-border workers employed in Geneva come from, are upset, claiming that home-office agreement makes working in Switzerland even more attractive for French workers, at the detriment of local businesses.

According to Christophe Coriou, head of the Haute-Savoie section of French employers, “these agreements accentuate the competitive disadvantage” of French companies compared to Swiss jobs — in terms of salaries, but also lower taxes and other perks.

“By emptying them of their human resources, Geneva penalises companies in Haute-Savoie”,  Coriou  said, adding that “teleworking of cross-border workers, which is perceived as an additional attraction to the salary, accentuates the competitive disadvantage of companies in neighbouring France”.

What about other countries? 

Switzerland is heavily reliant on cross-border workers, with an estimated 340,000 crossing daily from France, Germany and Italy into Switzerland to work. 

About 90,000 workers from France are employed in Geneva, but there is no official data on how many still work from home.

Italy and Switzerland signed an agreement relating to cross-border workers in March.

Germany also has its own agreement with Switzerland. 

More information about the rules in place can be found at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: What cross-border workers should know about taxation in Switzerland

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FACT CHECK: How accurate are the ‘five reasons not to move to Switzerland’?

Under the tagline ‘money isn’t everything’, a southern German newspaper recently caused a stir by publishing ‘five reasons you shouldn’t move to Switzerland’ for work. What are the five points - and are they accurate?

FACT CHECK: How accurate are the ‘five reasons not to move to Switzerland’?

With one in four Swiss residents foreign, the country clearly has some pulling power. Most of this is based around Switzerland’s strong job market, which has high salaries in a variety of sectors. 

Switzerland boasts some of the highest salaries of anywhere in the world. 

Those in management positions or in sought after professions such as IT and medicine can earn considerable amounts, while other professions which may not be as traditionally high paid like teachers and cleaners also benefit from comparatively high wages. 

READ MORE: What is the average salary for (almost) every job in Switzerland?

However, not everything is rosy for foreigners who come to Switzerland to work. 

In mid-July, German newspaper Südkurier ran a report targeted at Germans who may want to work in Switzerland – along with those who have already done so. 

Under the title “Because money isn’t everything: Five reasons not to work in Switzerland”, the newspaper – which is headquartered just over the German border in Konstanz – lays out five reasons why moving to Switzerland for work isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. 

The article has caused a mild stir in Switzerland, with Swiss tabloid Blick pointing out that some of the claims were inaccurate

While any such list is by its very nature subjective, we’ve listed the five claims and had a go at debunking them (or at least explaining them in more depth). 

Do you agree? Let us know in the comments. 

1: Too much overtime and too few holidays

It’s important to mention that everything is coming from a German perspective, with the paper comparing things in Switzerland to those in Germany. 

While that may not make too much of a difference for some, it will for others – particularly when it comes to the question of overtime and holidays. 

Verdict: The downsides of Zurich you should be aware of before moving

In Switzerland, workers are entitled to a statutory minimum of four weeks off per year. 

While this might seem excellent compared to other countries such as the United States, it is one week fewer than their German counterparts. 

The Südkurier also complained about overtime in Switzerland, where workers are expected to work far over their usual 40-hour work weeks. 

There does seem to be some truth to this – Germans and German employers tend to push for a stronger adherence to the 40-hour week than some Swiss businesses – but this will also depend dramatically on the company. 

Under Swiss law, those who do work overtime however will be entitled to either a 25 percent loading on that time, or to bank those hours for additional leave in future, so be sure to research the specifics of overtime in your work contract. 

Health insurance is far too expensive – particularly for deductibles 

Another major gripe was the way in which Switzerland’s healthcare system operates and how much it costs. 

While the high cost of Swiss health insurance is no secret, what got the German newspaper particularly upset was the way Switzerland handles its deductibles. 

Most German health insurance plans have no deductibles, whereas in Switzerland this can be thousands of francs depending on your plan. 

The Südkurier however implied that the lowest deductible is CHF2,000, which is patently untrue.

READ MORE: How much does health insurance cost in Switzerland?

The level of a deductible will be up to each insured person. 

The minimum deductible in Switzerland is 300 Swiss francs (around €260). The maximum amount is 2,500 francs. The higher your deductible (in other words, the more you pay out of your own pocket) the lower your monthly premium is.

Childcare is also too pricey

Another sticking point was Switzerland’s high childcare costs, which made it prohibitive for families with two working parents. 

On this point, it is hard to argue. 

The high costs of childcare are a frequent complaint of many a parent in Switzerland. 

While this of course varies dramatically from canton to canton, the average cost of a day of childcare in Switzerland is CHF130. 

The average Swiss family spends a massive 41 percent of their net income on childcare, three times the OECD average of 13 percent. 

For ways to save – and a number of alternative childcare options – check out the following link. 

READ MORE: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland

…and in fact everything is just far too expensive

OK, we knew this one was coming. 

Besides chocolate, cheese and banks full of other people’s money, Switzerland is perhaps best known for being expensive. 

The country is especially pricey when it comes to food, beverages, hotels, housing, restaurants, clothing, and health insurance – or pretty much everything you need. 

Keep in mind however that while Switzerland is expensive for its residents, for people coming from abroad, high costs here are the ultimate culture shock.

If you work in Switzerland, you will earn significantly higher wages than most other countries – which somewhat offsets the cost of living. 

Also, many of the best things about Switzerland are actually free – from clean air and high levels of safety to the wonderful scenery and the amazing network of public footpaths that allow you to explore the county at a walking pace.

READ MORE: 13 things that are actually ‘cheaper’ in Switzerland

Learning Swiss German is essential but useless elsewhere 

On the final point, the Südkurier went all in on Swiss German, saying the language was necessary to navigate some parts of Swiss society but that it was completely useless elsewhere.

“It’s a language that won’t help you anywhere else in the world. You can’t use it to communicate in East Asia or South America, and it often doesn’t even help you in other parts of Switzerland” the author wrote. 

While it is true that Swiss German is unlikely to be too helpful anywhere else in the world, the topic of Swiss German versus High German is particularly controversial, especially among Germans who have moved to Switzerland. 

The Local have been told by our German readers that the Swiss will often switch to English rather than speak High German, due to a combination of not being able to and simply not wanting to. 

While where you live will be crucial on whether you should speak Swiss German or not, learning at least some basics in the local dialect is essential for anyone regardless of where you move to. 

READ MORE: 15 ways to swear like a Swiss German

Are these accurate? Or are they not? Let us know in the comments below. 

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