In Switzerland, the federal government, the cantons and the communes all levy taxes. The Confederation levies direct federal tax on the income of people living and working in Switzerland. The amount payable depends on your income. Direct federal tax is higher in percentage terms the more you earn. You can find out the effective tax rate that applies to you directly from the law (webpage available in German, French and Italian).
You can use the Federal Tax Administration's tax calculator to calculate what you can expect to pay in federal, cantonal and communal taxes. Several cantonal tax administrations also offer online calculators.
The cantons and the communes levy their taxes on both the income and the assets of private individuals. Each canton has its own tax laws and the tax burden varies from canton to canton and from commune to commune.
Statutory tax rate and tax co-efficient
The percentage of your taxable income that you have to pay in cantonal and communal taxes is determined by the statutory tax rate set by law and the applicable tax co-efficient, which is changed from time to time. Because each commune determines its own tax co-efficient, and these can vary considerably, there can be low-tax and high-tax communes within the same canton.
You can find various explanations of the system, details of the cantonal effective tax rates and lists of the tax co-efficients applied in the various communes, along with calculation examples on the Federal Tax Administration website (webpage available in German, French and Italian).
With the Federal Tax Administration's tax calculator, you can easily calculate the amount of cantonal and communal tax you can expect to pay, and compare the taxes, statutory tax rates, effective tax rates and co-efficients of various cantons and communes. Several cantonal tax administrations (web page available in German, French and Italian) also offer similar calculators.
Taxes are not calculated on the basis of your total income, but on the basis of what is known as your ‹taxable income›. This is a lower amount. You can deduct social insurance contributions from your income and make various other deductions in your tax return.
Wealth taxes are calculated on what is called your ‹taxable wealth›. Here, too, you can make deductions in the tax return.
The cantonal tax authorities calculate your taxes on the basis of the figures you provide in your tax return. The cantons collect both the federal taxes and the cantonal and communal taxes. The amount you have to pay is assessed each year and is normally paid in instalments. If you have any questions about your tax bill or have any difficulty making payment, you can contact the cantonal tax administration (webpage available in German, French and Italian). Payment in smaller instalments than those demanded by the authorities or an extension of the deadline for payment are both possible.
Federal Tax Administration - Guide for future taxpayers (not available in English, but of interest to any taxpayer)
Federal Tax Administration - Tax terms (explanations of statutory tax rates, statutory tax rates, calculation period/tax year, etc. Not available in English)