Selected case studies on family taxation in Switzerland
Workshop by Stephanie Eichenberger on the occasion of the ISIS) seminar on 16 November 2021 entitled "Marriage, partnership and family in tax law".
Case 1: Marriage
Romeo and Juliet would like to get married. Romeo is a well-paid actuary and Juliet is a tour guide for a Swiss tour operator. Julia currently lives in Herrliberg and Romeo in Rapperswil.
The two would like to get married, but do not yet know exactly when.
They come to you and ask you the following questions:
- Should we get married this year or next?
- Should we marry before or after the birth of our child together?
- Where should our family home be?
Julia comes from a wealthy family. Her father wants to transfer 10% of the shares in the family business to her, but wants to reserve the usufruct. In return, he demands that Romeo and Juliet conclude a marriage and inheritance contract in which the following is agreed:
- Separation of property
- Waiver of inheritance by Romeo with respect to the shares in favour of joint children
Julia also receives an apartment building in Lausanne as a wedding gift from her grandmother.
- What influence do these elements have on the taxation of Romeo and Juliet?
Case 2: Family life
Romeo and Julia are now married and have four children, Bianca 14, Lorena 17, Marco 19 and Ernesto 21. Bianca is still at school. Lorena did an apprenticeship, Marco works as a DJ and Ernesto is studying.
- What is the taxation of the family?
The great-grandfather of Bianca, Lorena, Marco and Ernesto, who has since passed away, had set up a foundation in Liechtenstein that provides regular benefits to cover the costs of education from the descendants' 15th birthday until they complete an education or until they reach the age of 30 at the latest. The benefits vary and are determined by the Board of Trustees on a case-by-case basis. In certain cases, benefits may also be refused altogether (e.g. in the event of a lack of willingness to perform).
- What tax consequences do these benefits trigger for the family?
The great-grandfather had set up another foundation in Liechtenstein, the assets of which are due to the male family members in certain shares. At birth, each male family member receives CHF 10 million, which is administered by the foundation and handed over to the family member when he reaches the age of 30.
- What are the tax implications of this foundation?
Bianca is a gifted golfer and wins cash prizes at tournaments. She has also already received her first advertising contracts. She invests her prize money in shares and cryptocurrencies.
- What tax consequences does this trigger for the family?
Lorena is more interested in fantasy games, but is also so successful that she earns between CHF 20,000 and CHF 50,000 a year with them.
- What tax consequences does this trigger for the family?
Case 3: Marriage and employment
Tristan and Isolde have been married for 10 years. They own their own home in Aarau. Isolde is the owner of a chain of hairdressing salons. Tristan runs the French-speaking branch of the salon chain and lives mostly in Lausanne.
- How are Tristan and Isolde taxed?
Case 4: Separation and divorce
Caesar and Cleopatra have grown apart and are thinking about a divorce. They have two children, a shared house and a shared holiday flat.
Cleopatra moves out and Caesar and the children remain in the common house. Caesar pays for all the costs of the children and the property, including interest on debts. Cleopatra pays her living expenses from her earned income (part-time). Since her salary is not sufficient for this, she pays the difference with her credit card. The credit card bills are paid by Caesar. There is no written agreement.
- What is the taxation of Caesar and Cleopatra?
Finally, divorce occurs and the following divorce convention is up for discussion:
- The spouses keep the house together. Caesar stays in the house with the children until the younger child is 18 years old. Caesar pays the maintenance and the mortgage interest. The mortgage is still in the name of both spouses. After that, the house is to be sold.
- Caesar takes over the holiday home with mortgage and makes up the difference in cash.
- Cleopatra receives half of Caesar's pension fund assets (offsetting her own pension fund assets).
- Cleopatra receives alimony for the next seven years.
- If one of the children (after reaching the age of 12) moves in with Cleopatra, Cleopatra additionally receives maintenance payments for this child.
- How is this divorce convention to be assessed from a tax perspective?
Since Cleopatra would like to have more money at her disposal, she would rather have a compensatory payment in this amount instead of the pension fund credit.
- Does this have tax implications?
One of the children really wants to take cello lessons. Caesar is against it and does not pay for the lessons. Cleopatra, who likes music, pays for the child's cello lessons and the rent of the instrument.
- How is this to be assessed from a tax perspective?
Case 5: Kinship
Adam and Eva are retired and live in their own house. They own other properties, the majority of which they rent out. One property is occupied by their adult daughter and her family. The daughter does not pay rent, but pays for the upkeep of the property. Adam's long-time mistress also lives in a flat owned by Adam and Eve. She pays a rent that is slightly below the imputed rental value. Eva has no knowledge of this. Written contracts exist neither with the daughter nor with the mistress.
- What does the tax treatment look like?
Adam has been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for a few years. Because of Adam's progressive dementia, the KESB intervenes and appoints a guardian for Adam. The guardian takes care of Adam's personal and financial affairs. As part of the inventory, the guardian discovers that Eve is constantly making higher cash withdrawals. It turns out that she is secretly giving the money to her son, who has been a drug addict for years.
- Does the appointment of an assistant have any influence on the taxation of Adam and Eve?
- What about the payments to the son?
A few years later, Adam dies. He has written a will with the following content:
- I disinherit my son.
- My daughter receives the house in which she lives.
- My mistress receives a life-long right to the flat in which she lives. The rent remains the same as before
The municipality, which has supported the son for years, contacts Eva and announces a reduction action in favour of the son. After some back and forth, the parties agree on the following and put it in writing:
- The son or the community receives the compulsory portion.
- The daughter receives the house in which she lives.
- The mistress receives a life-long right to live at the previous rent in the flat in which she lives.
- Eva receives the rest.
- What is the tax treatment?
- What about the legal fees of each party?
Case 6: Marriage for all
Thelma and Louise got married in Las Vegas a few years ago. Since this marriage was not recognised in Switzerland and they felt that it was not treated equally as a registered partnership, the two did not bother with it any further.
Due to the imminent change in the law, the two would now like their marriage, which took place a few years ago, to be recognised in Switzerland.
- What impact does this have on the taxation of Thelma and Louise?