Property transfer tax
In all cantons, if you buy a house or apartment, you must pay a tax on the transfer of ownership, or at least pay a fee for the transfer of ownership or the new entry in the land register. This tax or fee is levied when a property changes hands. The tax amounts to around 1 to 3 per cent of the purchase price. Cantons that charge a fee use it to cover administrative costs.
Imputed rental value
If you live in your own home, you must pay income tax on the so-called imputed rental value (Eigenmietwert, valeur locative). The imputed rental value is approximately 60 to 70 per cent of the rent that would be payable on the property if it were leased on the open market. So, as a homeowner, you pay additional taxes. In return, however, in your tax return you are allowed to deduct what you spend on your home in mortgage interest and maintenance costs from your income.
If you own residential property, you must also pay a property tax (Liegenschaftssteuer, impôt foncier) in around half of the cantons. The tax amounts to around 0.2 to 0.3 per cent of the estimated value of the property. The taxpayers are the owners or co-owners named in the land register.
If you own an apartment, a house or a plot of land, you must declare this in your tax return and pay tax on the value as an asset. The amount of any mortgages can be deducted from the value of this asset when you fill in your tax return.
Do you own a second home or a holiday home?
You have to pay property tax and wealth tax (see above) on second homes or holiday homes in the canton where they are located, and you are also taxed on their imputed rental income. Normally, though, you do not have to fill out two tax returns. It is sufficient if the tax office in the canton where your second or holiday home is located receives a copy.
Holiday homes abroad are taxed where they are located. This means that you do not have to pay tax in Switzerland, but you have to pay what is due under the tax system where the property is situated. However, you still need to declare the holiday home on your tax return, as it will be taken into account when determining the rate at which you must pay tax on your local income and assets.
Property gains tax
If you sell your house, apartment or land and make a profit, you must pay tax on this in all the cantons. The profit can be high if you bought your home many years ago when prices were much lower.
How much of the profit you have to pay in tax therefore depends in most cantons on how long you owned the house: the longer you have owned the property, the lower the property gains tax is. On the other hand, the cantons tax gains on real estate achieved over a short period of ownership more heavily; this reduces the incentive to engage in property speculation.
Several cantonal tax administrations provide online tools for calculating the approximate amount of tax that they levy on the sale of real estate.
When buying, selling or dealing with tax issues, it is useful to say the least to know the value of your property. The internet offers online tools that provide rough estimates. Details of specialists in valuing real estate can be found on the website of the Swiss Real Estate Association (website available in German and French).
The cantons have various systems for levying taxes on real estate. You can find out more by consulting:
Documentation from the Federal Tax Administration (website available in German and French): The Federal Tax Administration publishes comprehensive dossiers listing the cantonal regulations
Cantonal tax administrations (website available in German and French): The cantonal tax administrations provide information on their websites or if you contact them directly. In some cantons, online tax calculators are also available.
The Swiss Homeowners Association offers information (available in German and French) on the taxation of real estate, as well as information on building law, obtaining finance, etc.