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If you sell your house or flat at a profit, you have to pay property gains tax. The amount depends on the net profit, the holding period and the location. Real estate gains are taxed differently from canton to canton in Switzerland. However, one thing is the same in all 26 cantons: If the seller owes the property gains tax, the property is liable - and the tax authorities may collect the unpaid bill from the new owner. This is important to know if you are considering buying a house or flat. But let's take it one step at a time ...
In most cantons, real estate is defined in the same way in the tax law as in the civil code. In addition to real estate and buildings, for example, co-ownership shares in real estate, independent or permanent rights entered in the land register such as building rights, usufructuary rights and spring rights or water rights and other easements are also considered real estate and are taxed. In most cases, however, the real estate gains tax concerns houses or flats.
The seller is liable for tax if he or she makes a profit on the sale. If the seller does not pay his debt, the tax authorities may enter a legal pledge in the land register and collect the outstanding invoice amount from the new owner.
The calculation is simple: sales price minus investment costs equals real estate gains. In most cantons, the investment costs are defined in the same or similar way as in the canton of Zurich:
The real estate gains tax is a special tax and is due upon sale. Three factors are decisive for its calculation: profit, ownership duration and location. The cantons calculate the real estate gains tax very differently. These are the biggest differences:
There is no one formula for calculating property gains tax. With Houzy's new Property Gains Tax Calculator, you can calculate online the property gains tax due for all 26 cantons, from Aargau to Zug. The calculator also simulates the effects of different sales prices and/or sales dates. Depending on the situation, it may be worth waiting to sell in order to save money.
Tax laws are complex and differ from canton to canton. That is why you should inform yourself before rather than after the sale. A realtor from your region who knows the tax laws and the market can give you advice and at the same time help you sell your house or flat.
Real estate gains tax is not always due immediately. It is delayed if you buy a replacement property in Switzerland with the proceeds of the sale. Depending on the canton, you must reinvest the proceeds within one to two years; in exceptional cases, the deadline can be extended to four years. However, the tax delay is only granted for the replacement purchase of owner-occupied residential property - and only if the purchase price for the replacement property is higher than the investment costs for the property sold. If the purchase price is lower than the investment costs, the entire tax amount is due immediately (example 3). This occurs mainly if you sell a larger and more expensive house and buy a smaller and cheaper flat in its place.
|Example 1||Example 2||Example 3|
|Selling price old property||1'100'000 Francs||1'100'000 Francs||1'100'000 Francs|
|Investment costs||800'000 Francs||800'000 Francs||800'000 Francs|
|Gains||300'000 Francs||300'000 Francs||300'000 Francs|
|Purchase price for replacement property||1'300'000 Francs||900'000 Francs||700'000 Francs|
|Immediately taxable||0 Francs||200'000 Francs||300'000 Francs|
|Tax delay for||300'000 Francs||100'000 Francs||0 Francs|
Do you want to sell a property that is worth much more than it used to be? It may be worth waiting a few more years to benefit from a lower tax rate. In the canton of Zurich, for example, you reach the maximum tax rebate after 20 years and in the canton of Bern only after 35 years.
Real estate gains tax can be delayed for many reasons. For example, because of changes in ownership due to inheritance, advance withdrawal or donation and because of changes in ownership between spouses due to changes in property law, separation or divorce. However, as soon as the house or flat is sold to a third party, property gains tax becomes due. It is calculated on the basis of the original purchase price, not the transfer value. For this, the holding period of the previous owner is taken into account. And if the sale price is invested in new owner-occupied residential property, the property gains tax can be further delayed ...
Tax delay does not apply to second homes, holiday homes or rented properties. If you sell an apartment building, you may only defer tax on an owner-occupied flat.