On Sunday 4 March 2018, Swiss voters will vote on two federal initiatives.
New financial regime 2021
Switzerland’s federal government must periodically seek voter approval to collect taxes. If Sunday’s vote is successful, a constitutional amendment will be made extending the government’s right to tax Swiss residents.
- Swiss vote results – 4 March 2018 (Le News)
Switzerland taxes residents at three levels: federal, cantonal (state) and municipal. The upcoming vote relates only to federal taxes, which include VAT, federal income and profits tax (IFD), stamp duty, tobacco and fuel taxes and a few others.
VAT and IFD account for around two thirds of the total and brought in CHF 43.8 billion in 2017. Not all of this money is spent by the federal government. In 2016, around 17% was given to the cantons.
Currently, the federal government has the right to levy these taxes until 2020. Sunday’s vote, if successful, will extend this right until 2035.
The reasons for this periodic referendum are historical. Until the first world war the federal government was largely funded by customs duty. Later, in 1958, it was given the right to levy other taxes to fund national defense, however it came with a time limit.
This was a compromise born from fears the federal government was encroaching on the sovereignty of the cantons – cantonal taxes are the largest slice taken from most pockets. This vote is another reminder of the delicate balance of power between the confederation and Switzerland’s regional states or cantons.
All of Switzerland’s main political parties are in favour of the vote, regarding it as essential for the running of the country.
The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, Switzerland’s public broadcaster is largely funded by a broadcasting fee. This fee, known colloquially as Billag, the name of the agency that collects it, is paid by most companies and essentially every household.
The organizers of this initiative, dubbed No Billag, don’t like the fee. They argue it gives the public broadcaster an unfair advantage against private media companies and that some residents are being forced to pay for something they don’t want.
Opponents see the fee as essential funding for an important public service. The private sector needs to generate profits and will not produce important content that isn’t profitable, a particular issue for those among Switzerland’s linguistic minorities, they argue. In addition, they argue that given Switzerland’s numerous national languages and system of direct democracy, it is important to have a public broadcaster.
Le News will post voting results on Sunday afternoon.
Federal government explanation of the vote on the new financial regime 2021 (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now
Federal government explanation of the vote No Billag (in French)