In Switzerland, it pays not to be married. Married couples pay higher taxes and receive lower state pensions than unmarried couples. Two referenda were launched this week to change this, reported RTS.
Across much of the world, individuals and couples pay the same tax and receive the same welfare payments regardless of whether they are married or not. However, Switzerland makes a distinction that penalises married people. This has been dubbed the marriage penalty.
Married couples have their income taxed together so progressive tax rates hurt them more. And they receive 150% of a state pension, compared to two unmarried people who get 100% each. Tax discrimination affects 450,000 married couples and pension payment differences affect 250,000 retired married couples, according to one parliamentarian.
The issue was formally acknowledged by the Federal Tribunal, Switzerland’s highest court in 1984. However, since then the government has proved unable to fix the issue.
In an attempt to level the playing field the Centre Party has launched two initiatives to see if voters can bring about changes the government has been unable to muster. One vote aims to end the discrimination on taxes and the other to end the difference on state pension payments.
The first initiative entitled “Yes to equal taxes” aims to anchor the principle of taxing all couples in the same way in Switzerland’s constitution. If the vote is successful, failing full implementation after 3 years, the federal government would automatically be required to make two tax calculations and impose the lower of the two. The initiative does not aim to apply individual taxation to everyone as some would like. The Centre party behind the votes thinks the universal application of individual taxation is too drastic and is something that should be decided by the cantons, which levy the lion’s share of taxes in Switzerland.
The second initiative aims to scrap the 150% limit of pensions for married couples.
The party has until 27 March 2024 the collect the 100,000 signatures required to launch a referendum.