Tax returns are generally not a topic that people look forward to. But they need to be dealt with once a year and they need to be completed carefully. Rather than sticking your head in the sand, you need to act in a self-determined and organised manner. Then, maybe your tax return won’t be child’s play, but it will definitely be feasible. The best approach is to proceed in accordance with the following three points.
1. Collect documents
Before you start filling in your tax return, first you need to gather all of your documents. It is a good idea to create a single storage place (e.g. a box or folder) to keep all the receipts and documents you accumulate over the year. At the start of the new year, you’ll receive your salary statement from your employer and interest documents for the previous year from your banks. Store these documents as well. That way, you’ll have all of the documents you need to fill out your tax return without needing to look for them.
You should have the following documents available:
- Salary statements for both spouses – including secondary and part-time employment
- Pension statements
- Daily allowance statements (e.g. unemployment benefits) and compensation for loss of earnings
Accounts and securities
- Bank interest statement
- Bank statements and post account statements at year-end
- Securities with savings accounts, dividend statements and certificates of interest
- Certificates of loan interest and mortgage certificates
- Receipts for commuting expenses and meals out
- Receipts for training expenses
- Receipts for property maintenance, renovations and rental income
- Pillar 3a statements
- Statements of pillar 2 purchases
- Receipts for donations
- Membership fees and donations to political parties
- Receipts for daycare and childcare
- Receipts for personally paid health costs
- Receipts for health insurance payments
2. Complete tax return
Once you have all of your documents together, you can begin completing the tax return. First, you should read the instructions and get a good overview. Then you can complete the supplemental forms. You will need the amounts calculated on these forms for the main form, which you can tackle next. It is best to go through it point by point. If you get stuck, you can look at the instructions again or contact the tax office directly.
- Which costs can you deduct from your taxes?
- necessary travel expenses between home and work
- additional costs for meals (flat rate)
- education and training costs
- insurance premiums (limited)
- contributions for tax-qualified provisions
- health costs
- loan interest
- alimony and support payments
There are flat rates for some of these costs. If you would like to deduct the actual costs instead, you must attach the receipts to the tax return. However, certain costs can only be deducted up to a fixed amount, even if the costs were demonstrably higher.
For travel between home and work, individuals can deduct up to CHF 3000 from their direct federal tax.
Parents can deduct a maximum amount for childcare costs. For direct federal tax, this amount is CHF 10 100 per child.
3. Submit the tax return on time
In general, the tax return must be submitted by the beginning of the year. However, each canton has slightly different rules. In most cantons, however, tax returns must be submitted by 31 March. This deadline applies for natural persons, i.e. regular citizens. Legal entities (e.g. associations and companies) normally have until 30 September. The deadline can be extended, but a request must be submitted in good time. This can generally be done easily online.
You will usually receive an assessment of your tax return within a few months. You should check it carefully. Are the taxable income and assets correct? Has the correct tax rate been applied? Even tax officials can make mistakes. If you find discrepancies, call your tax office and submit a polite inquiry. Occasionally, it will just be a mistake that can be quickly corrected. Ultimately, the tax return relates to your financial situation, so a certain amount of personal responsibility is required.
Online tax return
You can save time and money by completing your tax return electronically. The necessary software can be found online. In the cantons of Zurich, Bern, Fribourg, Vaud, Geneva and Jura, you can even complete your tax return directly online.