The Complete Guide to VAT for Self-Employed in Switzerland (2024 Update)

Everything freelancers and self-employed in Switzerland need to know about Value Added Tax (VAT) and the new 2024 rates

As a self-employed professional or freelancer in Switzerland, understanding how Value Added Tax (VAT) works is crucial for your business. In this comprehensive guide, we'll break down the essentials of the Swiss VAT system, explain the current and upcoming 2024 rates, and provide practical examples to help you navigate this complex topic.
Whether you're just starting out or looking to stay compliant, this article has you covered.

Section 1: The Basics of VAT in Switzerland

  • Switzerland uses a net value-added tax system where VAT-registered businesses collect tax from customers and deduct VAT paid on business purchases before remitting the difference to the government
  • The Federal Act on Value Added Tax (VAT Act) governs the VAT system in Switzerland
  • VAT was first introduced in Switzerland in 1995 and has since become one of the Confederation's most important revenue sources

Section 2: Current VAT Rates (as of 2023)

  • Standard rate of 7.7% for most goods and services
  • Special rate of 3.7% for hotel accommodation
  • Reduced rate of 2.5% for essential goods like food, medicine, books and some agricultural supplies
  • 0% rate is considered a tax exemption; allows VAT recovery on exports
  • If you're VAT-registered, you can claim back "notional" 2.5% VAT on purchases from non-VAT registered farmers, foresters, cattle dealers

Section 3: Who Needs to Register for VAT?

  • Businesses with annual turnover exceeding CHF 100,000 must register for VAT
  • For new businesses, the threshold is prorated (e.g. CHF 8,333/month if started mid-year)
  • Sports/cultural businesses with >CHF 150K non-exempt revenue must register
  • Voluntary registration is allowed even if under threshold

Section 4: Pros and Cons of VAT Registration for Freelancers


  • Contributes to solidarity tax
  • Distinguishes you as a business vs individual
  • Allows deducting VAT on all business purchases


  • More complex accounting and admin
  • Quarterly filing requirements

Section 5: How to File a VAT Return

  • VAT returns due quarterly (or semi-annually for simplified method)
  • Two calculation methods: Effective and Flat Tax Rate
  • Returns detail sales, purchases, and VAT collected/paid
  • 60 day filing window after period end
  • Can still file manually or electronically until 2025
  • Payment made directly on FTA website after filing

Section 6: VAT Exemptions and Deductions

  • Exports and some international services are VAT exempt
  • Report export sales without VAT in box 221
  • Deduct discounts, rebates from total revenue in box 235
  • Distinguish between capital and operating expenditure for input tax
  • Consider own consumption and mixed use adjustments

Section 7: Audits and Penalties

  • FTA conducts audits to ensure VAT compliance
  • Late filing penalties include interest and fines
  • Retrospective payment corrections possible
  • Criminal penalties up to CHF 800K for false returns, CHF 20K for negligence

Section 8: Practical Examples

Example 1

Web designer/marketing consultant charging standard 7.7% VAT

  • Invoices client 725 CHF + 55.75 VAT = 775.75 incl 2% early pay discount
  • Client pays 760.25; 15.50 discount of which 1.11 is VAT to be deducted
  • Credit card fee is non-VAT deductible business expense

Example 2

Trainer invoices 1000 for VAT-exempt 2-day seminar plus travel

  • Seminar billed without VAT
  • Hotel charges 300 + 11.10 VAT (3.7%) + 2.00 city tax = 313.10
  • 11.10 hotel VAT is deductible input tax

Section 9: New VAT Rates from January 1, 2024

  • Standard rate: 8.1%
  • Reduced rate: 2.6%
  • Special lodging rate: 3.8%
  • Part of retirement reform financing
  • For invoices spanning rate change:
    • Issue separate invoices for 2023 vs 2024 portions, or
    • Combine on one invoice but clearly distinguish applicable rates


As a self-employed professional in Switzerland, mastering VAT is key to keeping your business running smoothly and staying compliant with tax authorities. By understanding the basics of the Swiss VAT system, knowing your registration obligations, and properly accounting for sales and expenses, you'll be well-equipped to handle this important aspect of your freelance business.
While the VAT system can seem complex, taking the time to learn the ropes is a worthwhile investment. Plus, with the new rates coming into effect on January 1, 2024, now is the perfect time to review your processes and ensure you're ready for the change.
For more support with VAT and other accounting needs, check out Magic Heidi - your partner in stress-free self-employment. With seamless invoicing, expense management and VAT filing services, we make it easy to focus on what you do best while leaving the admin to us.