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Old 20.02.2011, 17:27
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FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

How much should you be paid in Switzerland? This is often a tough question to answer, because the Swiss are notoriously secretive about their salaries. Unlike many countries, salary ranges or bands are rarely published in job adverts. For many people, this means that finding a comparable salary is difficult.

Lots of people have come to the English Forum to ask about salaries. It’s very hard to give specific answers, because every candidate is different. Even for the same job, different salaries may be offered to different candidates because they are more/less advanced in their careers and may bring different qualities to the job. When reading this guide, bear in mind that these are only broad estimates and that you’ll need to think about your own individual circumstances when determining your market worth and whether a salary is ‘fair’ or not.


SALARY GUIDES

There are a number of guidelines published that can give you a good feeling for overall salaries in Switzerland, and that can help you figure out where you sit.

is your salary fair ? Consider this:

Here is the Swiss Salarium calculator. The personal wages ‘Salarium’ is an interactive application which allows you to obtain for a specific job (economic branch, region etc) and for a selection of individual characteristics (age, level of education etc.) the following salary information:
  • the gross monthly salary (middle or median value)
  • the salary dispersion (interquartile range)
  • factors influencing the salary (table of salary variations by region, level of education etc.)
  • comparison with personal salary data (total salary based on the same salary components as the median salary)
There is not an exact salary guide for every imaginable position, so you may need to use these figures to get a feeling for salaries overall, then extrapolate to figure out where your salary would fit in on the overall scale.

As a rule, though, Swiss salaries are generous when compared against other countries, so you are unlikely to find yourself moving to a Swiss position for less money than you’re getting currently.


INDUSTRY-SPECIFIC ADVICE

Many people relocating to Switzerland come to work with the big pharma companies in Basel or the banks in Zurich. There have been many threads about salaries in both of these environments:

Pharma
Salary in big pharma
Position at Novartis, Basel
Pharma company- Research Scientist [salary question]
Salary range in Biotech companies??
Need advise in accepting Project Manager offer in Basel

Banking
UBS Salary & Benefits
Benefits / Salary in Premier Zurich Financial Companies
Dublin 53k vs Zurich 100k?
another salary question [Zurich, 125K, 3 small kids]
Salary level Zurich area
How much is an IT Project Manager in Investment Banking worth?


TAXES AND OTHER DEDUCTIONS

Just as important as negotiating a good salary is knowing how much of that salary will end up in your pocket at the end of the month. There are several on-line resources that can help you estimate how much tax you’ll pay (it varies depending on which canton you live in) as well as other deductions that will be taken from your pay.

http://www.accurity.ch/revenueestimate/ (Note: this looks like it is now restricted to Accurity customers only)
http://en.comparis.ch/steuern/steuervergleich/default.aspx


QUELLENSTEUER (WITHHOLDING TAX)

Note that as a foreigner, you’ll pay your tax by quellensteuer, which means your tax payments will be withheld from your paycheque each month. In Switzerland, nothing is ever straightforward as laws vary from canton to canton, but in general, if you earn less than CHF120’000 a year, you’ll pay your tax by quellensteuer and need to do nothing further. If you earn more than CHF120’000 a year, you’ll still pay your tax by quellensteuer, but you’ll also need to file a tax return at the end of the year. If there’s a balance owing either way, you’ll either need to pay it or claim a tax refund.

You can find your Quellensteuer rates here:
http://en.comparis.ch/steuern/quellensteuerrechner/default.aspx


OTHER SALARY DEDUCTIONS

In addition to the tax that is withheld, there are numerous other charges that will come out of your pay.

Here is a sample payslip:

Monthly Employee Deductions ItemBase Rate Deduction State Pension (AHV)________________6'500.00_________5.05%_____CH F 328.25
Unemployment (ALV)_____________________________________________ _________________ 6'500.00__________1.0%______CHF 65.00
Company Pension (BVG)_____________________________________________ _______________4'505.00____________________CHF 243.95
Accident Insurance (UVG)_____________________________________________ ______________6'500.00________0.76%______CHF 49.40
Sickpay Insurance (KTG)_____________________________________________ _______________6'500.00________1.07%______CHF 69.55
Income tax at source____________________________________________ ___________________6'500.00_______13.56%______CHF 881.40
Total Employee Deductions________________________________________ _______________________________CHF 1'568.00
Net Monthly Salary____________________________________________ _____________________________________________CHF 4'932.00

Here are some more threads that explain the various charges on your payslip:

Taxing Meals
Deductions and taxes
[Q&A] Quellensteuer (tax at source for expats)


FOREIGN TAXES

For most expats working in Switzerland, the only tax you’ll end up paying as a full-time resident in Switzerland is Swiss tax. Americans, on the other hand, remain liable for US tax regardless of where they live in the world. Be sure to calculate the impact of US taxes on your take-home pay. The best guide for understanding US taxation of American expats is here:

FAQ: Expat's Guide to US Tax


OTHER BENEFITS

When evaluating your package, you also need to consider any other benefits you are being offered. Many of the bigger companies in Switzerland will provide you with relocation assistance, including temporary housing, moving expenses, language training. For candidates at senior management levels, you may also find that you’re offered schooling for your children at one of the international schools.

Possibly moving to Switzerland - Relocation package?
Expat Packages
Relocation incentives for new hire?


CAN I LIVE ON MY SALARY?

Once you’ve figured out what a reasonable salary is for your role, education, and experience, and once you’ve worked out how much of that salary you’ll be taking home after you’ve paid your taxes, it’s time to decide whether you’ll have enough to live on.

As a starting point, the Median Family Income is CHF109,236. So you can base your initial assumptions on that.

There are countless threads about the cost of living in Switzerland, but it basically boils down to this: “It depends.”

It’s very difficult to make direct comparisons about cost-of-living. If you’re coming from a 3’000sq ft house in Texas, you’re unlikely to be able to afford something similar in Switzerland, because very few people have a 3’000 sq ft home.

A better question to ask yourself is “could my salary buy the sort of lifestyle I would like to live while living in Switzerland, even if that’s very different from what I’m living today?” Life is always a series of trade-offs, and you’ll need to decide which trade-offs are right for you.

Is CHF120K a good salary in Geneva?
Yet another money question - Enough to live on?
Is 100,000 CHF enough to live on in Switzerland?
enough net income to allow family to live in Zurich?
Is this salary enough to live on? [Bern, 3500/mo, 2 adults, 1 kid]
90k CHF - enough to live on?


IN CLOSING

In closing, this thread should give you all the tools you need to:
  • Determine the approximate salary for your industry / job
  • Figure out how much of that salary you’ll take home
  • Understand what taxes and other costs you’ll have to pay
  • Estimate your cost-of-living
  • Decide whether you can live the lifestyle you want in Switzerland
Please read through all of the material above before asking any questions. Asking a specific question like “How much should I earn as a lab technician with 4 years experience at Roche?” is unlikely to get an answer any more specific than what you can determine for yourself with the tools here, and questions like “I’ve just been offered a salary of CHF100’000 in Zurich – can I live on this?” will get similarly unhelpful answers, because the answer is, “it depends on what you consider living.”

Once you’ve gone through all of the material here, if you still have a question, try searching first. If that doesn’t get you the answer you need, post it (on a new thread, not this one) and the friendly members of this forum will help out if they can.

Last edited by Village Idiot; 21.02.2011 at 11:41. Reason: Cleaned up internal links
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Old 20.02.2011, 17:28
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

<< This post reserved for future follow-up FAQs >>
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Old 20.02.2011, 17:29
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

<< This post also reserved for future follow-up FAQs >>
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Old 20.02.2011, 17:32
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland



@VillageIdiot - Awesome information! Thanks very much for posting this! Cheers
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Old 20.02.2011, 23:12
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

Great stuff! Hope people will have the courtesy to read this valuable post and recognise the effort put in...
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Old 20.02.2011, 23:14
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

Great stuff, this should be mandatory reading prior to opening an account.

To be sure they have seen it, a small test of 3 multiple choise questions should be in place.

3 correct answers grants you access to Ef and all its glory
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Old 21.02.2011, 07:50
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

Hi,

The Accurity link requires one to enter some kind of username/password. Also it seems to assume you are a contractor on an hourly rate. I am guessing they are some kind of umbrella for contractors.

Don't forget that your tax rate will differ if you are on C-permit and don't pay Quellensteuer (tax at source).

Good post nevertheless.

Cheers,
Nick
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Old 21.02.2011, 08:14
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

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The Accurity link requires one to enter some kind of username/password. Also it seems to assume you are a contractor on an hourly rate. I am guessing they are some kind of umbrella for contractors.
I don't get any kind of prompt for a username and password when I click on the link in the FAQ.

The site is definitely geared towards contractors, and it takes a little bit of figuring out to get it to spit out something sensible, but it does give more info than comparis, so I thought it was worth including here.

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Don't forget that your tax rate will differ if you are on C-permit and don't pay Quellensteuer (tax at source).
Correct. But by the time someone gets around to getting their C-permit, they would have been here long enough to understand how the salaries and taxes work. By introducing all the different tax situations, I figured I would just complicate things for newbies.

I also deliberately only addressed the most straight-forward quellensteuer situations. If someone wants to learn more about filing an optional tax return even if their income is >120k, or if they live in one of the cantons where tax is not withheld even on a B-permit if the income is over 120k, for example. they'll need to dive into the more specific threads.

The advice on here should cover the situation that applies to 95% of people without delving into the huge complexities that will only affect a few uncommon situations.

Thanks for the feedback!
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Old 21.02.2011, 11:30
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

Hi,

The link in your FAQ takes me to a web-based form where I enter details of salary, number of goldfish, shoe size etc then at the bottom click a button that says "Calculate".

Clicking on the "Calculate" button causes a pop-up to be displayed which asks for a username and password for "Business Services at Accurity.ch".

I take on board your other comments about C-permit (not fagged to add them to the quote).

Cheers,
Nick

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I don't get any kind of prompt for a username and password when I click on the link in the FAQ.
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Old 21.02.2011, 11:41
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

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Clicking on the "Calculate" button causes a pop-up to be displayed which asks for a username and password for "Business Services at Accurity.ch".
Ah, so it does. They've obviously now restricted this to their customers only. I picked the link up from another thread.

I used the accurity.ch link myself about 18 months ago, and recall then that no login was required. I'll amend the FAQ accordingly.
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Old 21.02.2011, 13:20
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

I started reading, but got bored. Can you tell me if 250,000 CHF is enough to live on?

... I kid! I kid!

A couple of points related to the same thing that I think could misleading.

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QUELLENSTEUER (WITHHOLDING TAX)

Note that as a foreigner, you’ll pay your tax by quellensteuer, which means your tax payments will be withheld from your paycheque each month. In Switzerland, nothing is ever straightforward as laws vary from canton to canton, but in general, if you earn less than CHF120’000 a year, you’ll pay your tax by quellensteuer and need to do nothing further...


You should still file a tax return, or do the exercise, as you might be owed money back, especially if you have a bonus or 13th month salary.

And also because...

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FOREIGN TAXES

For most expats working in Switzerland, the only tax you’ll end up paying as a full-time resident in Switzerland is Swiss tax. Americans, on the other hand, remain liable for US tax regardless of where they live in the world. Be sure to calculate the impact of US taxes on your take-home pay. The best guide for understanding US taxation of American expats is here
This is is massively misleading. You are liable for Swiss tax on all your global assets.

Otherwise top effort VI!
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Old 21.02.2011, 14:13
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

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This is is massively misleading. You are liable for Swiss tax on all your global assets.
You are liable for Swiss tax on your global assets, that's true. But in terms of your salary, most people will only have to a file a tax return (or pay quellensteuer) in Switzerland. So if they want to know how much tax they're going to pay, they can simply look up the tax rate for their salary in their canton, and that's how much tax they'll have to pay on their salary.

For Americans, though, it's not quite so simple. They may get big dollar-signs in their eyes when they read about the income tax rates in Canton Zug, but they need to remember to calculate their US tax liability first. For Americans who have never lived abroad, they may be unaware that they have a continuing tax obligation to the US.

I don't want to get TOO far into the tax debate, because this is a thread about salaries and not about overall Swiss taxation. However, if you can suggest how I might phrase the paragraph differently to make it more clear, I'm open to updating it.
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Old 21.02.2011, 14:18
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

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You should still file a tax return, or do the exercise, as you might be owed money back, especially if you have a bonus or 13th month salary.
Quote:
I also deliberately only addressed the most straight-forward quellensteuer situations. If someone wants to learn more about filing an optional tax return even if their income is >120k, or if they live in one of the cantons where tax is not withheld even on a B-permit if the income is over 120k, for example. they'll need to dive into the more specific threads.

The advice on here should cover the situation that applies to 95% of people without delving into the huge complexities that will only affect a few uncommon situations.
As I said above, I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. Someone who is trying to figure out what the right salary is for a job probably doesn't need to know about the +/- 5% tax that could possibly be reclaimed by filing an optional tax return. They'll ask that question after they've already taken the job, received their first month's pay and relocation bonus all in one month, then been hit with a 35% quellensteuer deduction on their first paycheque!
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Old 21.02.2011, 14:25
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

It depends on how much you like brown sugar.

Sorry...OT...

Cheers,
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I started reading, but got bored. Can you tell me if 250,000 CHF is enough to live on?
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Old 21.02.2011, 14:39
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

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I don't want to get TOO far into the tax debate, because this is a thread about salaries and not about overall Swiss taxation. However, if you can suggest how I might phrase the paragraph differently to make it more clear, I'm open to updating it.
I accept that your post was a "starting point" - and a v. good one at that - it's just that we got our fingers burnt with bad advice from people (tax accountants) who should have known better.

In the end we had to dig up tax records for 10 years and pay back-taxes. Thankfully, no fine.

The way you titled the section "Foreign taxes" implies that all foreign items fall in this category - to me anyway.

Worth adding a simple footnote that as a resident of CH, you are liable for taxes on your global assets and leave it at that?

You are of course right about a "noob" asking vs someone who has been here a while, but I've known people on B permits who've been here for 5 years and didn't know they could file a claim... if they don't find out about it on entry, they'll likely as not never find out, hence, I thought, worth a mention.

In fact when doing my back taxes, I was "owed" money by the State for a couple of years, but of course, they didn't pay that back...
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Old 21.02.2011, 14:52
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

You are a genius VI!
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Old 21.02.2011, 15:06
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

Thanks for putting together this comprehensive information.

As you mentioned, salaries are rarely published in adverts. I have seen one Agency that does publish salaries: Purple Select. They cover IT and Sales & Marketing.
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Old 21.02.2011, 19:48
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

Great FAQ - thanks VillageIdiot, much appreciated!
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Old 22.02.2011, 09:58
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

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As a starting point, the Median Family Income is CHF109,236. So you can base your initial assumptions on that.
If that figure is correct, then it is not ridiculous for newbie to ask if 100,000 CHF is enough to live comfortably for a family and 2 kids One should keep in mind that for expat-families, there is very often only one salary for the family, while in the previous "country" there was probably 2 salaries for the family and a very comfortable standard of living (note: I am more in less in that case with my family; and I can add that being a foreigner makes life more expensive compared to locals, for several reasons, at least for a while)

However, I think too that it is annoying that the same question keeps on being asked (can I live with a salary of 90-120 K CHF), so thanks a lot Village Idiot for this comprehensive post.

/Paul
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Old 23.02.2011, 19:44
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Re: FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

Thank you, Village Idiot, for compiling all of this, it is really helpful!

A question to mods: can you please make this thread a sticky so that it is easy to find? Thanks!
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