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Old 19.09.2011, 17:25
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Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

I didn't think so...

However, apparently the IRS 2010 housing exclusion (generally speaking, this is the max amount that you are allowed to deduct for your housing/utilities costs) for those living in the city of Bern is USD 61'800 a year. That's an equivalent of USD 5'150 per month! In comparison, the max value for the city of Zurich is only USD 39'219. For the rest of Switzerland (excl Geneva which has a high value of USD 84'900), the yearly max exclusion is just USD 32'900.

Or is there a better explanation for this? I thought the housing exclusion table is supposed to correspond to the cost of housing in the particular cities.

Last edited by standardgirl; 19.09.2011 at 19:18.
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Old 19.09.2011, 17:52
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

maybe there are more politicians/diplomats in Bern and they exerted influence over the law to benefit themselves?
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Old 19.09.2011, 19:15
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

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maybe there are more politicians/diplomats in Bern and they exerted influence over the law to benefit themselves?
could be, but I thought that official US government employees abroad have special tax treatment anyways, so may not need this housing exclusion thing?

Maybe I should consider moving to Bern... have a GA already and one-hour a way commute to Zurich seems plausible
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Old 19.09.2011, 21:05
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

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could be, but I thought that official US government employees abroad have special tax treatment anyways, so may not need this housing exclusion thing?

Maybe I should consider moving to Bern... have a GA already and one-hour a way commute to Zurich seems plausible
Tax is way higher, so may not be much in it.
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Old 19.04.2015, 22:08
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

More than 3 years later and the limit for Zurich is still the same, yet Bern has increased to 72K and Geneva to more than 100K! See the screenshot. It is interesting that the numbers are so different.
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Old 20.04.2015, 09:30
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

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More than 3 years later and the limit for Zurich is still the same, yet Bern has increased to 72K and Geneva to more than 100K! See the screenshot. It is interesting that the numbers are so different.
The five largest cities in Switzerland are:
1) Zurich
2) Geneva
3) Basel
4) Bern
5) Lausanne

These cities have US government presence:
1) Zurich - US Consular Agency (minimal US personnel)
2) Geneva - US Mission and Consulate (lots of US employees)
3) Basel - none
4) Bern - US Embassy (lots of US employees)
5) Lausanne - none

Call me cynical but it appears that the US government is ensuring that the 2555 earned income and housing exclusions completely cover US government employees' salaries, who are based almost exclusively in Geneva and Bern. Mere mortal Americans living in Zurich and elsewhere don't get the same benefit.
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Old 20.04.2015, 09:34
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

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Call me cynical but it appears that the US government is ensuring that the 2555 earned income and housing exclusions completely cover US government employees' salaries, who are based almost exclusively in Geneva and Bern. Mere mortal Americans living in Zurich and elsewhere don't get the same benefit.
I am wondering whether this would be because:
- they are on US contracts (IE earn in USD at the US rate)
- they are on secondment for a "short period" (say 2 years) and would most likely be maintaining a domestic presence (house etc).
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Old 20.04.2015, 10:07
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

Here are the cantons where the most Americans live:
1) Zurich: 9'460
2) Vaud (Lausanne): 6'013
3) Geneva: 5'868
4) Basel: 3'579
5) Bern: 2'575

Source: Bundesamt für Statistik, Wohnbevölkerung nach Jahr, Kanton, Bevölkerungstyp, Geschlecht, Geburtsstaat und Alter, 2013; Basel is for full canton

By giving high housing allowances to Geneva and Bern, while not to Zurich, Lausanne and Basel, the IRS appears to be watching out for US government employees, and not for the rest of the Americans in Switzerland.

Edit: For first version, I improperly used 2013 immigration statistics. For edited version, population statistics for 2013 were used. Sorry for the error.

Last edited by MennoFloyd; 20.04.2015 at 10:51. Reason: Corrected data.
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Old 20.04.2015, 11:06
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

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By giving high housing allowances to Geneva and Bern, while not to Zurich, Lausanne and Basel, the IRS Congress appears to be watching out for US government employees and NGO lobbyists, and not for the rest of the Americans in Switzerland.
FTFY.

I'm as guilty as the next person of blaming/hating the IRS, but in all fairness it should be remembered that Congress writes tax law while the IRS is 'only' the enforcement arm.

So let your Congress Critters know how you feel about the housing allowances unduly favoring Bern and Geneva.

(Not that any of them will listen... but even though an exercise in futility, dashing off a letter now and then does help lower my blood pressure.)

Last edited by meloncollie; 20.04.2015 at 11:19.
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Old 20.04.2015, 11:17
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

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More than 3 years later and the limit for Zurich is still the same, yet Bern has increased to 72K and Geneva to more than 100K! See the screenshot. It is interesting that the numbers are so different.
My rent in Zurich did not go up over 10 years, inflation in CH is rather low. Many people received rent reductions over the last 3 years due to lower interest rates so it's hardly surprising that the rates did not rise.

It's not as if the normal 120k expat is going to notice much either as there is not much change of paying more than 40k on rent with that salary.
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Old 20.04.2015, 12:07
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

For comparison purposes, according to Expatistan.com, the average "monthly rent for 85 M2 furnished accommodation in " is (CHF):

Geneva: 3'326
Zurich: 3'310
Lausanne: 2'871
Bern: 2'585
Basel: 2'500

http://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-li...ry/switzerland

If the world made sense and were not tilted in favor of US government employees (and NGO lobbyists), Zurich would have a foreign housing exclusion comparable to Geneva and higher than Bern.

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I'm as guilty as the next person of blaming/hating the IRS, but in all fairness it should be remembered that Congress writes tax law while the IRS is 'only' the enforcement arm.
Congress passes tax laws and the IRS writes tax regulations. Establishing housing exclusion amounts would be the responsibility of the IRS.

Last edited by MennoFloyd; 20.04.2015 at 12:45.
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Old 29.04.2015, 13:56
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Re: Housing Exclusion (US) - is it more expensive to live in the city of Bern?

According to The Local Switzerland, Zurich has the highest rent for apartments in Switzerland, followed by number 2 Geneva. Bern is number 6 behind even Winterthur:

Zurich CHF 2,423
Geneva 2,029
Lausanne 1,864
Lucerne 1,803
Winterthur 1,748
Bern 1,690

The amounts of the IRS Housing Exclusion make little sense for Switzerland.
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