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Old 20.05.2015, 02:52
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Working Remotely in Switzerland (tax / visa issues)

Hello. This is first post here so hopefully I am doing this right.

I am US citizen. My wife is a dual US / Swedish citizen. She has been offered a 2-year job in Zurich. I've spoken to my US employer and they are open to allowing me to work remotely from Switzerland.

I believe that as the spouse of an EU citizen that I can get a visa to live / work in Switzerland if my wife is working there. I don't think this is a hard thing to do, though I'm not entirely sure.

If I want to continue working for my US employer (at least for a while), then I am trying to figure out the best way to structure my employment to avoid overtaxation. I think since I would be living in Switzerland, my primary obligation would be to pay Swiss taxes. That's fine. Though if I am doing that it would be good to avoid paying taxes on the US side as well, including requesting an exemption from US withholding and meeting the US standards for foreign residency to avoid double taxation.

As part of any relocation, my employer and I would be renegotiating status and compensation since many of my existing benefits (e.g. health insurance) don't easily transfer overseas. My current employer suggested it might be easier if I am working overseas to convert from an employee to a contractor. I know that such changes have tax implications for the US, would it make any difference from the point of view of taxes and/or visa status in Switzerland? Are there more complicated options worth considering (e.g. single-member LLC)?

I suspect that if I am a foreign national living in Switzerland and being paid by a foreign company, then I probably count as self-employed in Switzerland regardless of how my US employer classifies me. So I would have to pay self-employment taxes in Switzerland, is that right? Where can I find out how much that would amount to in Zurich?

Are there other surprises to look out for if trying to live in Zurich and work for a US company?
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Old 20.05.2015, 10:04
Medea Fleecestealer's Avatar
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Re: Working Remotely in Switzerland (tax / visa issues)

Getting the permit isn't difficult, your wife just needs to apply for a dependent's permit for you. It should also include work rights as you will have the same type as she has. You will need to apply for a Type D visa at the nearest Swiss embassy/consulate to where you live so you can enter Switzerland long term legally.

https://www.ch.ch/en/family-reunification-eu-efta/

The problems may come from the self-employment/taxation sides. On the self-employment usually as a contractor I think the Swiss authorities would want to see more than one client for you to qualify, otherwise they'll still consider you an employee of your US company. I suggest you contact the Zurich taxation office to find out whether it would be possible or not as technically what status you are defines who pays what for some insurances/taxes.

http://www.steueramt.zh.ch/internet/...a/en/home.html

More self-employment info here:

https://www.ch.ch/en/becoming-self-employed/

http://www.kmu.admin.ch/kmu-gruenden...x.html?lang=en

Tax-wise, yes you will be able to offset/exempt some of the Swiss stuff, but you'll still need to file US tax returns and could owe US tax on top of Swiss ones. Start researching here:

http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Inter...-Aliens-Abroad

At the Swiss end you could also hit problems. Due to the US's FATCA law US citizens are no longer welcome here at many banks so your choices are limited: UBS, Credit Suisse, PostFinance and the cantonal banks of Basel and Zurich are just about it. You and your wife's accounts will also need to be reported on an annual FBAR form if the aggregate total comes to more than $10,000 at any time of the year. You and she would also need to sign a W-9 form to allow any Swiss bank to pass your account info on to the IRS. And more importantly for your business side no Swiss bank is likely to give you a business account I'm afraid. Nor mortgage or investment accounts.

Depending on your wife's salary and what you earn you would probably need to file a Swiss return each year if your joint income is more than CHF120,000. The Swiss don't do individual returns, only filing jointly so both incomes would be taken into account when deciding what tax you'd pay.
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