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Old 08.06.2020, 00:33
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Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

Does anyone have experience with the Zürich vs Bay Area after-tax compensation for Software Engineers? I was wondering how much you end up paying in taxes and insurances in US San Fransisco when having similar insurance/pension as in Switzerland.
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Old 08.06.2020, 10:18
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

If you’re American you have to pay US tax anyway, no?
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Old 08.06.2020, 10:31
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

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If you’re American you have to pay US tax anyway, no?
Only on the excess you earn above the foreign income exclusion, currently 107,600 dollars per person, plus all personal deductions which include rent, personal deductions, education, etc. In the end you need to earn in excess of 130K CHFs per year to even make it to that level, and then you are taxed only on the excess. I have never had to pay US tax while living here. But I did have to fill out all the forms every year to prove it, which was a pain in the ass.
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Old 08.06.2020, 13:21
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

I moved here from Boston - while not quite the Bay Area, the rent prices are up there as well.

With Taxes, there are all kinds of things that you get screwed on. The money you put into your pension here in CH is not counted as tax deductible in the US and then the company match to the pension is counted as taxable income in the US.

I've owed about 5K my first year and about 1K the second year so far. the taxes are low enough here, that you may have to send some back to the US depending on how much you make (but I also owned more to Zurich as well.. my pay is variable based on commission payments so it my % withheld varries every check)

End of story, you will never pay less that what you would have paid in US for your salary.
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Old 08.06.2020, 14:02
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

US federal income tax is roughly comparable to total tax in Zurich, so compared to most of Europe it's actually relatively low tax country. But then you have capital gains tax (15% for most; but only when you sell stocks) and additionally in California state income tax (~10%), that's it. Some places don't have state tax, e.g. Seattle, there you would be taxed very similarly to Zurich (+CGT).

If you're after big tech bucks, then after tax comp is incomparable better as most such employers are there. Here you have maybe just Google and a few tiny remote offices of other FAANGs paying 200k+ TCs, with smaller / normal companies paying much worse in both places. But in the Bay dozens of employers will pay you that without batting an eye, so it's much easier to walk into such a job.

Health insurance is essentially tied to employer. As long as you work for a big tech company, you'll have a very good health insurance through them and don't have to worry about cost, besides some deductibles just like here. Problems starts once you quit job - private insurances are many times more expensive than in CH, and if you cheap out on coverage you risk ending up in medical bankruptcy due to ridiculous medical costs.

Last edited by spark; 08.06.2020 at 14:19.
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Old 08.06.2020, 21:03
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

There is also a cultural difference. In the USA the engineer is the king here he is the servant.


https://www.srf.ch/play/tv/sternstun...7-fa052f8b23e2


--> fast-forward to: 30:55
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Old 08.06.2020, 23:42
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

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US federal income tax is roughly comparable to total tax in Zurich, so compared to most of Europe it's actually relatively low tax country. But then you have capital gains tax (15% for most; but only when you sell stocks) and additionally in California state income tax (~10%), that's it. Some places don't have state tax, e.g. Seattle, there you would be taxed very similarly to Zurich (+CGT).

If you're after big tech bucks, then after tax comp is incomparable better as most such employers are there. Here you have maybe just Google and a few tiny remote offices of other FAANGs paying 200k+ TCs, with smaller / normal companies paying much worse in both places. But in the Bay dozens of employers will pay you that without batting an eye, so it's much easier to walk into such a job.

Health insurance is essentially tied to employer. As long as you work for a big tech company, you'll have a very good health insurance through them and don't have to worry about cost, besides some deductibles just like here. Problems starts once you quit job - private insurances are many times more expensive than in CH, and if you cheap out on coverage you risk ending up in medical bankruptcy due to ridiculous medical costs.
Ok yes a was considering something like google as a reference since they have offices both places. It's my impression you have to be top 5% to get 200k in Zürich where in SF you can maybe get it being the top 20% (like you mention, no problem to get 200k there)

I was just wondering if the difference in higher tax you pay there will even out to the same take-home pay since ZH a relatively low in taxes. Let assume the salary is 200k. What would you have after taxes, fees and basic living expenses vs in Zürich.

And yes i also think the work in the Bay area is more interesting/innovative but maybe also more stressful/demanding because of American work culture. Not sure I have only worked in Switzerland. Would love to hear your opinions.
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Old 08.06.2020, 23:44
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

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There is also a cultural difference. In the USA the engineer is the king here he is the servant.


https://www.srf.ch/play/tv/sternstun...7-fa052f8b23e2


--> fast-forward to: 30:55
Great example thanks!
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Old 09.06.2020, 01:07
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

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Ok yes a was considering something like google as a reference since they have offices both places. It's my impression you have to be top 5% to get 200k in Zürich where in SF you can maybe get it being the top 20% (like you mention, no problem to get 200k there)

I was just wondering if the difference in higher tax you pay there will even out to the same take-home pay since ZH a relatively low in taxes. Let assume the salary is 200k. What would you have after taxes, fees and basic living expenses vs in Zürich.

And yes i also think the work in the Bay area is more interesting/innovative but maybe also more stressful/demanding because of American work culture. Not sure I have only worked in Switzerland. Would love to hear your opinions.
Concretely for Google it is way easier to be in top 5% in Zurich than top 20% in Bay area. Google takes 40% of ETH computer science graduates and it is at least 10x easier to get into ETH if you are from Switzerland than any top university from a bigger country:

20% people go to gymnasium. let's say a 1/4 manages to do computer science (a relatively more difficult faculty as compared to some others) and pass exams it is 5%, super-easy as compared to many other places. Even if you put the ratio to 1/10 it remains super-easy in comparison. Consider what it takes to get into for example Stanford or MIT. Even top Indian, China, Korean, Turkish, and similar universities that are nowhere ranking wise require you to be in less than top 1 per-mil. Sure not everyone in Bay area has the top top qualifications but the competition there is anyways way tougher than in Zurich imo.

With similar qualifications you are likely to have similar salaries in ZH and Bay area imo. On the other hand many will argue you have better prospects for advancement in Bay area which will in mid-long term reflect on salary.

For salaries it seems you are looking for lower level salaries (e.g. level 3 google) and the tax argumentation above holds. But for higher salaries you will be paying pretty high taxes in most of Switzerland (tax deductibles disappear pretty quickly above 120k income). Then if you are not a US citizen moving to Zug for example will make a substantial difference. Otherwise the difference in tax or higher incomes is not much between Zh and Bay area even if not a US citizen .

Overall imo best idea for salaries in Bay area you may get from teamblind, there are lots of discussions there regarding offers for given qualifications.
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Old 09.06.2020, 01:32
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

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Ok yes a was considering something like google as a reference since they have offices both places. It's my impression you have to be top 5%
No you just have to be good at algorithmic questions they ask in interviews. This is a skill that can be learned with practice. You'll need it to clear interviews at most other top paying Bay Area companies too.

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I was just wondering if the difference in higher tax you pay there will even out to the same take-home pay since ZH a relatively low in taxes.
Like I said, US is actually also relatively low in tax, comparable to Switzerland. Neither is really low for high incomes. Perhaps you haven't heard of Ukraine or Bulgaria where IT people pay 5-10% flat tax, now *that*'s what I'd call low. But the gross pay is pretty low too, that's a bummer o_O.

Google pays less in Zurich than in the US HQ: if you look at levels.fyi numbers, Zurich stock grants are half of the US amounts and the total is ~ 15% less. You have ~ 10% more tax in CA, so that seems to be balance it out. Buy and hold is not taxed in neither country (but beware of some conditions which may trigger an exit tax). Rents are more expensive over there, but the rest of CoL is much lower (numbeo), so that balances out too I guess

If you're able to get into Google, it's much easier to walk into another 200k+ job in CA and job hop your way up from there. That's not gonna work in Zurich and that will have large negative long term effects on your compensation here, even if the starting conditions are about the same.

Basically, for an SWE, US is *the* place to be in to make big bucks today, with Switzerland now only a distant second. But whether you'd actually want to put down roots there and raise kids is a different matter. Europe is far more livable and has more relaxed family-friendly culture, whereas US is all work, work, work.

Last but not least, don't underestimate how difficult it is to get a work visa to US today even if you're otherwise qualified. The infamous H1-B is no longer a viable way to emigrate there - I heard most big tech companies don't even sponsor it for overseas candidates no more! Indians killed it. You need to work for a year or more in an office abroad, in Europe or Canada and then transfer on L1A/L1B visa - which are not subject to lottery but need that 1 year time. Alternatively, go for a year to get an MSc degree in the US and stay work afterwards on STEM OPT, that's another working immigration pathway there, for now.


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Overall imo best idea for salaries in Bay area you may get from teamblind, there are lots of discussions there regarding offers for given qualifications.
Ah yes, the TC or GTFO crowd That's a fun place to hang out but beware it's toxic and can be depressing as hell for us europoors, and the numbers you see there can't be unseen afterwards. Ignorance can be a bliss, unless you really need that extra zero on your bank account

Last edited by spark; 09.06.2020 at 02:10.
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Old 09.06.2020, 02:19
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

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Ah yes, the TC or GTFO crowd That's a fun place to hang out but beware it's toxic and can be depressing as hell for us europoors, and the numbers you see there can't be unseen afterwards. Ignorance can be a bliss, unless you really need that extra zero on your bank account
The figures actually match the Zurich figures I know. I guess people have different samples but one can get a top bay area salary in ZH without problems. It is just that for many subfields it is difficult to get enough competing offers which can again be done by interviewing ww.
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Old 09.06.2020, 02:24
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

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The figures actually match the Zurich figures I know. I guess people have different samples but one can get a top bay area salary in ZH without problems. It is just that for many subfields it is difficult to get enough competing offers which can again be done by interviewing ww.
Sure, at about the only employer offering such salaries TCs here (not counting tiny offices of Facebook, Apple and Citadel with just a few dozen people at best). There's an element of luck in interviews and you might be not so lucky

But in the Bay, dozens of other fully staffed employers can match and even exceed what Google pays today. The numbers are on your side in the US, but not here.
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Old 09.06.2020, 08:26
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

As in all comparing, the devil’s in the details.
Can’t compare to Zurich, but Geneva, and Bay Area rather than actual San Fran.
Frankly I find them comparable in costs. Real Estate is unreal (ooops a pun) n both areas, in the last years the Bay Area has been all cash for purchases, and extremely expensive for renting. Impossible to find more than a 2B to rent anyway, or they tend to be run-down properties. Also, against all expectations, it doesn’t show signs of slowing down now because of Covid. Taxes are also quite a bit higher in CA (Thanks, Gavin), but Health insurance is very largely paid by the employer, with comparable coverage unless there is a pre-existing. Big employers also offer a range of additional benefits -aka google with a campus with washers/dryers, movies theatre, sports, free bikes, food everywhere etc. I know ppl who essentially rent a small room and live on campus free

There are decent online tools to do a basic COLI calculation for the rest.

Now the real question is, given most companies in tech are letting employees WFH until at least end of the year, how much of these benefits will change, and if it makes sense to move to the BA rather than TX or OR. Both choices are becoming quite popular.


I would spend time on Glassdoors if I were you.
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Old 09.06.2020, 09:58
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

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There is also a cultural difference. In the USA the engineer is the king here he is the servant.
This is true for the whole Europe not only for Switzerland. And for some parts of US. The software engineer and generally the IT are costs you cannot avoid so at least you try to minimize them.
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Old 09.06.2020, 15:45
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Re: Zürich vs Bay Area after tax compensation compared?

I think one should be careful when generalising the situation in the Bay area. There are lots of badly paid IT jobs there as well. Lots of people working as contractors dreaming of getting a steady job and even driving Uber for extra income.

While I don't know many people on the lower end of the spectrum, my impression for not premium IT people and software developers Switzerland has higher and steadier income.

Reality is that non-IT companies do not appreciate their IT personnel that much, I completely agree. But I think it is more of a company mentality rather than Europe vs US.

For above average but not top stars US is likely better because there're more opportunities. Put salary aside, you'll easier land a job you'll enjoy.

For top performers, depends on speciality, but for some subfields Europe is even easier because there's a very limited number of people with certain skills and many companies are having difficulties finding them. The story is very different on that end. But that's not confined to IT.

Also I am not sure what are the expectations of the OP, but many top performers have years of working rather hard behind them, e.g. with 60+, 70+ hours a week and even more at times. Even getting trough the Google interview for an entry level or a couple of YOE will require quite of extra study for many candidates (maybe that's part of the point to prove you can be hard-working )
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