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Old 27.12.2010, 14:39
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US citizen filing Swiss taxes

Hi,

This has probably been discussed at length here somewhere so it would be great if someone could point me to the right threads...

I'm a US citizen living in Zurich, and after paying over 5k CHF in tax preparation fees last year I'd like to have a go at doing one of the filings myself. We have a complicated tax situation, with LLCs, trust accounts, etc.

Just looking at the two returns my 2 different accountants filed for us last year, it looks to me as though the US return is more complicated than the Swiss return. While I'm more familiar with the IRS returns, I'm tempted to have a go at filing the Swiss return and paying an accountant to do the US return.

Are there any US citizens here who have experience in filing both returns? Do you think one is significantly easier than the other? if so, which one? Also, any advice on tax prep software would be helpful.

thanks in advance!
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Old 27.12.2010, 14:53
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Re: US citizen filing Swiss taxes

We were quoted 2500 CHF to do our Swiss taxes only when we relocatd permanently. I figured that as long as I didn't make that amount in errors, I would be OK. 4 years later . . . no problems and I'm really glad I made the choice to do it myself.

BUT, I will say that the CH system for me was much easier than the US return. I use TurboTax for the US and a local cantonal app in German over here. I will choose the local developed app any day. So, if you have a complicated situation, an accountant in the US is not a bad idea.

Regarding the system here, how is your German? Having a decent level of German has helped, but there are some terms such as 'Katastenwert' (for real estate) that you won't find on Leo. For this item, a quick chat with the Kantonal authorites resolved the question for me.

If you're a bit organized, I would recommend it.
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Old 27.12.2010, 15:32
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Re: US citizen filing Swiss taxes

Thanks Sleepless, that's the initial impression I got looking at the Swiss return done by my Truehand last year. German is no problem for me so I'll have a go at doing the Swiss filing myself and continue at least one year using an accountancy for the US return.

As a first step I'll try a "dry-run" of last year's return and see how close my results are to the ones done professionally.
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Old 29.12.2010, 13:03
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Re: US citizen filing Swiss taxes

Dehansen,

Having been here 12 years now, that huge bill for tax prep services has begun to bite - so we finally screwed our courage to the sticking place, and did our own Swiss return.

In comparison to the unfathomable maze that is the US tax system, Swiss returns are a cakewalk. Nothing significant has changed this year, so we simply used the previous years' returns as templates and adjusted the numbers. One thing to watch for is filing date; several forms that we need do not arrive by the Swiss filing date so we need to ask for permission to file late. Not a problem, as long as you ask first.

I live in a small town; the folks at the Steueramt are quite friendly and helpful. I walk my return in to the office, and ask the nice lady to give it a glance before I submit it - she can usually tell me if there are glaring errors.

And even if there are errors, all that will happen is a chat with an equally nice person at the cantonal Steueramt, a re-filing, and perhaps a smallish fine. These folks are not the IRS, you won't find yourself suddenly sporting an orange jumpsuit for an honest mistake.

Now, I anticipate a complicated return in the year we end up selling this house - then I will use the services of a professional again.

If you need tax planning, as opposed to mere preparation, that too is best sought from a professional.

Bear in mind I've only done a DIY filing once, and I haven't heard anything from the SZ Steueramt... I'm assuming no news is good news, but I could be in for a bit of a suprise. Hope not - I think I got it more or less right.

On the other hand, I would never, ever, feel comfortable doing my US returns. The very thought sends shivers of terror down my spine.

Good luck.
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Old 23.08.2011, 22:48
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Re: US citizen filing Swiss taxes

Just a final follow-up on this: I did my own Swiss tax filing for 2010 and now I'm kicking myself for not having done so in previous years as well. We have a very complicated tax filing but just using the example of the 2009 filing done by our Treuhand and the Zurich cantonal tax software, it was a breeze -- took maybe 5 hours in total, which wasn't much more than the time I spent scanning documents and communicating with my accountant anyway. Saved myself at least 2'500 SFr so I basically paid myself 500 per hour.
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