• Vincent Thalmann, Partner |

On 13 December, 2022, the National Council approved (99 votes in favor, 85 againt and 3 abstentions) the draft of the Federal Act on the tonnage tax ; with this approval, the project will be transferred to the Council of States to be processed as of February 2023.

Special tax regime

The introduction of a tonnage tax system by Switzerland should make it possible to reinforce the attractiveness of Switzerland in an increasingly competitive international context. This special tax regime is an alternative and optional method that would replace income tax at the communal, cantonal and direct federal levels : the taxable basis of the company would not be determined based on the income, but based on the net tonnage of ships (freight capacity).

In addition, the project is compatible and aligned with the rules and practices in force in the EU and non EU countries. 

Not approved amendments

Worth emphasizing is also the fact that notably two proposed amendments were not approved by the National Council: 

  1. the proposition to use the total turnover instead of the net income to qualify the income from accessory activitites for the tonnage tax. However, this makes no sense from an economic and tax standpoint. Indeed, it is not in line with EU practice and that of the European Commission as for both institutions the total turnover is the relevant basis. In addition, we need to consider the operational specificity of the sector for which most of the ancillary services necessary to the transportation of goods are performed not only onboard of vessels but aslo onshore. 
  2. the proposition to amend (i.e extend) the key article that foresees the scope of activities/operations that can qualify for the tonnage tax. More specifically, it was proposed to amend the article by writing “provision of marine services to the offshore business” instead of “construction and maintenance of offshore structures”. Again, this proposition makes perfect sense knowing the fact that offshore services are in the scope of the tonnage tax regime in the EU and there would be no reason to deviate from it. 

We remain confident that the council of states will also approve the draft of legislation of the tonnage tax to maintain the attractiveness of Switzerland. However, we need to make sure that the draft of law adopted by the Swiss parliament will be useful and appropriate to the maritime industry by considering its operational specificity. Otherwise, it will be like a pool without water and so not meet its goal.

We will keep you informed of the outcome of the consultation process at the Council of States level.