Swiss Company Formation Guide
Everything You Need to Know About Business in Switzerland

Think about money, financial services, banks, offshore businesses, deposit boxes and so on. Basically, think about anything that involves money and your thoughts will inevitably go to Switzerland. This small federal republic between the central and western part of Europe has always been focused on money – always neutral, never interested in wars and land, but money only.

Switzerland is also one of the most developed countries in the world. While you can still find century-old cottages in the middle of nowhere – normally in the mountains, those are part of the natural environment. Go to large financial centers and you will find glass and modern buildings everywhere. Plus, Switzerland is so clean that you feel like wiping your shoes before leaving your house.

When it comes to financial business, things have changed a little over the past century. Switzerland used to be pure paradise – away from wars and military conflicts, but focused on supporting local and international wealthy individuals by holding their money and keeping their details private. Things have changed because new regulations have changed privacy, but you can still play your cards right.

From some points of view, Switzerland is a difficult territory even for a local Swiss. Sometimes, it feels like this country is specifically aimed at wealthy foreigners, yet it can be just as handy for locals. This is also one of the reasons wherefore you can find plenty of services providing banking solutions, financial counseling or company formation help.

What makes Switzerland good for business​

The business environment in Switzerland is world-renowned. It is known all over the world for its benefits for both established businesses and startups. The country features a central location in Europe, so it has always been the center of commerce in the area. These days, it hosts the headquarters of some of the biggest corporations in the world.

The local legislation is also business-friendly. The infrastructure leaves no room for mistakes, not to mention the political stability – you want that when about to establish a business. As a result of all these, there are plenty of new and innovative startups hitting the market every single day. Technology is like the second name of the country.

Take your time to research some of the companies headquartered in Switzerland. You will find major pharmaceuticals and insurance companies, as well as some of the companies expected to skyrocket in the next few years – companies to watch. The wide diversity of successful businesses in Switzerland underlines the business-friendly environment.

For a business to be successful, you need highly qualified personnel. Switzerland is the second country in Europe with the highest percentage of tertiary educated people. As a business owner, you can find a quality labor force, as well as pure talent. Building a world-class team to help a business succeed is just a matter of days – literally.

The economic health of a company is one of the easiest ways to examine the state of a local economy. The economic power in Switzerland is quite evenly distributed between cantons – some sort of counties. The country features one of the highest GDPs per capita in the whole world and not just in Europe – a front runner for years.

To help you understand how good the local economy is, Switzerland reached an incredibly low level of unemployment in 2000 – about 4%. Believe it or not, this level of unemployment has not changed too much over the past couple of decades. Even the financial crisis from 2008 has not managed to move it too much.

How to pay low tax in Switzerland​

Every company in Switzerland is a standalone entity. Prior to 2020, large companies could negotiate tax rates within the Swiss cantons they were based in. Since 2020, all companies must pay the same tax rates, as more and more companies turned towards particular cantons. The tax is based on the net profits only.

Corporations are different from sole proprietorships, limited partnerships and partnerships. Such companies are not referred to as legal entities, so tax is based on the business and private income and assets. For instance, in a limited partnership, each shareholder will be responsible for paying tax for their share.

Now, holding companies will only have to pay federal corporate tax – just 7.83%. They can forget about communal and cantonal taxes – they only need to focus on the federal corporate tax. On the other hand, mixed companies go in the other direction – cantonal or communal corporate tax. They will pay anywhere between 8.5% and 10.5%. To qualify, 80% or more of the income must come from abroad.

Low tax rates make the difference. There is a flat rate for the federal tax – just 8.5%. A bit of luck and a good accountant will help you pay less than 8% though. Now, Swiss cantons come up with their own extra taxes, meaning you will pay anywhere between 11.9% and 21.6%. The amount can go down by up to 7% if you deduct cantonal and community taxes.

Deductions in Switzerland can help reduce the tax even more:

  1. -Travel costs between your residence in another country and Switzerland.
  2. -Moving expenses.
  3. -Costs for temporary accommodation in Switzerland if they are reasonable.
  4. -Schooling costs for children, if you have any.
  5. -Lump sum reductions under certain circumstances.

Now, two types of companies stand out in Switzerland.​

The stock company – AG – comes with a minimum share capital of 100,000CHF. The GmbH has lower requirements – 20,000CHF. The AG offers more anonymity and makes a better choice for foreigners. For example, shareholders or directors are not mentioned in the commercial register. Given this high level of anonymity, there are no major KYC rules. GmbH owners must provide more documentation.

When it comes to shares, there are two options in Switzerland. Registered shares are public. On the other hand, bearer shares are kept private.

The concept of GmbH explained​

The GmbH is a company with limited liability and share capital of 20,000CHF or more. Share value should be 100CHF or more. Whatever name you choose, you need to mention GmbH at the end. Foreign nationals are allowed among directors, but at least one director with power of sole signature must live in Switzerland – or two directors with joint signatures.

Many records about the GmbH are public – shareholders, their addresses, origins and amount of shareholding. Shareholders have full access to everything about the company. As for the liability for the debt, there is an exclusive liability for the company assets.

The concept of AG explained​

AG is a stock corporation with a share capital of 100,000CHF or more. A single Swiss cent is a minimum value for the share value. Just like for the GmbH, you also need to mention AG in the name. Foreigners are allowed among directors, but you need one local director with the right of sole signature – or two directors with joint signatures. Such people must be domiciled in Switzerland.

Shareholders and their details can be kept private. There is an exclusive liability for the company assets too.

In terms of similarities between the GmbH and AG, you should know that annual audits are required for two of the following conditions if met simultaneously:

• Cash flow exceeds 40 million CHF.
• Company assets are valued at 20 million CHF or more.
• There are 250 employees or more.

Bottom line, the GmbH is excellent for new business people, entrepreneurs or small businesses. On the other hand, the AG is great for large businesses and corporations.

The best places to run your money through Switzerland​

Over the past years, the cantons in the central part of Switzerland still have the best corporate tax rates – the cantons of Glarus and Appenzell-Innerrhoden go in the same category. The canton of Zug dominates the market – just under 12%. The canton of Nidwalden is not too far behind, while the canton of Lucerne goes up to 12.3%, which is still low.

Keep in mind that such rates change on a yearly basis, so you need to do your homework and research past trends as well. Here are some of the top cities to consider for business based on the quality of life:

-Geneva – hosts some of the world’s most reputable organizations.
-Winterthur – great for its expat population and quiet life with good connections to large cities.
-Bern – good location and a cozy atmosphere.
-Lugano – close to the border with Italy and featuring a good culture.
-Zug – excellent for the quiet Swiss life in a civilized little town.


In terms of nothing but money, the tax is the only consideration. If you also want to move to Switzerland, the above-mentioned locations are excellent for expats. But then, how do you start a company?

Before going through a few services, you should know that the Office Fédéral du Registre du Commerce – the registry in the country – can be accessed over ZefixWebApp. Go there, take a look, search for businesses and see yourself what kind of information is available. Now, assuming you are ready to go, where can you find help?

It is worth mentioning a few other services that can help with Swiss company formation:

-Stax
-Goldblum
-Sig Fiduciaire

The local team of lawyers gives you all the details you need to start a company. The website provides access to most of the things you need to know. Now, some of them can be quite technical, so this is when you need to choose one of the packages. You can register a classic GmbH or a more advanced AG – the consultants will help you decide on what is more suitable for your goals.

Prices are straightforward and transparent. The actual formation will cost you 2,500CHF for a GmbH or 2,900CHF for the AG. You can also register a foundation or association for 6,500CHF. You can get a Swiss managing director for anywhere between 7,950CHF and 9,900CHF, as well as other services for different prices – virtual offices, conference rooms, banking services, residence permits and so on.

Oniszczuk & Associates has specialized in company formation services in different tax heavens around the world and Switzerland is one of them. You will need to pay 20,000CHF to register a company – apart from the actual share capital. The cost includes everything you may need, from preparing the documents and checking the name availability to opening the bank account and dealing with the registry court.

You will also get a board member from Switzerland – a legal requirement in the country. There are separate costs for accounting should you need someone to deal with these services. Prices range around 120CHF per hour. If you need a long-term collaboration, you can try to negotiate a flat rate for all your business needs.

Taxolution Advisory is specialized in all sorts of services for expats and Swiss company formation is one of them. The company will handle the incorporation documents, notarization, incorporation documents in English and German, the registration to the register of commerce and bank fees for the account. Shareholders will have to provide some copies of documents, regardless of the anonymity standards associated with the AG.

Additional services come with additional fees. For example, you could get a company seat in the so-called tax-friendly crypto valley in Switzerland. This service will cost you about 2,500CHF per year. You can also seek accounting help – a legal requirement in Switzerland. It will cost you 5,000CHF per year, but the price depends on your activities.

This team of consultants provides services to both local individuals and foreigners. It is mostly aimed at foreigners interested in investing in Switzerland, though. The time needed to register the company depends. It takes up to five days for the clarification, up to five days for the preparation of foundation documents with annexes, and up to a week for the entry in the commercial register.

Then, there are other things that may interfere with the Swiss company formation times, such as the clarification of auditors and domicile, the meeting of shareholders or members – usually less than a day – and the time needed to pay in the capital. Overall, the whole process will take less than a month, even if you actually take your time.

You can register a stock company, limited company, sole proprietorship, foundation, and trust or branch. You can also get support to purchase a local company – less hassle. You must request prices, as they may differ. However, to get an idea, fees are quite affordable – just under 900CHF for a GmbH or less than 1,000CHF for the AG.

The local team of lawyers gives you all the details you need to start a company. The website provides access to most of the things you need to know. Now, some of them can be quite technical, so this is when you need to choose one of the packages. The basic one costs 9,500CHF and is suitable for more experienced people – those who are familiar with the local system.

The other package is aimed at those who have no clue where to begin. You will get more details about everything. The local lawyers will also help with VAT registration, tax report, bank account opening, or administrative work – just nine hours per year. This second package will cost 14,500CHF – someone else does everything for you.

How to choose the right service for Swiss company formation​

Switzerland is by far the most reputable choice for business out there. It has always been associated with money – simple as that. Therefore, more and more entrepreneurs choose Switzerland to go ahead with their startups. Simply put, Swiss company formation is among the most common services you can find in Switzerland.

Some companies are local. They are run by Swiss lawyers, attorneys, and consultants. They mostly cater to the local market. While they do deal with foreigners, they have mostly dealt with foreigners who have actually been to Switzerland in person. There are lots of services in each canton, as well as companies that provide nationwide services – tax represents the most popular difference between cantons.

Obviously, you can get in touch with such companies over the Internet as well – not to mention phone calls. The procedures are identical, regardless of your location. Besides, highly educated individuals in Switzerland can speak English without too many issues. You can request prices, discuss quotes, and so on. While not always a general rule, services catering to locals tends to be slightly less expensive.

Then, there are also some Swiss company formation services that are specialized in foreigners. They understand that foreigners will come with a bunch of special needs. You may need immigration papers too or perhaps some translations. A company aimed at locals could struggle a bit with such extras, while those aimed at foreigners will usually provide full packages.

A few words about getting an office​

Whether you want a small space to get a business address in Switzerland or you have specific needs in mind, chances are everything you can find in Switzerland will be luxurious enough to handle all of your needs. Sometimes, the levels of luxury and amenities you may get in an office could be a bit too much for what you need.

Geneva is a primary choice due to its popularity. However, the demand is extremely high – about 5% of all spaces in the city are available to rent. What does it mean? Exactly – prices are quite high too. Large spaces are even more difficult to find. Large corporations struggle to find offices with high requirements – mostly around the airport.

A fully serviced basic office for four people in Geneva will cost between 1,800CHF and 2,400CHF per month to rent. Costs depend on various facilities – a meeting room in the building, reception, Internet and so on. Double-check your necessities before deciding on an office. A single-person office in Geneva will cost 500CHF to 1,700CHF. In Zurich, you will pay 600CHF to 1,200CHF for the same space.

The further you get from Geneva, the cheaper prices go.

Where to find an office for your company​

There are more websites to help you find an office while registering a company in Switzerland. You can also find local real estate services, but searching the web will help you get some clues before even getting there.

  • -Instant Offices – enter the location and browse a wide plethora of results.
  • -Immo Scout 24 – plenty of criteria to find the perfect office for your business.
  • -Homegate – explore offices in different cantons.
  • -Flex Office – find offices in various financial centers around Switzerland.
  • -All Office Centers – enter the desired city and browse the available offices.


In terms of real estate offices providing office services in Switzerland, here are a few good options:

  • -Amelie Stielau, letting@eu.jll.com, +41442157575
  • -Alexis Altwies, +41782042530, +41263471777
  • -Cédric Dubuis, c.bonvin@valimmobilier.ch, +41273232222
  • -Virginie Bonin, virginie.bonin@eu.jll.com, +41764377107
  • -Sabine Bernet, +41587156242


Co-working spaces are not to be overlooked either, especially if you only need a bit of space. Here are a few good portals:


How about joining a business center instead? Here are some good choices:


The good news is most people dealing with business-related services in Switzerland can speak good English. Even if English is not your strongest point, you can also find agents or services providing help in French, German or other languages. Get in touch by email or make some phone calls and chances are you can find someone to help you in no time.

Conclusion

As a short final conclusion, it is easy to understand why Switzerland is such a popular choice. It is a civilized place that you can visit whenever you need to do something related to your business. It is located in central Europe and has good connections with the whole world. It offers low tax and plenty of opportunities for businesses, as well as good labor and a business-friendly environment – what else can you ask for?