March 2024 in Switzerland: 7 things expats need to know

March 2024 in Switzerland: 7 things expats need to know

With the longest February in four years now done and dusted, Switzerland can look forward to all that March 2024 has to offer. From potential rental costs rises to referendums and tax deadlines, here’s what you need to know:

1. Tax deadline in Switzerland approaches

As Benjamin Franklin famously wrote: "Nothing is certain except death and taxes:" In Switzerland, March 31 (March 15 if you are a resident of Vaud or Bern) is the deadline for submitting your latest tax return. Those who are not covered by tax-at-source rules (Quellensteuer) - holders of C-residence permits, Swiss citizens and those with high incomes - will have received their tax documents already, and must have them completed by the deadline.

If you use an accountant to file your taxes, they almost always file an extension to give them (and you) more time to prepare. If you file your taxes yourself and fear you won't be ready in time for the official deadline, you must ask for an extension. While the process for doing this varies by canton, more details on how to apply can be found on this website.

2. Final decision on rental cost rises

On March 1, the Federal Housing Office is due to announce the latest reference interest rate for Swiss mortgages. Among other things, the metric is used by landlords to determine how much they can legally increase the cost of rent. If the rate goes up, they can increase rental costs for tenants, including those who have already signed rental contracts. By contrast, if the rate goes down, tenants can apply for a rent reduction

After the reference rate was increased in June and December 2023, there was some concern that the rate would continue to rise in 2024. Luckily, unlike what was previously feared and predicted, the Federal Housing Office announced on March 1 that the rate would not rise.

Real estate experts at UBS told Blick that due to stabilising mortgage costs and inflation, the reference rate will remain at 1,75 percent for the foreseeable future, meaning tennants will likely not face higher rents. However, the bank noted that the chances of the rate going down are also very slim.

3. Switzerland to vote on two pension reforms

On March 3, Swiss citizens will go to the polls to vote on two national referendums, alongside a number of cantonal and local ballots. Both federal initiatives relate to reforms to the pension system in Switzerland

First, voters will choose whether to grant pensioners a 13th month of first pillar pension (OASI / AHV). This would be similar to how some jobs in Switzerland have a 13th month of salary given every year. 

Supporters of the plan make the point that the elderly, especially those who have recently retired, have been heavily impacted by the rise in the cost of living and that pension funds can afford to make the change. Opponents of the reform note that while pension funds are healthy now, the plan would cost 4,1 billion francs a year and put more pressure on a system that is expected to fall into deficit by 2031.

The second reform is a bid to increase the retirement age from 65 to 66 years old by 2033. Following this, 80 percent of increases in average life expectancy in Switzerland would be added to the retirement age.

The plan was submitted by the Young FDP, who argue it is only a matter of time before the retirement age will have to increase, given the strain on the system, and that Switzerland would face higher taxes or debt if their “fair for all generations” proposal is rejected. Opponents, which include the Federal Council, argue that while the system will need reform, tying the retirement age to life expectancy is too rigid and simple and denies future generations a say on the issue.

What are the expected results of the March 2024 Swiss referendums?

Despite initial surveys that showed strong support for a 13th month of pension, the latest polls have registered a significant decline in the plan's popularity. The latest poll from SRF on February 21 shows 40 percent of voters are strong supporters of the plan and 13 percent are likely to vote for it. This is versus 34 percent who are strongly opposed, 9 percent who are likely opposed and 4 percent who don’t know.

With support for the plan at just 53 percent, and the expected error in the poll set at 2,8 percent, the vote is likely going to go down to the wire.

The same cannot be said for raising the retirement age. The latest polls show 48 percent are strongly against it while 15 percent are likely opponents. Only 21 percent said they strongly supported the idea.

4. Swiss ski resorts begin to shut up shop

With the weather in Switzerland breaking temperature records in February, it’s perhaps no surprise that many are predicting a premature end to the winter season for Swiss ski resorts. The official long-term forecast from the Swiss government has predicted it is highly likely that warmer temperatures will dominate in the spring.

From March, resorts across the country will start to close up for another year, especially those at lower altitudes. So long as the weather remains kind and cold, the last of the slopes in the mountains will close at the end of April.

5. Early Easter in Switzerland

While usually associated with April, Easter is very early in 2024, falling on March 31. This will be good news for those craving an early spring break, with all Swiss cantons barring Valais and Ticino designating Good Friday (March 29) as a public holiday.

What’s more, most people across the country will benefit from a long weekend, as Easter Monday (April 1) is a public holiday in all cantons except Lucerne and Neuchâtel.

6. Springtime and Swiss school holidays

If you have grown tired of the winter blues, don’t worry as at 4.06am on March 20, the Vernal Equinox will occur, signalling the start of spring. This is when the sun sits vertically above the equator, meaning the days are exactly as long as the nights.

At the same time, the very end of March will be the start of the spring school holidays in a majority of cantons. This one to three-week vacation is ideal for those looking to take in all the great things a holiday in Switzerland has to offer.

7. Daylight Savings Time returns to Switzerland 

Finally, cementing the fact that we won’t be finishing work in the dark until next winter, at 2am on March 31 Daylight Savings Time will come into effect. Clocks across the alpine nation will move forward an hour, meaning there will be less light in the mornings but more sunshine in the evenings.

Thumb image credit: Oscity /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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