New proposal calls for non-Swiss men to pay special defence tax

New proposal calls for non-Swiss men to pay special defence tax

A Geneva Citizens’ Movement (MCG) National Councillor has submitted a proposal, calling for male holders of Swiss residence permits to pay a special tax in lieu of completing national service. Roger Golay has argued the plan would help fund the armed forces at a time of global instability, while opponents have said the plan is too radical.

Non-Swiss men would pay national service penality under new proposal

In the proposal, submitted to parliament ahead of its summer session, Golay argued that male non-Swiss residents should help participate in the “defence” of the country by paying more into the armed forces. Currently, male Swiss citizens are required to do some form of national service (military, weaponless service or civil service) or pay an extra 3 percent penalty income tax until the age of 37.

Currently, expats and internationals are exempt from both national service and the tax for not serving. However, under the new proposal, all male residence permit holders would be subject to the same financial penalty as non-serving citizens. The duration of special tax, and possible grounds to be exempt from the penalty, are yet to be disclosed.

Swiss military funding a hot-button issue in parliament

Writing in the proposal, Golay noted that funding for the military will be one of the hot-button issues in the upcoming parliamentary session. At present, Switzerland spends approximately 0,7 percent of its GDP on the armed forces, far less than other nations in Europe and overseas.

With global uncertainty continuing to deepen, many within parliament and the government wish to spend more on the army to help guarantee Swiss neutrality. The Federal Council is asking for the country to spend 26 billion francs on the military between 2025 and 2028, while the Security Commission of the National Council is asking for 30 billion francs and an additional 15 billion francs for the reconstruction in Ukraine.

Army spending increase comes as government plans to cut spending

At the same time, the Federal Council predicts that if nothing is done to curb overall spending, the federal deficit will reach 3 billion francs a year by 2027. Therefore, this summer's parliamentary session is also expected to bring with it several austerity plans designed to cut spending.

Therefore, Golay argued that “the financial participation of foreigners” in funding the military would help the country fulfil its spending targets without accruing more debt. He concluded that it “would not only be fair but also welcome” as expats benefit from the security the military provides without having to serve or pay the penalty.

Unfair to charge expats national service tax, says Federal Council

In response, the Federal Council called on parliament to reject Golay’s proposal. In a statement given to 20 Minuten, they argued that non-Swiss men should only be charged the penalty if they were also given the chance to serve in the military.

In this case, they noted that allowing expats and internationals to serve would require a radical change in the constitution - and most likely a highly divisive referendum - and would lead to calls for serving expats to be given political rights or a quicker process to apply for citizenship.

In assuring Golay, the Federal Council wrote that it wants “to gradually increase the army's expenditure within the framework of the possibilities of the federal budget”. In addition, much like how vehicle taxes are not used exclusively to fund roads and motorways, other more conventional tax increases could be used to fund the military's expansion.

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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