Which parts of Switzerland offer the highest (and lowest) take-home pay?
A new study by the Institute for Swiss Economic Policy (IWP) and the University of Lucerne has uncovered which towns and cities in Switzerland are the cheapest when it comes to taxes, the cost of rent and other duties. Experts found that the amount received in take-home pay varies by thousands depending on which Swiss council people call home.
Take-home pay in Switzerland in 2023
In the study, the IWP and the university analysed what the average “take-home” pay would be for individuals with a variety of different salaries in all of the 2.148 municipalities in Switzerland. For this study, take-home pay refers to how much money people have to spend on food and other essential and luxury consumer goods once the cost of tax, rent and other official duties are taken into account.
To calculate the average take-home pay, experts looked at each town’s tax rate, non-wage labour costs, government fees and average rental costs, and calculated how much money would be left once all costs are deducted from a set annual salary.
The IWP said that their 2023 study comes as rental costs continue to rise across the country, meaning how much tax burdens differ by region is becoming a more important factor in the cost of living. However, at the same time, they noted that while regions like Zug and Zurich have the lowest taxes in Switzerland, high rental costs mean that they remain less affordable than areas with higher taxes but lower housing costs.
Samedan most expensive place for low-income earners
For those with an annual income of 50.000 francs a year, the study found that the town of Samedan, Canton Graubünden, offers the lowest take-home pay. Once all costs are applied, low-income residents of the Engadine are only left with 13,8 percent of their salary, or just 6.900 francs.
Cologny (Geneva), and Bever (Graubünden) rounded out the bottom three with 6.950 (13,9 percent) and 7.150 francs (14,3) respectively - which means, in practice, it is near-impossible to live in these communities with this level of income. The study noted that generally speaking, the further away from the cities or regional centres people go, the more money they are able to keep, and that prices in holiday destinations like those in Graubünden will always be higher than average.
The news hasn’t gone down well in Samedan, with Mayor Gian Peter Niggli telling 20 Minuten that “expensive rents are by no means a deterrent for people…There are many benefits such as sports, fast internet, lots of shopping opportunities and life in intact nature. This of course has its price.” “It's less noisy than in St. Moritz and I really enjoy living [here],” one 23-year-old resident told the newspaper.
Canton Vaud the place to live for those with low incomes
At the other end of the spectrum sits the small town of Fontaines-sur-Grandson, Canton Vaud. There, those with an annual income of 50.000 francs only spend 21.350 francs a year on rent, taxes and duties, meaning 57,3 percent (28.650 francs) of their income is left in the kitty. The Vaudois towns of Mauborget (57,3 percent, 28.650 francs) and Tévenon (57,2 percent, 28.600 francs) rounded out the podium.
The news proved to be quite a surprise for Fontaines-sur-Grandson Mayor Xavier Boesiger, who told 20 Minuten that being low-cost is not easy. “It is particularly difficult for smaller communities to stick to the budget. I am fighting to ensure that taxes are not increased. That would have a negative impact on people’s purchasing power,” she noted.
Average wage earners should pick Aargau, study finds
For those on the average wage in Switzerland - 80.000 francs a year - the report found that the Graubünden ski resorts of Samedan and Bever still offer the lowest take-home pay, with residents of the former only getting 24.720 francs a year to spend once expenses are deducted.
On the flip side, the Aargau towns of Auenstein and Thalheim offer workers the best deal, at 46.800 francs a year each in take-home pay. “The middle of Switzerland is the centre of financial well-being,” noted IWP expert Przemyslaw Brandt.
Millionaires should avoid Geneva and move to Schwyz
Finally, for those living the high life on a million francs a year, the advice is to avoid Geneva - the place with the highest taxes on millionaires in Switzerland, where 48,3 percent of a jet setter’s income is paid towards taxes, houses and fees. Instead, the report found that Schwyz is the place to be, with the millionaires of Freienbach able to keep 720.000 francs or 72 percent of their million-franc earnings.
To see specific data for each Swiss town, check out the official study.