COVID-19 and corporate tax considerations

В статье рассматриваются вопросы, связанные с льготами в налоговой системе Швейцарии, введенными из-за COVID-19. В основном эти льготы касаются налоговой отчетности. Так, продлены сроки подачи налоговой отчетности за 2019 год. Особенное внимание уделяется срокам, применимым к спорным судебным разбирательствам по налоговым вопросам.

Filing deadlines for tax returns
Provisions in 2019 annual accounts
Are there any deferred payment terms available for cantonal and communal taxes in 2019 or 2020?
Period for appeal

Filing deadlines for tax returns

Is the filing deadline of a legal entity’s tax 2019 return automatically extended?
A number cantons have introduced automatic extensions of filing deadlines for the 2019 tax returns of legal entities:

Aargau: 30 September 2020;
Basel-Land: 30 September 2020;
Bern: 15 September 2020;
Geneva: 31 May 2020;
Jura: 31 July 2020;
Nidwalden: 30 September 2020; and
Ticino: 30 September 2020.
That said, in various cantons the initial filing deadlines for tax returns of legal entities expire in the second half of the year in any case (eg, Zug and Zurich: 30 September 2020).

Provisions in 2019 annual accounts

Is it possible to deduct a COVID-19 provision from 2019 taxable income?
In general, no. Annual accounts prepared in accordance with commercial law are generally relevant for tax purposes. According to commercial law, a provision must be booked in 2019 annual accounts if an “event in the past” leads to the expectation of a cash outflow in future years. Such a provision would generally be accepted by the tax authorities. Under commercial law, it is doubtful whether there is a requirement or obligation to include a COVID-19 provision. For example, the Swiss expert association for auditing, taxes and fiduciary advice published on 20 March 2020 considers that COVID-19 does not qualify as such an “event in the past” for 2019 annual accounts. However, businesses have an option (but not an obligation) to include such a provision if it is made to ensure their long-term prosperity.

In normal times, such optional provisions are typically not tax deductible. However, the cantons of Aargau, Thurgau, Valais and Zug have announced that they will recognise extraordinary tax-deductible provisions for cantonal and communal tax purposes in the 2019 tax period. Such provisions are allowed for legal entities or self-employed taxpayers and must be dissolved in the 2020 tax period. Please refer to specific information, such as the maximum amounts of the provision published by the respective tax authorities. By contrast, the cantons of Schwyz and St Gallen have announced that no COVID-19-related provisions will be accepted for tax purposes in the 2019 tax period.

Are there any deferred payment terms available for cantonal and communal taxes in 2019 or 2020?

There is no general answer to this question. In some cantons, the respective competence to delay due dates without paying late interest is with the cantons and in other cantons with the communities. For instance, the canton of Zurich lowered its late interest rate for cantonal and communal tax purposes from 4.5% to 0.25% between 1 May 2020 and 31 December 2020. If legal entities face difficulties in paying their cantonal or communal taxes on time, they should contact the respective tax authorities and ask for an approval for a late payment or a payment in instalments. In some cases, it is possible to apply online.

Period for appeal

Are there any deadline extensions or suspensions applicable to contentious legal proceedings in tax matters?
The running of legal deadlines (ie, typically appeal deadlines) is generally suspended by law in Switzerland during the seven days before and the seven days after Easter. Thus, in 2020 there was a general legal suspension of deadlines between 5 April 2020 and 19 April 2020.

A deadline suspension means that in order to determine the running of a deadline, days are not counted during the suspension period. For example, a deadline that would theoretically end on 5 April 2020 therefore effectively ends on 20 April 2020. As part of the COVID-19 measures, on 20 March 2020 the Swiss government ordered that the suspension of deadlines (where a suspension around Easter is foreseen by law) would start immediately (ie, on 20 March 2020 and not only on 5 April 2020).

However, there are important exceptions to the principle of deadline suspension, one being cantonal tax proceedings, where no suspension of deadlines is legally foreseen in the first place. Therefore, the Swiss government’s measure – at least currently – does especially not apply to contentious tax matters pending before cantonal tax authorities or before the cantonal courts. However, the immediate suspension applies to tax matters pending before the Swiss federal tax administration, the Federal Administrative Tribunal and the Federal Supreme Court.

Has the 30-day deadline to appeal cantonal tax court decisions before the Federal Supreme Court been automatically extended?
Yes, the suspension of deadlines applies to proceedings before the Federal Supreme Court.

Has the 30-day deadline to appeal cantonal tax court decisions before the Federal Administrative Tribunal been automatically extended?
Yes, the suspension of deadlines applies to proceedings before the Federal Administrative Tribunal.

Can missed deadlines to challenge 2018 tax assessments be challenged?
Missed deadlines can be restored only under specific circumstances, such as grave illness. In general, missing a deadline due to external causes is insufficient grounds to restore a deadline. However, the Zurich tax administration communicated that it considered the current extraordinary situation to be a sufficient justification to restore missed deadlines. In such case, a respective demand must be addressed in writing to the Zurich tax administration and meet the other requirements of a valid objection. This liberal approach does not necessarily apply to the tax court nor to the administrative court of the canton of Zurich. Other cantons may also adopt another attitude.

Авторы: Stephan Neidhardt, Robert Desax, Ursina Gremminger, Dina Spörri


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