The Swiss cantons define, what organisations are accepted as charitable and public purpose driven. Many cantons publish respective lists of organisations, which are usually also accepted by the Swiss federation.
What counts as charitable goal or public purpose?
Taxwise an organisation is looked at as being charitable or public purpose if her statutory or real activity promotes public welfare. This is seen as given, when only altruistic charity for third parties is performed. There shall no primary self-interests or economic interests be persued for the organisation or its members.
Evidence must be generated!
Verification of donations has to be generated by the taxable person. The cantons handle this quite differently. Whereas some cantons only accept donations that are verified by a donation certificate as tax deductible, others do accept the stamped payments slips or bank debit entries. Whereas other cantons accept a list of the donations given up to a sum of several hundred Swiss francs.
Up to what amount donations are deductible?
The Swiss Federation following Art. 33a of ist Federal Tax law accepts donations to Swiss organisations if they are more than CHF 100 per year and limit them to a maximum of 20 % of the net income of the respective person. Most cantons follow this federal rule. Exceptions are the cantons of Neuenburg (max. limit at 5 % of the net income), Tessin (max. limit at 50 % of the net income) and Baselland, who does not define a Maximum.
Exception: Donations to political parties
The Swiss Federations has this ruled in Art 33 Par 1 lit i. Deductible are membership fees or donations up to a Maximum of CHF 10’100 per year. This is limited to political parties that are listed in the respective register of the Swiss Federation, parties that are represented in a state parliament or parties that have won more than 3 % of the votes in a canton at the last election.
The cantons handle this issue in different ways. I is wise – to avoid unpleasant experiences – to check in your particular case with the tax authority in charge, if the donation to a political party is accepted by the canton.
National churches – Donations: YES – church taxes: NO
Donations given explicitly to the welfare or charitable organisation of the national churches are deductible, whereas church taxes cannot be deducted.
Our recommendation concerning donations:
If you donate to many different organisations it often is difficult to find our if they are accredited by the tax authorities. We recommend to deduct all donations executed and then check your tax assessment if they have been accepted. In the case where they are not you can first check with your tax commissioner and “worst case” you still have the possibility to raise an objection.
Are there any open questions or issues you need to have clarified? If so, get in touch with our Tax Expert Christian Lingg, he will be glad to help you along.