One of the focuses of the publication is the federal inheritance tax. Avenir Suisse’s authors are critical, even though the proposed tax does not do badly in terms of the usual financial criteria. But a purely financial view is short-sighted. It is crucial to look at the system of taxation in Switzerland on an integrated basis. Doing so reveals that there is no room for a federal inheritance tax. With wealth taxes, in some cases heavily progressive, in the cantons, Switzerland differs from many comparable countries that have no wealth tax or much lower rates. An inheritance tax would hinder investment. It would make it more difficult for many SMEs to access an important source of innovation finance and thus have a negative impact on jobs and innovation in the long term.
Another focus of the publication is the taxation of residential property. Often calls to further ease the tax burden on owners are justified by the low rate of home ownership in Switzerland. The fact is, however, that the rate of ownership has steadily increased over the last twenty years, despite the fact that the imputed rental value of property is subject to tax. Avenir Suisse shows that this is one area where Swiss tax practice is better than its reputation.
Another essay in “Tax policy under construction” looks at incentive taxes and ecotax. In themselves, incentive taxes make more sense than prescriptions and prohibitions. However, the incentive taxes levied in Switzerland rarely have the desired effect. Either the tax fails to have a sufficient incentive effect in the first place, or it has an effect which then results in lost tax revenues, prompting an increase in the rate until it no longer bears any relation to the actual uncovered costs.