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AXA answers your questions on self-employment

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The process of becoming self-employed throws up a whole host of questions. From registering for OASI to business interruption insurance, we compiled the most common questions from our community and put them to AXA’s experts. Read our FAQ for some useful insider information on the key aspects of self-employment in Switzerland.

How do I register my company for OASI?

If you’ve had your company entered in the commercial register, you’ll receive the registration form automatically.

If you’re setting up a sole proprietorship that doesn’t need to be entered in the commercial register, but you expect to earn more than CHF 2,300 a year from it, contact the compensation office to work out your personal contributions for federal old-age and survivors’ insurance (OASI), disability insurance, and loss of earnings compensation insurance. The compensation office will decide whether you qualify as self-employed for the purposes of social insurance. In principle, you qualify if 

  • you work under your own name and for your own account,
  • you’re independent, and you bear your own financial risk.

For everything you need to know about becoming self-employed in Switzerland, read our AXA blog post “Finally self-employed: how to start your own company in Switzerland”. For an overview of the main steps you need to take from coming up with a business idea to successfully founding a company, see “The ultimate checklist for self-employed people in Switzerland”.

I’d like to use money from my pension fund and Pillar 3a account as start-up capital. Is this possible?

Anyone registered as self-employed with the compensation office can withdraw occupational benefits for use as start-up capital. You can also withdraw tax-privileged capital saved in Pillar 3a to invest in your business. Such withdrawals are taxed at a special, lower rate.

Sole proprietors and partners in a general or limited partnership qualify as self-employed. You need to file your application within a year of becoming self-employed.

Owners of a company limited by shares (AG) or a limited liability company (GmbH) are classed as employees. They aren’t allowed to withdraw money from Pillar 2 or Pillar 3a for their business. This is why, in practice, many people first set up a sole proprietorship, which they then change into an AG or GmbH at a later date.

How is the money I withdraw from my pension fund and Pillar 3a account taxed?

The federal and cantonal authorities will tax the money you withdraw from your pension fund and Pillar 3a account as income, but at a reduced rate. Contact the tax office of the canton where your company’s registered for more information.

Do I have to pay back money taken out of my pension fund?

There’s no obligation to pay back any money you take out of your pension fund, even if you change your company’s legal form or close it down.
If you have an active occupational benefits plan that allows buy-ins, you can pay the money back in as a voluntary contribution.

As a self-employed person, what tax benefits are available to me through Pillar 3a?

A Pillar 3a solution offers self-employed people various opportunities to save on taxes. For example, you can declare your pension contributions on your tax return and have them deducted from your taxable income. This deduction for payments into the third pillar is subject to the following limits:

  • Self-employed people with a Pillar 2 occupational pension can pay up to CHF 6,883 into a tied pension in 2021. This limit may vary.
  • Self-employed people with no Pillar 2 occupational pension who are subject to OASI contributions can pay up to 20% of their net income from employment (up to a maximum of CHF 34,416 in 2021) into a tied pension. This amount may also vary.

Payments made into Pillar 3a by December 31 are deducted from your taxable income, significantly reducing your tax bill.

There are also further tax benefits. Income from interest and surpluses is exempt from income tax during the term of your Pillar 3a solution, and lump sums paid out early are taxed at a reduced rate. On top of this, your retirement savings aren’t subject to wealth tax. By contrast, the federal and cantonal tax authorities tax old-age pension annuities in full as income.

For more information about retirement savings for self-employed people, read the blog post “Securely self-employed: optimizing your pension with Pillar 3a”.

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I’m self-employed, and my spouse works for my company. Do I have to arrange a pension for them?

Occupational benefits insurance is mandatory if your spouse’s annual salary is more than CHF 21,330.

Self-employed people who employ staff (be it their spouse or anyone else) can voluntarily join their staff pension fund.

Want to know more about pensions and Pillar 3a for self-employed people?

AXA’s pension experts share their valuable know-how with you in our blog post “Securely self-employed: optimizing your pension with Pillar 3a” .

I’m self-employed. Can I voluntarily insure myself against unemployment?

Self-employed people in Switzerland can’t insure themselves against unemployment, so they aren’t liable for unemployment insurance contributions.

I’m about to take over an existing business’s inventory. How is this insured?

Property insurance usually covers equipment on a new-for-old basis. Ideally, you should work out the inventory’s current value.

Can I insure myself against income lost if my business is interrupted by fire or water damage?

You can take out business interruption insurance to cover the lost income and additional costs.

Want to learn more about the range of insurance options for self-employed people?

Our website for self-employed people explains the various forms of insurance available and includes recommendations on self-employment from our experts.

Have we answered all your questions on self-employment?

If so, you’re ready to get started! We hope you enjoy turning your bright idea into a business plan and forming a company, and we wish you every success as you get your independent business up and running. Need assistance? We can support you every step of the way with attractive offers and expert know-how. You’ll find everything you need to know to set up a successful company of your own in the AXA blog post “Finally self-employed: how to start your own company in Switzerland”.

Do you have any more questions on self-employment?

We’ll answer them all! From setting up a new company to the day-to-day running of your business, AXA’s experts are on hand to advise and assist you. Simply send us your questions using the form below, and we’ll get back to you as quickly as we can.

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