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Created on 30.08.2018 | Updated on 22.08.2019

Retirement savings 3a: you can still save on taxes this year

You shouldn’t rely solely on state and occupational pension schemes to live off and to turn your dreams into reality when you retire. The mandatory payments of the first and second pillars generally only cover around 60% of your current income. Take retirement provision in hand as soon as possible – and reduce your tax bill by making regular contributions to a private pension scheme (third pillar).

Tips and tricks to reduce your tax bill

The easiest way of reducing your tax burden through retirement planning is by paying into a retirement savings account 3a. The contributions made to the fixed retirement savings account 3a can be deducted from taxable income within the maximum amounts provided for by law. You do not pay either wealth tax or income tax on this capital until your retirement assets are paid out and you benefit from interest or returns on any investment in retirement funds. Taxes are only incurred upon premature or ordinary withdrawal of pillar 3a capital. However, you can also optimize your tax burden here by bearing a few pointers in mind.

The withdrawal of the pillar 3a triggers the immediate taxation of the capital paid out. The pension fund provider – in other words, the bank or insurance company – must notify the Federal Tax Administration of the withdrawal immediately. It calculates the tax due. The tax is then collected by the communal or cantonal tax office. The capital is taxed normally as an asset.

You can save tax by following this advice.

  • Adopt a forward-looking approach to your retirement provision: instead of making all payments to a single retirement savings account, you can distribute your contributions across several 3a accounts. If you have several accounts, you can have the withdrawal of your assets spread across several years:  you can arrange for the first payment to be made five years before reaching statutory pension age. The staggered withdrawal from the remaining accounts reduces the progressive increase in tax and means you pay less tax, as the example calculation below illustrates.
  • Married couples or registered partners should not withdraw their pillar 3a assets in the same year. The payments are added together and the total withdrawal amount is used to calculate the tax rate which has implications in terms of progressive taxation. 
  • Don’t withdraw the capital from your pension fund and pillar 3a  account in the same year. Both payments are added together here, too, and taxed jointly. It makes sense to arrange for payments to be made over several years.
  • When withdrawing retirement assets from the second and third pillars, always find out about the tax policy in your canton of residence.
A table shows how people can save taxes through a staggered approach. The top line contains six columns: they are labelled “withdrawal”, “year”, “age”, “capital”, “capital sum” and “tax amount”. One column is empty.  The line below contains the cells “one-off”, “2018”, “64”, an empty cell, “800,000”, an empty cell, “92,710”. In other words, if you decide on a one-off payout of capital totalling CHF 800,000 at the age of 64 in 2018, you pay CHF 92,710 in tax.  The line below contains the cells “staggered”, “2016”, “62”, “Pillar 3a, Female”, “50,000”, “2,230” and an empty cell.  The line below contains an empty cell, “2017”, “63”, “Pension fund capital, Female”, “250,000”, “14,760” and an empty cell.  The line below contains an empty cell, “2018”, “64”, “Pension fund capital, Male”, “400,000”, “27,290” and an empty cell.  The line below contains an empty cell, “2019”, “65”, “Pillar 3a, Male”, “100,000”, “4,770” and “49,050”.  The line below contains the text “tax savings using the staggered approach” and the amount “43,660”.  A married couple that decides to have its retirement assets of CHF 800,000 paid out on a staggered basis over the course of four years will only pay CHF 49,050 in tax, saving CH 43,660.

As a general rule, the earlier you begin retirement planning the better. This is not just because you benefit from interest (or returns in the case of retirement funds) and compound interest over the long term, but also because you’ll reduce your tax liability each year. Our example calculation shows why you can’t start early enough when it comes to retirement planning. Our article Retirement savings account 3a vs. a retirement fund” explains how you can get even more out of your retirement capital with a retirement fund.

A table indicates how much people can accumulate in retirement assets if they start investing early.  The top line contains cells with the words “age”, “annual payment”, “interest rate” and “assets at 65”.  The line below contains cells with “20”, “6768”, “0.20%” and “318,352.99”. This is the amount you would have if you started investing CHF 6768 into pillar 3 annually from the age of 20, and you received an interest rate of 0.20%.  The line below contains cells with “30”, “6768”, “0.20%” and “245,113.98”. This is the amount you would have if you started investing CHF 6768 into pillar 3 annually from the age of 30, and you received an interest rate of 0.20%.  The line below contains cells with “40”, “6768”, “0.20%” and “173,323.76”. This is the amount you would have if you started investing CHF 6768 into pillar 3 annually from the age of 40, and you received an interest rate of 0.20%.

You’ll usually also find a tax calculator on the website of the tax authority in your canton of residence. At www.postfinance.ch/rechner you can also calculate your annual tax savings by making pillar 3a contributions and calculate the tax on capital withdrawals from the second and third pillars.

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