Principal or secondary employment? Anyone who takes on multiple jobs will have to ask themselves this question – at the very latest, when it’s time to fill out their tax return. That’s because even if someone has two or more jobs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one or more of the jobs counts as “secondary employment”. A job only counts as secondary employment if the person’s livelihood comes primarily from other sources – such as in the following examples.
Secondary employment: what counts and what to consider when filing your taxes
Bumping up your salary, applying your talents or passing on your knowledge – there are many reasons why people choose to pursue more than just one job. But when does this become secondary employment and how should this be taxed?
These fictional people have a secondary job:
- Ina Egger is an accountant who is employed on a full time basis in a fiduciary office. As a second job, she conducts exams as a specialist on eight days each year.
- Fred Keller is a caretaker with two main sources of income: at an estate agent with a level of employment of 50 percent and at a major distributor with a level of employment of 40 percent. As a second job, he also works sporadically as a groundskeeper at his local football club.
- Kristina Ravic is a self-employed lawyer working full time. She occasionally takes on a second job with the municipal authorities, where she performs part-time public service as an advisor and receives an attendance fee.
- Alessandro Russo is a young carpenter employed at a carpentry business with a level of employment of 80 percent. One evening per month, he helps out at his brother’s coffee and juice bar.
Further criteria for secondary employment
The following criteria are used to distinguish between primary and secondary employment. All the conditions must be met.
Secondary employment is conducted:
- for a different employer and
- using different tools and
- outside of the working times of the main job(s) and
- in a different area of activity and
- provided that the income earned is significantly lower than the income from the principal employment.
A main job can be made up of various part-time engagements. For example, if a carer has three different jobs all within the care sector, this is recognized as the person’s main occupation – even if one of the jobs is conducted at a low percentage level of employment.
How should I pay tax on secondary employment?
Secondary employment must be declared in full as part of your tax return. Violations can sometimes result in severe penalties. You must state whether income from a secondary occupation comes from self-employment or employment. In the case of a secondary occupation from self-employment, a corresponding notification of contribution must be provided to the OASI compensation fund.
What deductions can I apply?
Just like with your main job, in most cantons, you can claim deductions for professional expenses (flat-rate or actual) in the case of a secondary occupation with an employer – for both state and municipal taxes as well as for direct federal tax.
The following regulations apply to the flat-rate allowance for the Confederation and for all cantons except Schwyz, Basel-Stadt, Ticino and Geneva: in principle, the flat-rate allowance equals 20 percent of net income but with a minimum of 800 francs and a maximum of 2,400 francs per year (or the amount of income from secondary employment if this is under 800 francs). The flat-rate deduction covers all professional costs incurred in the course of the secondary employment (travel, food and drink, and other professional costs). Proof must be provided for expenses higher than this.
Example for secondary occupation (with an employer)
Income from secondary employment
20% flat-rate deduction on secondary employment
(min. CHF 800, max. CHF 2,400)
– CHF 1,175
Canton of Schwyz: deduction of the actual expenses if the flat-rate deduction for other professional expenses has already been exhausted.
Canton of Basel-Stadt: the maximum flat-rate deduction is 4,000 francs. If the employment activity is only conducted for part of the year or as part-time work, the flat-rate deduction is to be reduced appropriately.
Canton of Ticino: flat-rate deduction of 800 francs or deduction of actual costs.
Canton of Geneva: no special deductions.
(As at 2021 tax year)
The link will open in a new window Find out more about flat-rate deductions for secondary employment at estv.admin.ch (available only in German and French via Einkommenssteuern > Aufwendungen (Gewinnungskosten) > Pauschalabzug für Berufskosten bei Nebenerwerb)
For some secondary employment activities, such as for authorities or commissions, special flat-rate regulations for the deductions are in force (see cantonal regulations).
This blog post in no way constitutes advice. For a complete explanation of the legal situation, you must contact a specialist.
Sources: The link will open in a new window Tax Administration in the Canton of Thurgau, The link will open in a new window Luzerner Steuerbuch, The link will open in a new window Steuerbuch Baselland, The link will open in a new window Tax Administration in the Canton of Zug, The link will open in a new window St. Galler Steuerbuch