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All about salary certificates: understand, create and fill them

The Swiss salary certificate forms the basis for the correct taxation of income and serves as proof of the salary earned. But how is this important document correctly created and filled in? What points need to be considered in order to avoid errors and avoid consequences under tax law? This article explains in detail how to fill in and create salary certificates and gives valuable tips on how to meet all the requirements of the Swiss Federal Tax Administration with little effort.

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What is a salary certificate?

A salary certificate is an official document that employers create once a year for employees. In addition to the wages, salaries and other remuneration that an employee has received over the course of a calendar year, it lists the social security contributions and any withholding taxes paid. The salary certificate is required for the tax return as detailed proof of income.

Swiss salary certificates: an overview of the most important provisions

According to the Swiss Tax Act (Art. 168 of the Steuergesetz) employers are obliged to issue their employees with a salary certificate for each past calendar year. As a rule, employees receive their salary certificates in January of the following year.

However, federal law does not provide for an exact deadline for issuing the salary certificate. Rather, this is determined by cantonal regulations or by the guidelines and recommendations of the cantonal tax administrations.

However, the form to be used is uniform throughout Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Tax Administration provides a downloadable PDF form of the salary certificate on its website.

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Regulations and legal texts on Swiss salary certificates

In Switzerland, various laws and regulations regulate the proper creation and use of salary certificates. In particular, the following must be taken into account:

  • The Swiss Federal Act on Direct Federal Taxation (DBG): among other things, the DBG determines the components of the income and the deductions to be included in the salary certificate. Article 127 DBG establishes the obligation of third parties to provide certification, for example, the obligation of employers to account for the benefits they have paid to employees.
  • The Swiss Federal Act on the Harmonisation of Direct Taxes of the Cantons and Municipalities (StHG): the StHG creates a uniform basis for the cantonal tax laws and thus also has an influence on salary certificates.
  • Regulations and instructions of the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (FTA): the FTA regularly issues instructions and explanations that provide detailed information on how to correctly fill in the salary certificate.
  • Cantonal tax laws and regulations: since tax jurisdiction in Switzerland lies with both the federal government and the cantons, the cantons have their own tax laws, which may contain supplementary provisions on income taxation. These laws vary depending on the canton.
  • Social insurance laws: the deductions for social insurance, such as old-age and survivors' insurance (AHV), disability insurance (IV), loss of earnings compensation (EO) and unemployment insurance (ALV) must also be included in the salary certificate. These are regulated by laws such as the AHVG (Swiss Federal Act on Old-Age and Survivors' Insurance) and the AVIG (Swiss Federal Act on Compulsory Unemployment Insurance and Insolvency Compensation).
  • Swiss Withholding Tax Ordinance: if withholding taxes are deducted, these must also be noted in the salary certificate in accordance with the Swiss Withholding Tax Ordinance (QStV).

Particularly important: the salary certificate must be filled in correctly. Anyone who does not fill in a salary certificate or who fills it out incorrectly can be prosecuted (Articles 127, 174 and 186 DGB, Articles 43, 55 and 59 StHG and Article 251 StGB) and held liable (Article 177 DBG, Article 56 StHG). It is therefore worthwhile to manage your payroll accounting with software like bexio: it supports you in correct creating salary certificates and makes the process simple and understandable.

Salary certificate for employees: when and how is it submitted?

The salary certificate serves as the most important proof for the income tax return. Employees should therefore know when and how to forward this document after receiving it. The following tips should be borne in mind:

Timely receipt of the salary certificate in full

Employers should usually prepare and issue the salary certificate by the end of January of the following year. If an employer allows this period to pass, employees should point this out to them and ask for the salary certificate to be issued. If someone has been employed several times with different employers in the past calendar year, separate salary certificates are required from each of them.

Attachment to the income tax return

The employee submits the salary certificate together with the income tax return. The exact time for filing the tax return varies depending on the canton. In most cantons, the deadline is 31st March, but in some it can be between the end of February and the end of April. Be sure to find out about the requirements for your canton.

Form of submission

It is now possible to file the tax return electronically in all cantons. It is therefore sufficient to scan the salary certificate during its electronic or online creation and upload it as an attachment. There is no need to sign it in writing. For paper-based submissions, taxpayers send a copy of the salary certificate together with their other documents.

Retention

It is advisable to keep the original salary statement and all other relevant tax documents for at least five years in case there are questions or there is a tax audit, or should an employee become incapacitated for work. They will then be used to prove income.

Late submission

If you do not file the tax return on time, you may be reminded and, in certain circumstances, will receive a fine. On request, many cantons grant a deadline until September or December for filing the tax return. Here, again, you should find out about the requirements in your canton. It is also important to request any extension of the deadline in good time before the end of the actual deadline.

Filling out the salary certificate for employers: required information

The salary certificate consists of two sections: the upper part contains general information about the employee, their employment relationship and the reporting period for all data in alphabetically ordered sections A to H.

The lower part, in 15 numbered lines, records the employee's detailed benefits and deductions in the past calendar year. The gross wage is first determined in lines 1 to 8, and the net wage in lines 9 to 11, by amassing all deductions. Lines 12 to 15 serve to record further individual tax deductions, expense allowances, fringe benefits and additional remarks.

1. Wage

In addition to the ordinary salary, the daily benefits from health and accident insurance as well as all allowances (commissions, allowances for commuting to and from work and external catering at the place of work) must also be listed in line 1.

2. Fringe benefits

These include, for example, benefits in the form of meals and accommodation, or the private share in a company car, if provided. Here, 0.9 percent of the purchase price, excluding VAT, must be declared monthly (i.e., a maximum of 10.8 percent in a full calendar year).

3. Irregular benefits

Under this point, everything must be listed that cannot be attributed to the ordinary salary and regular fringe benefits, but is paid on a case-by-case basis, such as bonus payments, anniversary gifts, loyalty bonuses or relocation compensation.

4. Capital benefits

This means, on the one hand, back pay of wages and, on the other hand, severance payments and capital benefits of a provisioning nature.

5. Participation rights

These are shares and options in the company held by employees.

6. Compensation paid to the board of directors

Separate from the regular and irregular benefits, the compensation paid to the board of directors or attendance fees and royalties must be listed here.

7. Other benefits

Point 7 includes, among other things, various proportionate contributions made by the employer to insurance for employees, as well as benefits from unemployment insurance (ALV) and loss of earnings compensation (EO), contributions to occupational pension institutions, daily benefits from insurance companies that are not declared under point 1, and school fees for children. In addition, if they make up a substantial part of the salary, tips.

8. Total gross salary

In this line, all previously listed amounts/benefits are added. The sum makes the total gross salary for the past calendar year.

9. Contributions to AHV, IV, EO, ALV and NBUV

In line 9, the contributions for old-age and survivor's insurance (AHV), disability insurance (IV), loss of earnings compensation (EO), unemployment insurance (ALV) and non-occupational accident insurance (NBUV) are recorded.

10. Occupational pension

In this section, all deductions for the ordinary contributions to the occupational pension plan as well as the contributions for buying into the occupational pension plan must be entered.

11. Total net salary

The deductions from the gross salary listed under points 9 and 10 result in the net salary. This is essential for the tax return and must be carried over into it.

12 to 15. Further information

Lines 12 to 14 record any possible withholding taxes, expense allowances and other fringe benefits (such as goods and services received at a preferential price).

Under "Remarks" in line 15, again, any further information that does not fit under any of the preceding points must be noted. This may include, for example, notes stating that the employee in question has several salary certificates, or that the position in question is a part-time position. The number of days with loss of earnings compensation and any agreed employee participations or relocation costs paid by the employee themselves are also listed here.

Finally, the employer confirms the place, date and correctness of the information in field I.

Creating a salary statement: employers have these options

As an employer, you have three options for creating a salary certificate.

1. Download and fill out the form

First, download the official salary certificate form from the Swiss Federal Tax Administration. To be able to view and edit it, you need either Adobe Acrobat Reader or Snapform Viewer. Both pieces of software are free of charge, and the FTA also provides download links on its website.

Once you have created the salary certificate and entered all the data correctly, you can print it out and hand it over to the employee in duplicate (one for passing on with their tax return, one for their own records).

Salary certificate screenshot

2. Use eLohnausweis SSK – the electronic salary certificate

The electronic salary certificate from the Swiss Tax Conference (SSK) is a free web application that SMEs, for example, can use without any dedicated salary software. The number of salary certificates to be created with this software is unlimited.

Important: eLohnausweis SSK is not cloud software. This means that all necessary wage information must be stored correctly and is the sole responsibility of the software users. Unsaved data may be lost and must be entered again in eLohnausweis SSK (this is due to data protection requirements).

There is a form view and a guided mode with additional assistance. Electronic transmission of salary certificates to the cantonal tax administrations by means of Lohnstandard-CH from Swissdec (ELM) is not supported.

The Swiss Tax Conference provides a helpful collection of FAQs on eLohnausweis SSK. In addition, you will find the current Guidelines for Completing Salary Certificates and overviews of the cantonal tax authorities on the information page of the Swiss Federal Tax Administration.

3. Using an accounting program

It is easiest, safest and most convenient for SMEs and startups to create salary certificates with a business or accounting software like bexio. Such programs support you in completing these in correctly and guide you through the entire process in an understandable way. Data remains securely stored in the cloud, and, in bexio's case, on servers located in Switzerland.

Bexio payroll accounting is also Swissdec-certified and meets the legal standards for the electronic transmission of payroll data to the authorities. New forms, guidelines and laws that are relevant for general accounting are automatically taken into account. You can then download the created salary certificates as a PDF.

Filling out salary certificates in bexio easily and securely

Your entire payroll accounting is simple and automated: salary certificates for your employees are automatically created by bexio payroll accounting and can be conveniently downloaded as a PDF in your bexio account. Thanks to direct online access, collaboration with your fiduciary is easier and more efficient. That not only saves time but also money.

They prepare correct and complete salary certificates, including salary components, expenses and deductions, in accordance with the legal requirements, valid for the whole of Switzerland and persons subject to withholding tax.

bexio is tailored to SMEs and startups in Switzerland. Manage your payslips for all employees in just one click. Simple and intuitive. With bexio, you no longer have to worry about the completing salary certificates correctly and fully!

How to create salary certificates in bexio

From registration to the finished salary certificate – with bexio you have your entire payroll accounting under control. How to proceed:

  • Capture company master data: in just a few steps, you can capture your company master data, including information on various permanent establishments and withholding taxes, as well as your insurance master data.
  • Collect personnel master data: set up your employees – simply, quickly and clearly. Fill in all the necessary information, including company start date, insurance data, holidays and public holidays, withholding tax, and additional information for the salary certificate.
  • Payroll accounting (wage run): In just a few clicks, enter the hours worked by your employees, accident and sickness allowances, and expense reports, among other things, and create the monthly payslips.
  • Receive evaluations: Download your employees salary certificates in just one click. Salary certificates can also be conveniently exported as a PDF.

Your data will be backed up in certified Swiss data centres. bexio carries out backups automatically, regularly and free of charge. You are always up to date: the software updates take into account legal changes. They are announced and uploaded overnight, so you have access to your account as usual the next morning. If you have any questions about payroll accounting with bexio, our competent and friendly support team is at your disposal via chat, email or telephone – also free of charge.

Frequently asked questions about the salary certificate

What is a salary certificate?

The salary certificate is a form that employers in Switzerland issue to their employees once a year. It contains all wage components and remuneration (e.g., expenses) as well as deductions.

When is the salary certificate issued?

The salary certificate must be delivered by employers once a year, at the beginning of the calendar year (usually before the end of January).

How do I create a salary certificate?

There are essentially three ways to go:

  • Download the official FTA form and fill it in manually in a suitable program (e.g., Adobe Acrobat Reader)
  • Use the eLohnausweis SSK web application
  • Use business software such as bexio
Who is the salary certificate intended for?

As an employer, you pass on the salary certificates to your employees. Some cantons require that employers send a copy of the salary certificate for each employee directly to the cantonal tax administration. In this case, taxpayers do not have to provide evidence of their salary certificate (unless the employer is located outside the canton).

Does a salary certificate also have to be issued for short employment contracts or marginal wages?

Yes, in principle, a salary certificate must be issued for every employment relationship, regardless of its duration or the level of the salary.

Does a salary certificate have to be issued for unpaid leave or maternity leave?

Yes, even if no salary has been paid, a salary certificate should be issued to correctly document the period and circumstances of the employment relationship.

Does a salary certificate have to be issued for interns or apprentices?

Yes, regardless of the status of the employee, a salary certificate must be issued for every employment relationship.

What should employees do if the information on the salary certificate is not correct?

If errors or discrepancies are found on the salary certificate, employees should immediately contact their employer and ask for clarification or a correction.

What are the consequences if an employer does not issue a salary certificate?

If an employer does not issue a salary certificate, this can lead to consequences under tax law and possibly to penalties. If an employer refuses to issue a salary certificate, employees should contact the responsible cantonal tax administration. In such cases, it may also be advisable to seek legal assistance.

Does a salary certificate have to be issued for employees who work abroad?

Yes, even if an employee works mainly or completely abroad, a salary certificate must be issued if the employment contract exists under Swiss law.

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