Works of art and taxation in Switzerland

Economic outlook - 9/28/2015

Whether one is a passionate art collector, heir to a collection or an investor seeking diversifi cation, artworks are a part of one’s net worth and as such are subject to tax regulations.

Aurélie Rougemont Tolis, Head of Tax & Estate Planning discusses the main issues under Swiss law for individuals who own, sell and inherit or receive works of art.


Since wealth tax is levied at the cantonal level in Switzerland, it is the applicable cantonal l plicable law that determines what is or is not a taxable item in this regard.

In principle artworks, jewellery and all types of collections are liable to tax, whereas household furnishings and currently used personal items are exempt.


In Swiss law, capital gains are exempt from tax if the property that has been sold forms part of the taxpayer’s private wealth. They are only taxable if they are part of his commercial wealth.

Thus the issue for an art owner is whether the tax authorities could re-assess sales of his works that generate capital gains as constituting a form of self-employment, regardless of his main occupation. The borderline here is blurred and is not stated in any law.

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