VAT is based on the principle that anybody who consumes anything will make a financial contribution to the government. However, it would be too complex if every citizen had to settle this with the government for every single purchase. The tax is therefore levied from companies, which are for their part obliged to pass on the VAT to the consumer by adding it to the price or by including it as a separate entry on the invoice.
Source: Swiss Federal Tax Administration
Storing company accounts and records
The person liable for tax must manage their company accounts properly and arrange them such that they can be used easily and reliably to determine the facts relevant for determining the tax liability and calculating the tax and the deductible pre-tax. The Swiss Federal Tax Administration (Eidgenössische Steuerverwaltung – ESTV) may issue more detailed provisions in this regard. These may only go beyond the provisions stipulated in commercial law if this is essential for the purposes of levying value added tax (VAT) in due form.
The VAT Act contains various provisions relating to keeping records, and these extend beyond the regulations of commercial law. These are essentially provisions covering the following: The obligation to keep records in connection with immovable property, statutes of limitation, storing original documents, electronic storage, and domestic storage. In Part 6, “Guidance”, the ESTV includes various provisions on accounting and keeping company accounts and records which extend beyond the provisions of the Swiss Code of Obligations (Obligationenrecht – OR) and GeBüV in terms of their level of detail. In particular, the storage of company accounts and records is regulated in Line 943 et seqq. of the “Guidance” section.
In connection with immovable property
Business documentation in connection with immovable property must be stored for 20 years for the purposes of input tax deductions and, if applicable, for the company’s own use.
Statutes of limitation
The person liable for tax must generally store their company accounts, records, business papers, and other documents for ten years, also for the purposes of VAT. If, after this period, the statute of limitation for tax receivables has not yet begun, then the obligation to store these documents will continue until the statute of limitation begins. Tax receivables become statute-barred after the end of the calendar year in which they arose. The statute of limitation can be interrupted or remain uninterrupted. However, it will begin a maximum of 15 years after the tax receivables arose.
Storage in the original
In addition to signed company invoices and balance sheets, documents and records where there is potential for photographic reproduction in any quantity and that could therefore lead to a lack of clarity or misuse must be stored in their original form e.g. import and export receipts issued by the Federal Customs Administration.
The “Guidance” section stipulates in Line 943 that company accounts and records (correspondence, orders, supplier invoices, copies of outgoing invoices, purchase agreements, payment receipts, sales slips, single documents, export declarations, import tax statements, auxiliary books, and internal records such as work reports, material delivery orders, workshop cards, documents compiled for VAT settlement) must be stored domestically for ten years.
There are also certain restrictions regarding the storage of data relating to tax collection on hardware located outside Switzerland. As a result, storing data carriers outside Switzerland is only permitted if the data related to tax collection is available to access, read and evaluate at any time.