Incentive tax (Switzerland)

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In Switzerland , incentive taxes are levied on certain substances or products to protect the environment. These taxes are often incorrectly referred to as (eco) taxes . Its aim is to steer a certain (consumption) behavior towards less or no consumption of environmentally harmful products (complete renunciation or replacement with better products). In contrast to taxes, incentive taxes are refunded in different forms of the population.

They are on volatile organic compounds ( dispensing VOC ) and fossil heating fuels ( CO 2 -Abgabe ) collected, but not on the fuels petrol and diesel. In the case of fuels, the goal should be achieved with the climate cent . The 1.6 million tonnes of fuels, which can be compensated abroad by the required reduction amount of 1.8 million tonnes, were already planned a year before the planning period, so that the steering target for fuels was only completely missed with the voluntary surrender.

Legal bases

The incentive taxes are levied by the Federal Customs Administration (FCA) on the basis of the Environmental Protection Act.

The legal basis for the performance-based heavy vehicle fee (LSVA) is the Heavy Vehicle Tax Act (SVAG). The HVF has a steering purpose (relocation to public transport (public transport) ), but in contrast to the definition above, it is not reimbursed to the population, but flows for the larger part into public transport projects, the smaller part Part in the road construction (see also in the LSVA link). It is calculated as a Pigou tax .

The legal basis of the VOC tax is the ordinance on the incentive tax on volatile organic compounds (VOCV).

Furthermore, in addition to the CO 2 tax on fossil fuels, the CO 2 Act provides for a special tax on fossil fuels. While the goals were approved in both the Council of States and the National Council in 2011, the bourgeois majority in the National Council refused to adopt the necessary measures.

CO 2 emission on fuels

The CO 2 tax on fuels is a special form of tax in Switzerland . It is an ecological, market-based steering instrument that aims to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels through price incentives . It does not serve the increase of state revenue, but the internalisation of external costs , so extols the environmental and climate costs one with the selling price. In order not to weaken economic power as a whole, the income from the CO 2 levy is therefore paid back equally to companies and private individuals ( natural persons ) as an eco bonus , so that those who use fossil fuels economically have an advantage. Purchasing power is retained.

Energy-intensive companies with an annual output of more than 100 tons of CO 2 can be exempt from the tax. In return, they have to commit to reducing their CO 2 emissions.


In the Kyoto Protocol , Switzerland undertook the CO 2 - emissions to reduce the period from 2008 to 2012 compared to 1990 by an average of 8 percent. The CO 2 law of 1999 provides for 10 percent for this period. For this reason, on March 20, 2007, the National Council decided to introduce the CO 2 levy on fuels on January 1, 2008, as the goal of reducing CO 2 emissions was not achieved in the course of 2006.

A three-stage introduction was planned for the CO 2 levy on fuels if the planned reduction in CO 2 emissions is not achieved:

  • 12 francs per tonne of CO 2 (3 cents per liter of heating oil ) from 2008 if emissions in 2006 have fallen by less than 6% compared to 1990,
  • 24 francs per ton of CO 2 (6 cents per liter of heating oil) from 2009 if emissions in 2007 have fallen by less than 10% compared to 1990,
  • 36 francs per tonne of CO 2 (9 cents per liter of heating oil) from 2010 if emissions fell by less than 13.5% in 2008 compared to 1990 or less than 14.25% in one of the following years.

Development so far

The reduction targets for fuels were achieved for 2007, so that the planned increase for 2009 could be postponed. Due to the increased consumption of petrol and diesel, the climate targets were missed overall; This is also due to the tank tourism due to the lower prices in Switzerland.

For 2010, the CO 2 tax had to be increased to 36 francs. This means that 200 million francs were available for climate-friendly building renovations because the Federal Council decided on June 12, 2009 not to redistribute all of the income from the CO 2 tax. This additional income was also intended to promote renewable energies, waste heat utilization and building technology. Two thirds (i.e. 400 million francs), however, were paid back to all insured residents in Switzerland or redistributed to the companies as an eco bonus: All employers are reimbursed through the AHV compensation funds in proportion to the AHV wages.

From January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2015, the CO 2 levy was 60 francs per ton of CO 2 . As of January 1, 2016, it was 84 francs and since January 1, 2018, it has been 96 francs per ton of CO 2 .

Current development and prospects

Parliament had already passed the legal basis for Switzerland's climate policy from 2013 to 2020 on December 23, 2011: The revised federal law on the reduction of CO 2 emissions (CO 2 law) enshrines the climate policy goals and measures up to 2020. The Federal Council approved the associated CO 2 Ordinance (SR 641.711) on November 30, 2012. This ordinance specifies the design of the individual instruments. It came into force together with the revised CO 2 law on January 1, 2013. The reduction target of 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 is divided between the individual sectors (buildings, transport and industry). The building sector is expected to reduce by 40 percent by 2020, by 10 percent in the transport sector and by 15 percent in the industrial sector. Intermediate goals for 2015 are formulated: The ordinance fixes this for the three sectors along with a continuous reduction in CO 2 emissions.

Left-wing and environmental groups such as greenpeace and WWF had already requested an increase for 2013, but failed, as did their request to extend the CO 2 tax to gasoline and diesel in order to actually achieve the promised climate targets. For a globally effective climate policy, a wealthy state is responsible for exhausting the economic and legal possibilities: In the consultation on the CO 2 Ordinance, the Federal Council was asked to exhaust the legally possible exhaustion of a 40 percent reduction as quickly as possible. In international climate policy , reduction targets of 95 percent by the year 2050 would be negotiated for all states. This also includes the Least Developed Countries , AOSIS and the poor countries of Africa.

Status 2019, legislation in progress

Today (as of 2019) everyone pays an incentive tax, which is included in the price of the fuels (mainly oil and natural gas products). The total tax currently amounts to CHF 1.2 billion per year. The levy is now to be increased significantly in the course of the 2020s: from CHF 96 to a maximum of CHF 210 per tonne of CO 2 . The greater part (currently two thirds) of the CO 2 levy is redistributed to the population (via health insurance premiums). Together with other environmental taxes, all households are currently credited with CHF 77 per capita. The CO 2 levy paid by the economy is also largely repaid to the companies. A third of the CO 2 levy flows into the building program today; a more comprehensive climate fund is being proposed. Petrol and diesel importers have to compensate for a larger part of the CO 2 emissions and can pass on the associated costs with a surcharge of a maximum of 10 cents per liter (12 cents from 2025). A new ticket fee of between CHF 30 and 120 per ticket is planned.

What is taxed?

  • Anyone who imports volatile organic compounds or who, as a manufacturer, puts such substances on the market or uses them himself pays the federal government an incentive tax. The import of such substances in paints and varnishes is also subject to the tax. The Federal Council can subject the import of such substances in further mixtures and objects to the tax if the quantity of the substances is significant for the environmental pollution or the cost share of the substances is significant.
  • Anyone who imports “extra light” heating oil with a sulfur content of more than 0.1 percent (% by weight) or produces or extracts it in Germany pays an incentive tax to the federal government.
  • Anyone who imports gasoline or diesel oil with a sulfur content of more than 0.001 percent (% by mass), manufactures or extracts them domestically, pays the federal government an incentive tax.
  • Anyone who uses goods vehicles with a total weight of more than 3.5 t pays the federal government an incentive tax
  • Anyone who uses fossil fuels (heating oil, coal, gas) must pay an incentive tax to the federal government due to the CO 2 Act and the CO 2 Ordinance of 30 November 2012.

Tax amount

  • For products containing more than 3% VOC, the rate is CHF 3  per kg VOC. Products with a lower VOC content are not subject to the incentive tax. Which VOC substances are subject to the incentive tax are listed in the positive list of substances.
  • The HVF levy is in principle 2.44 cents per tonne-kilometer. It is measured according to three criteria: km covered in Swiss territory, total weight of the vehicle, emissions from the vehicle.
  • The CO 2 levy is CHF 96 per tonne of CO 2 due to the CO 2 Act , which corresponds to around 25.4 cents per liter of heating oil or 25.5 cents per kg of natural gas.

Purpose of the charge

People, animals and plants, their communities and habitats should be protected against harmful or annoying influences and the natural foundations of life, in particular biological diversity and the fertility of the soil , should be permanently preserved.

The incentive taxes - where introduced - have so far served their purpose. Depending on the type of product, the costs can be passed on to consumers and thus affect demand, or lead to substitution , more economical consumption and improved exhaust air purification for manufacturers. The emission of VOCs subject to an incentive tax fell by around a third between 1998 and 2004. In June 2011, the Federal Council determined that, although emissions were reduced for the fuels controlled by the tax, fuel emissions continued to rise. On the basis of Article 3 of the CO 2 Act (at least 20 percent reduction target by 2020 compared to 1990) and the option to increase the reduction targets to 40 percent in accordance with international agreements, the Federal Council is requested to adapt its CO 2 Ordinance in the years after 2012 . To this end, in accordance with Art. 29, it can increase the CO 2 tax up to a maximum of CHF 120 in the next few years if the intermediate targets set for the fuels in accordance with Article 3 are not achieved. The democracy is necessary conditions that individuals have these best use freedom of choice.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gases , incentive taxes can also have a double or even triple positive effect ( double dividend hypothesis ):

Distribution of income

The income from the incentive tax (without HVF, see above) is paid out to all residents by the Swiss health insurance companies or offset against the health insurance premiums. Every person insured in Switzerland receives the same amount back (eco bonus principle, see also climate dividend ). The amount will be deducted from the health insurance premium. People who do not pay their insurance premium themselves receive the amount paid out. Since in Switzerland the entire population is required to have health insurance and the health insurers therefore have an up-to-date and complete register of residents, this solution was chosen.

The amount paid out depends on the amount of the annual income, although from 2010 only 2/3 of the income was reimbursed directly. A third financed climate-efficient building renovations (called partial purpose commitment).

  • Before 2010 it was 32 Swiss francs from the VOC tax .
  • In 2010, CHF 81.60 per capita was paid out (the income from 2008, 2009 and 2010 was bundled as a whole as an economic stimulus program and paid out early)
  • For 2011, CHF 48.60 was reimbursed,
  • For 2012, CHF 42.00.
  • In 2013 the redistribution of environmental taxes will be CHF 35.40.

The share of the economy in the CO 2 levy is returned to the employers via the AHV compensation funds in accordance with the applicable employee wages (Art. 5 BG 194610 on old-age and survivors' insurance) (workplace bonus). In 2011 the redistribution amount for every CHF 100,000 in wages and salaries was CHF 64.40. Companies that use fossil fuels efficiently , rely on renewable energies and employ a large number of staff benefit in particular . The aim is to relieve the work factor.

A total of around CHF 480 million will be available for redistribution, and in 2014 it is expected to be CHF 260 million for the building program.

Greenhouse gas balance

Switzerland tries to make the implementation of the political climate goals comprehensible, publishes a balance of the emitted carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for interested citizens: The CO 2 emissions from fuels were 6.6 percent lower than in 1990; the target of 8 percent will therefore not be achieved even if emissions trading is taken into account - the Climate Cent Foundation bought and deleted surplus certificates from the first trading period of Swiss emissions trading until 2012.

For emissions from fuels in the 2008–2012 period, taking into account the purchase of emission reduction certificates, the value is 14.7 percent lower than in 1990. For 2012, the Swiss federal administration estimates the total greenhouse gases to be around 51.5 million tonnes ( carbon dioxide , methane , nitrous oxide , various synthetic gases). This is around 2.5 percent less than in 1990 (then 52.8 million tons).

In 2020 it became clear that a large source of nitrous oxide had so far gone unnoticed: the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of the chemical and pharmaceutical company Lonza AG were around 600,000 tons of CO 2 equivalents higher than previously assumed.

Further incentive taxes in Switzerland

Extending incentive taxes to include nuclear energy has been proposed many times ( Greenpeace Switzerland , Green Party , Oebu (network for sustainable business)). After the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima in 2011, especially because the population had to bear the risk of nuclear accidents, including damage to health, and because of the long-term costs for disposal.

In individual cities and municipalities , local incentive taxes are reimbursed with an eco bonus. In the city of Basel, higher taxes on electricity have been offset for the last 20 years in order to encourage people to save electricity and at the same time restore social balance. The Basel Electricity Saving Fund (sfb) pays back around 65 francs to every private person once a year. Each company receives around half a percent of its wages as a workplace bonus .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Federal Act on Environmental Protection (Environmental Protection Act (USG)) of October 7, 1983 (as of December 30, 2003)
  2. Federal law of December 19, 1997 on a performance-based heavy vehicle tax (Heavy Vehicle Tax Act, SVAG)
  3. a b Martin Baur: Foundations for an ecological tax reform , Eidgenössische Finanzverwaltung (FFA), July 2012, accessed December 31, 2012. ( (PDF; 241 kB) ( Memento of the original from September 23, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: Der Archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this note. ) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. Ordinance on the incentive tax on volatile organic compounds (VOCV)
  5. a b c d The Federal Council: Federal law on the reduction of CO 2 emissions (CO 2 law). Status on January 1, 2013 ( online , PDF )
  6. Citizens start attacking the CO2 tax In: , April 15, 2018, accessed on April 16, 2018.
  7.  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  8. CO 2 emission on fuels
  9. Federal Office for the Environment Switzerland ( FOEN ): Page no longer available , search in web archives: CO2 tax on fuels will not be increased in 2009 , June 26, 2008.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  10. ^ FOEN-Switzerland: CO 2 levy on fuels will be increased in 2010 , June 19, 2009
  11. a b Federal Customs Administration FCA: Incentive tax on CO₂. Retrieved April 16, 2018 .
  12. Too high CO2 emissions from fuels - increase in the tax in 2018. Federal Office for the Environment , July 11, 2017, accessed on April 16, 2018 .
  13. Swiss Confederation: Ordinance of 30 November 2012 on the reduction of CO 2 emissions (CO 2 Ordinance) SR641.711
  14. ^ Neue Zürcher Zeitung, CO 2 levy , November 30, 2012.
  15. greenpeace: commentary-on-the-resolution-of-the-national-council-on-the-co2-law-revision: expansion to petrol and diesel 2012
  16. Oebu: Consultation on the CO 2 Ordinance , 2012 ( Memento of the original from April 16, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  17. Tenants, homeowners, drivers, frequent fliers - this is how the CO2 Act works , Fabian Schäfer, NZZ 23 September 2019
  18. Substance positive list: 1 and 2
  19. a b c d Page no longer available , search in web archives: FOEN: Redistribution of the CO 2 charge , January 7, 2013 , accessed January 8, 2013. @1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  20. Tages-Anzeiger: 80 francs per person from CO2 tax
  21. 2012 CO 2 target not achieved: CO 2 tax on fuels will be increased in 2014 ,, July 3, 2013, accessed October 1, 2013.
  22. Christian Steiner: air Empty emissions trading . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . May 1, 2014 ( ).
  23. FOEN: Greenhouse gas emissions from the Swiss industrial sector higher than assumed. In: February 10, 2020, accessed March 19, 2020 .
  24. Thomas Niederberger, Greenpeace Switzerland: Ecological Tax? OK. But which? , May 1, 2012  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  25. Oebu 2012 ( Memento of the original from April 16, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed December 29, 2012. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  26. Basel-Stadt, Office for Environment and Energy , accessed on April 5, 2016