On Sunday Swiss voters turned out to overwhelmingly reject a ballot initiative to introduce a federal inheritance tax. Opposed by 71 percent of voters, the initiative would have created a 20 percent tax on inheritances over 2 million Swiss francs ($2.2 million).
Proposed as a way to invigorate the shrinking economy, the tax would have potentially affected the majority of the country’s workforce. The businesses that would bear the brunt of the tax, small and midsize firms, employ 80 percent of Swiss workers.
Swiss Businesses, the Swiss cabinet, and both houses of Parliament urged voters to reject the ballot measure, describing the initiative as an effective double-tax that would cripple over 7,000 small businesses and threaten nearly 12,000 jobs per year.
With some estimations ranging up to a 40 million franc tax-bill, Swiss small-business owners raised concerns over how their family members would be able to afford the tax while maintaining their businesses. For many family-owned operations, the money needed to pay the tax is tied up in the company.
Supporters of the proposal suggested that revenue from the tax should go to Switzerland’s social-security system. Advocates for the initiative estimated that the tax would generate 3 billion francs annually. Currently four of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, similar to U.S. states, impose a tax on heirs who inherit funds from a parent.
Nebraska, Iowa, Kentucky, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania are the only states in the U.S. with an inheritance tax. New Jersey and Maryland are the only states that impose an inheritance tax and an estate tax on residents.