7 stumbling blocks for property gains tax

Die 7 häufigsten Stolpersteine bei der Grundstückgewinnsteuer

  1. Steuerwissen ist erforderlich zur Auslegung und Berechnung der Grundstückgewinnsteuer
  2. Erfahrung mit der lokalen bzw. kantonalen Eigenheit des Steuergesetzes
    1. Zürich
    2. Aargau
    3. Bern
    4. St. Gallen
    5. Luzern
    6. Graubünden
  3. Abzüge für Kosten beim Verkauf
  4. Dokumentation der Anlagekosten
  5. Frist verpasst
  6. Fristerstreckung nicht eingereicht
  7. Steuerberatung für die Grundstückgewinnsteuer ist schwierig zu finden und kann sehr teuer sein

Tax knowledge for the calculation of property gains tax

Die Grundstückgewinnsteuer wurde auf Bundesebene gesetzlich eingeführt. Bei der Berechnung gelten für Privatpersonen jedoch kantonale Gesetze, die entsprechendes Steuerwissen erfordern. Oft sind die Berechnungen an komplexe, teils mehrstufige Regelwerke und Steuersätze gebunden. In einigen Kantonen hat auch die Standortgemeinde einen Einfluss auf die Steuerberechnung.

Fill in the property gains tax online

Die wenigsten Kantone kennen einen Prozess um die Steuererklärung für den Grundstückgewinn online auszufüllen. Im Kanton Aargau behilft man sich mit einer Papierlösung, die jedoch sehr schlank gehalten ist. Es empfiehlt sich, Varianten in einem Rechenblatt (xls / Excel, o.ä.) einzugeben und das finale Ergebnis auf das Formular zu kopieren. In Bern wird ebenfals Papier verschickt, wobei dort sogar eine 2-seitige und eine detaillierte 4-seitige Variante existieren, also ein komplizierter Prozess und eine nicht ganz einfache Berechnung. Im Kanton Zürich gibt es Formulare, die auch als pdf verfügbar sind. Je nach Gemeinde gibt es kleine Unterschiede (im wesentlichen zwischen Stadt und Land).

Kantonale Eigenheiten der Grundstückgewinnsteuer

For private individuals, property gains tax is levied as a special tax in the canton and the municipality when the house or apartment is sold. The tax is therefore due when the profit is realized. The principle follows the federal law and is the same in all cantons: the shorter the period of ownership, the higher the tax. Taxes can therefore be saved primarily by extending or optimizing the holding period. In addition, the tax can also be progressive, i.e. the higher the absolute profit, the higher the tax rate will be.

Where is the property gains tax payable?

Property gains tax is always payable where the property is located.

Mail from the tax office of other cantons

Accordingly, taxpayers also receive mail from the tax office of the respective canton, city or municipality where the property is located. This is often not the canton of residence (in the case of inheritances, investment properties, vacation homes, moving between cantons or abroad).

Canton of Zurich

In the canton of Zurich, the property gains tax is normally between 5% and 40%. If the holding period is very short, a malus is applied which increases the rate to 1.5 times the normal maximum rate, i.e. 60% of the total property gain in absolute terms!

The tax rate is designed to be progressive, which means that less tax has to be paid on smaller gains for the same holding period. The tax progression already reaches the maximum rate for property gains in excess of CHF 100,000. In practice, this means for most people that maximum tax rates are to be expected as soon as the share of profit exceeds CHF 100,000.

Example calculation for property gains tax in the canton of Zurich:

Holding period in yearsTax rate for 100,000 property gainsTax rate for 1 million property gains
< 1 year44.1%58.4%
< 2 years36.8%48.7%
< 5 years29.4%38.9%
> 5 years27.9%37.0%
> 10 years23.5%31.2%
> 15 years19.1%25.3%
> 20 years14.7%19.5%

Quelle: Steuergesetz Kanton ZH, StG 225, eigene Berechnungen

As can be seen, the tax rates are approaching the limits of 20% and 60% for high profits and long and short holding periods respectively.

Regardless of the amount of profit, we recommend that you use the staggered tax planning at an early stage to optimize your taxes. In addition to saving on taxes, financing (mortgage exit, the usually high early repayment penalty) and the sales order can also be carried out more cheaply.

Property gains tax in the city of Zurich

In principle, the cantonal requirements also apply in the city of Zurich. Due to the high number of property changes in the city, the process in the city of Zurich can take longer and require close cooperation with the tax office. You can find more simple tax tips for Zurich in this article.

Property gains tax in the city of Winterthur

The tax tips for the city of Winterthur can be found here.

City of Uster

The City of Uster refers taxpayers directly to the cantonal electronic form for the property gains tax return. This is also sent in paper form with the assessment.

Canton of Aargau

In the canton of Aargau, property gains tax is handled by the tax office in the municipalities. The 4-page property gains tax return provides detailed information on deductions and the reduction in the tax rate from 40% to 5% over a holding period of 25 years. The tax rate is proportional.

Canton of Berne

In the canton of Berne, the cantonal tax administration is responsible for the property gains tax return. A reduction in the tax rate begins from the 5th year of the holding period and amounts to 2% per year, up to a maximum of 70%. If the duration is less than 5 years, a surcharge is applied (10% – 70%).

Tax rates in the canton of Bern are progressive and the cantonal, municipal and parish tax is multiplied by an investment factor, which makes the calculation quite complicated.


A reformed family sells their city apartment in Bern after the children move out and makes a gross profit of CHF 200,000 after 20 years. The taxable profit is therefore reduced by 40% (= 20 x 2%). The investment and tax rate calculation results in a property gains tax due of CHF 36,312 (effective tax rate of 18.2%).

Quelle: taxme

Save property gains tax: With a correctly completed property gains tax return, further investment costs and investments in the apartment and condominium can be claimed within 20 years. Experience shows that such situations result in a profit reduction of CHF 40,000 – 60,000, which corresponds to a tax saving of around CHF 9,000. The savings automatically increase accordingly with higher profits due to the progression of the tax rate.

Canton of St. Gallen

In the canton of St. Gallen, property gains tax applies from an amount of CHF 2,200. It has a progressive structure and increases to a simple tax rate of 10% for profits in excess of CHF 600,000. The simple tax rate for the property gains tax is to be multiplied by the tax rate, for example 335%.

Holding period

For a holding period of less than 5 years, a very small surcharge of 1% per year applies by cantonal standards. From the age of 15, a reduction of 1% – 1.5% applies with a maximum of 20% – 40.5%, depending on the amount of winnings.

For owner-occupied properties and properties owned for more than 20 years, special provisions apply with regard to the tax rate and calculation of investment costs.

Canton of Lucerne

In the canton of Lucerne, a tax-free amount of CHF 13,000 applies. The progressive tax is linked to the income tax rate (“per unit”), and the rate for single persons always applies. The current maximum tax rate is 5.8%. The tax rate of 4.2 applies equally to all Lucerne municipalities.

Holding period

Holding periods of less than 6 years are subject to a holding period surcharge of 10% per year of shortened holding period. An ownership discount of 1% per year applies from 8 years up to a maximum of 25%.

Kanton Graubünden

In the canton of Graubünden, the property gains tax ranges between 5% and 15%. Here too, the holding period determines the amount of tax.

A period of 90 days is granted for processing and the submission is made using special software.

In connection with vacation homes and the status of a secondary residence, the permanent and main residence must be carefully considered when it comes to the deferral of property gains tax.

Abzüge für Verkaufskosten

Obvious costs such as the insertion of a property or sales advice can be deducted as sales expenses in most cantons. Notary fees are also incurred on the sale. However, there are also hidden costs, such as the early repayment penalty, which can be deducted from taxable profit.

Berechnung der Anlagekosten

These costs, which reduce profits, are also easy to add up in theory. In practice, however, investments are often forgotten, it is unclear whether they are not maintenance costs, or there is no evidence of value-enhancing investments.

Dokumentation der Anlagekosten gemäss Wegleitung

On this point, it is worth having a discussion with the tax authorities before the assessment in order to achieve the maximum. In this way, clarity can be created or a compromise can be found for investments with room for interpretation. This is often underestimated because every property and every construction project is unique and must be understood by tax authorities as a whole. If this is only noticed later, an objection must be lodged, which rarely leads to success.

Deductions for investments are the most costly stumbling blocks for property gains tax. Depending on the property to be sold, documents have to be viewed one by one.

Einschätzung des ursprünglichen Kaufpreises

In the case of old properties, the taxpayer benefits from a long holding period, but the purchase price was often relatively low and the property gains tax is correspondingly high.

Most laws provide options for determining the prime costs. It is important to calculate all these options and choose the most favorable one. Inheritance and legal succession also play a role here.

The assessment of investment costs is also a critical stumbling block for property gains tax.

Keine Fristen verpassen

The submission deadline in most cantons is 30 days. In many tax cases, however, it is not possible to meet this deadline, as the effort required for documentation is considerable or documents have to be requested from tradesmen or authorities.

Fristerstreckung bei der Grundstückgewinnsteuer

An extension can always be requested for the deadline for property gains tax. This does not have to be justified.

If the deadline is not met, a deadline extension is submitted too late or a repeated deadline extension is requested, this can lead to further fees, penalties and ultimately to an assessment on the land register files known to the tax office.

Steuerberatung für die Grundstückgewinnsteuer ist schwierig zu finden und kann sehr teuer sein

For private individuals, selling a house or apartment is a major event that often takes place between life stages or coincides with other personal events.

As the focus is on the property sale and the property gains tax is often ignored, the short-term search for a tax advisor is often difficult and it is unclear what costs this in turn entails. At Simpletax, the prices for property gains tax returns are known in advance and tax advice can also be obtained as a non-existing client. Another advantage for existing clients is that the declaration of the property is already documented for the regular taxes.

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property gains tax

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