Walder Wyss is one of the most successful Swiss commercial law firms. Our clients include national and international companies, publicly held corporations and family businesses as well as public law institutions and private persons.
The Federal Council recently announced its intentions to resume the temporarily suspended Swiss withholding tax reform and set out the general framework to introduce a paying agent tax system with regard to interest payments. However, as the Federal Council's communication did not contain any details, it remains to be seen how the reform will be set out in the draft bill expected in Autumn 2019 and how it will affect paying agents and investors.
Swiss voters recently approved a new corporate tax reform, which will set the basis for new rules on Swiss corporate taxation and secure and enhance Switzerland's overall attractiveness as a business location. The reform includes a patent box, an R&D super deduction and a notional interest deduction for high-tax cantons. There are also substantial non-tax (revenue-raising) measures and new provisions on social security contributions.
Welcome relaxation of Swiss withholding tax rules on foreign bonds guaranteed by Swiss parent companySwitzerland | 22 February 2019
The Swiss Federal Tax Administration recently relaxed its practice under which bonds that are issued by foreign resident issuers, but guaranteed by their Swiss resident parent company, are requalified as domestic issuances which trigger Swiss withholding tax on interest payments. The revised rules significantly increase the permissible use of proceeds in Switzerland.
The Swiss Federal Tax Administration recently published the 2019 safe haven interest rates to be used on intra-group loans. Against this backdrop, this article provides an overview of the relevant Swiss tax rules associated with determining whether intra-group financing constitutes equity or debt for tax purposes and the consequences of each characterisation.
In the context of the bill on the Federal Act on Tax Reform and AHV Financing, the Swiss Federal Tax Administration recently announced that, as of 1 January 2019, it will abstain from granting rulings which safeguard the tax privileges of new principal companies and finance branches. Existing rulings for these regimes will no longer be valid after 1 January 2020 as part of the overall Swiss tax reform.
The Swiss Parliament has approved the revised version of Tax Proposal 17, a proposal for corporate tax reform. The new proposal aims to set the basis for new rules on Swiss corporate tax (the last proposal having been rejected in a nationwide referendum) and secure and enhance Switzerland's overall attractiveness as a business location.
The Council of States recently issued a revised version of Tax Proposal 17, a proposal for corporate tax reform. The new proposal is based on the government's March 2017 proposal and aims to set the basis for new rules on Swiss corporate tax (the last proposal having been rejected in a nationwide referendum in February 2017) and secure and enhance Switzerland's overall attractiveness as a business location. Under the proposal, Switzerland will repeal the existing special corporate tax regimes.
Switzerland and Brazil recently signed a double taxation agreement, which is a major achievement for both countries and has been a long-standing demand of the private sector. The new agreement will significantly increase Switzerland's attractiveness for Latin American investments and provide investors with legal certainty in tax matters.
The government has adopted Tax Proposal 17, a new proposal for corporate tax reform. The purpose of this new proposal is to set the basis for new rules on Swiss corporate taxation and to secure and enhance Switzerland's overall attractiveness as a business location. Under Tax Proposal 17, Switzerland will repeal the existing special corporate tax regimes. As opposed to the proposal that was rejected in February 2017, the current proposal appears to have attracted wider political support.
Switzerland has become a major hub for initial coin offerings (ICOs). Yet to date, there has been little clarity about the resulting tax implications. Recent discussions and tax ruling negotiations with representatives of several tax authorities in Switzerland have provided more clarity on the tax implications of ICOs, at least regarding tokens issued by Swiss companies raising funds under the promise of a participation in future revenues.
The government recently published a new detailed draft for a corporate tax reform. The purpose of this new draft is to set the basis for new rules on corporate tax (the last proposal having been rejected in a nationwide referendum) and to secure Switzerland's overall attractiveness as a business location. The draft includes several measures that have been discussed in the past, but it also addresses the criticism that contributed to the rejection in the February referendum.
Securitisation & Structured Finance
In recent years, the number of publicly placed and listed securitisation transactions in the car leasing and credit card sectors has increased significantly. The driving force behind this development is economic rather than legislative, as Swiss law places no specific restrictions on asset classes eligible for securitisation. However, compliance with certain Swiss legal concepts is crucial when setting up a securitisation transaction involving Swiss law-governed receivables.
A key consideration for any investor or rating agency is the insolvency analysis of a securitisation transaction. In this context, the insolvency remoteness of the special purpose vehicle is a decisive element. Another important consideration are the circumstances under which a securitisation transaction may be set aside in the context of an insolvency proceeding. This article focuses on the avoidance actions set out in the federal Debt Enforcement and Bankruptcy Act.
Switzerland has no specific securitisation legislation. Therefore, securitisation transactions are subject to the general legal framework that applies to all other financial transactions with respect to, among others, both corporate law and regulatory matters. This article provides a short overview of certain company-related aspects to consider when setting up a special purpose vehicle structure for a securitisation transaction in Switzerland.
The Swiss securitisation market is highly active and attractive for both issuers and investors. However, Switzerland has not enacted any specific securitisation legislation. Therefore, securitisation transactions are subject to the general legal framework that applies to any other type of financial transaction. This article provides a short overview of several regulatory aspects to consider when setting up a securitisation transaction in Switzerland.
The Swiss securitisation market has developed steadily and successfully in recent years, attracting various issuers for both private and public transactions. Many of these issuers have become constant issuers on the Swiss market, which remains active and driven by the still low (or negative) interest environment. Specifically, recent notable activity has concerned auto-lease assets and credit cards, mortgage assets and the asset-backed security market environment.
The ongoing disruption of credit and capital markets is urging banks to pursue refinancing solutions that have rarely been used in the past or that have previously been used in a different context. A recent transaction shows that the mortgage bond system might become an efficient refinancing tool in situations where a secured refinancing transaction is difficult to structure or an off-balance sheet securitization is not possible.
The use of operating company ('opco') and property company ('propco') structures has recently become increasingly common in the Swiss lending and securitization market. Using these structures often leads to more efficient and less expensive financing. This update outlines some of the most significant features and issues related to setting up an opco/propco structure.
A provision of the Swiss Merger Act facilitates a transfer of assets from the originator to the securitization vehicle in a securitization transaction. Although some issues require clarification, the new transaction method will in most cases facilitate the transfer of a portfolio consisting of a large number of agreements, particularly with regard to the third-party consent required for such a transfer.
Switzerland has recently seen a major increase in both origination and securitization activity in the commercial real estate market. It is expected that this year will see another increase in commercial mortgage-backed securitization (CMBS) transactions, and that future multi-jurisdictional and pan-European deals including Swiss assets will be conducted.
The Swiss Federal Banking Commission is consulting on its Position Paper on the Applicability of the Investment Fund Law to Structured Products and Other Finance Vehicles. The paper asserts that structured finance products have evolved to the point that they have become publicly offered substitutes for regulated investment funds; therefore, they should be regulated as investment funds.
Tech, Data, Telecoms & Media
On 1 January 2020 the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority implemented various revised rules primarily targeting small banks (the so-called 'small banks regime'). Among other aspects, this will result in a relaxation of IT outsourcing requirements for financial institutions. The amendments are positive and a step in the right direction, as they will allow financial institutions to enjoy more leeway to benefit from IT outsourcing services.
While many countries have introduced far-reaching obligations to report cyber incidents, Switzerland has not yet followed this lead. However, the Federal Council recently adopted a report which considers key issues with regard to the introduction of a general reporting obligation for operators of critical infrastructure. The report also discusses possible implementation models.
The Federal Council recently adopted a dispatch message to improve the legal framework governing distributed ledger technologies (DLT) in Switzerland. The Federal Council's objective is to increase legal certainty, remove obstacles to DLT-based applications and limit the risk of abuse. The Swiss parliament will examine the dispatch message in early 2020.
In view of the media industry's ostensibly democratic and political role, the Federal Council has decided to adopt effective and feasible support measures. These measures will be implemented by adapting existing laws and incorporating online media into the scope of the Federal Act on Radio and Television. However, the plan to create a new Electronic Media Act has been abandoned.
The Supreme Court of the Canton of Zurich recently clarified that employers must clearly regulate the private use of work communication devices, as well as any related control mechanisms. Further, data processing such as verifying WhatsApp chat messages – even if the information is stored on a work mobile phone – must be done in accordance with the more restrictive Article 328b of the Code of Obligations.
The Federal Council recently adopted a plan to implement the national strategy to protect Switzerland against cyber risks until 2022 and took additional steps towards the establishment of a cybersecurity competence centre. Work is also underway to develop a cyber-defence campus and strengthen capabilities relating to information acquisition and allocation.
The Federal Council recently launched the consultation process on the preliminary draft of the new Federal Act on the Protection of Minors in respect of Films and Video Games (Youth Protection Act). The Youth Protection Act, which will comprehensively regulate the protection of minors and close existing legislative gaps, is embedded in a complex set of ongoing legal revisions in a national and international context.
The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled that internet access providers are not liable for third-party websites and portals that make movies available for illegal downloading or streaming. Further, internet access providers are not obliged to monitor or block access to such websites and portals.
The Federal Council recently announced its intention to create a cybersecurity competence centre to provide a one-stop national point of contact for all cybersecurity issues. The plan is a response to requests from Parliament and the business community and is a step towards implementing Switzerland's national strategy for protecting against cyber risks.
In June 2018 the Federal Council issued a preliminary draft of the new Electronic Media Act (EMA), which aims to ensure that media content continues to meet high journalistic standards following profound changes in media use over the past decade. This article explores the highlights of the pre-draft EMA, which will replace the current Federal Act on Radio and Television.
The Federal Council recently adopted a new open government data strategy for providing the public with free access to government data. From 2020 onwards, all government data will gradually be made available for free and in a computer-friendly format. The strategy aims to strengthen transparency, accountability and innovation. With a centralised source of information and appropriate support for data users such as researchers and creators, Switzerland will remain an important innovative hub.
The Federal Council recently adopted a new Digital Switzerland strategy for the next two years. The new strategy replaces the 2016 strategy and, like its predecessor, aims to prioritise the government's efforts in the digital realm. The new strategy places a stronger focus on initiatives relating to artificial intelligence and smart cities, smart villages and smart regions. It also addresses topics ranging from digitalisation in the transport and energy sectors to e-government and cyber risks.
The Federal Office for National Economic Supply recently published the Minimum Standard for Improving ICT Resilience, together with a self-assessment tool. Compliance with this standard should allow organisations to successfully fend off cyberattacks and mitigate cyber-risks. The standard follows a similar structure to the US Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework.
In a recent press release, the Federal Communications Commission (ComCom), jointly with the Federal Office of Communications (OfCom), launched the 5G radio frequency awards process. On behalf of ComCom, OfCom will auction several frequency spectrum blocs, which will be licenced for 15 years. These frequencies are important for the introduction of 5G technology in Switzerland and similar auction processes have already taken place or are under way in other jurisdictions.
A revised version of the federal Ordinance on Internet Domains recently entered into force. It gives the responsible registries the possibility of temporarily blocking the top-level domain names '.ch' and '.swiss' where they are being used for phishing or malware activities. In addition, anti-cybercrime services can request that registries block the domain names. However, these services require prior recognition from the Swiss Federal Office of Communications.
The Federal Council recently announced that the revised Postal and Telecommunications Surveillance Act and its implementing ordinances will enter into force in March 2018. The revised act clarifies, strengthens and broadens the powers of the criminal prosecution authorities when it comes to communications surveillance. More specifically, it seeks to prevent situations where criminal suspects could avoid surveillance by using new technologies.
Switzerland is in the process of adopting legislation on electronic identification. The Federal Council published a preliminary draft e-ID Act and opened it for consultation by any interested actors. The Federal Council recently shared the consultation findings and commissioned the Federal Department of Justice and Police to prepare a revised draft act by Summer 2018.
The Federal Council recently issued a draft of the revised Federal Data Protection Act. This draft marks yet another decisive step towards the overhaul of the Swiss data protection landscape. The act's revision is an ongoing process intended to modernise Switzerland's data protection landscape and align it with revised EU legislation.