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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
In a recent decision on the ownership of inventions created with the involvement of universities, the new Federal Patent Court held that the university was not the (joint) owner of the patent, despite the fact that the professor participating in the invention had used the university's facilities for his contributions to the invention. The court held that there was no cantonal law conferring the rights of the professor to the university.
The Swiss Federal Council recently adopted a revision of health claims legislation in order to harmonise it with EU law. The revision is intended to prevent the creation of new barriers to trade and to provide consumers with the same information that is available in the European Union. The ban on health claims for slimming products has also been revoked.
In a series of recent cases the Opposition Board found a likelihood of confusion between trademarks for pharmaceutical products with phonetic similarities. In its decisions it took into account the fact that consumers usually purchase pharmaceutical products with a higher degree of attention.
Parliament has passed the Value Added Tax Act Reform Bill. Barring a referendum, this new legislation will completely replace the existing legislation and will introduce significant changes in key areas; businesses will have only a few months to prepare for the transition.
Rates of corporate income tax in Switzerland are low compared to those of some other European countries, making the jurisdiction an attractive location for multinational companies. The European Commission has recently formally challenged the cantonal corporate tax regimes, holding that they are in violation of Article 23 of the 1972 Free Trade Agreement between the European Economic Community and Switzerland.
In June 2006 a new federal law was passed governing the taxation, at both federal and cantonal level, of an indirect partial liquidation involving the sale of participations equal to 20% or more of the nominal share capital of the relevant company, and limiting the restricted period to a maximum of five years. The new law significantly improves the tax position of the seller and the purchaser.
Revisions to the Federal Stamp Duty Act entered into force on January 1 2006. Among other things, foreign resident corporations with shares listed on a recognized stock exchange and their foreign resident affiliates are exempt from the Swiss transfer stamp duty triggered on sales or purchases of taxable securities from a Swiss securities dealer or intermediated by a Swiss securities dealer.
The section on foundations of the Swiss Civil Code has been revised to take into account the importance of charities and not-for-profit institutions in Switzerland, as well as the corporate governance issues associated with their increasing importance and the value of the assets they manage. Some of these amendments also have an impact on the tax situation of the founders and donors.
Rising stock markets have seen a return of employee stock and stock option plans as a common part of compensation and incentive packages for executives and other highly compensated employees. A draft bill including revised rules on the taxation of benefits granted under employee incentive plans is pending in the second chamber of the Federal Parliament.
The Swiss-EU Savings Agreement provides for measures equivalent to those laid down in the EU Directive on the Taxation of Interest Payments and the EU Parent-Subsidiary Directive. The relief from withholding tax on dividends under the agreement will strengthen Switzerland's position as a location for holding companies and promote investment activity in the jurisdiction.