Calculation of the Voluntary Purchase

By volun­ta­ri­ly buy­ing into the pen­si­on fund*, you can clo­se a pen­si­on gap and save taxes at the same time. This arti­cle exp­lains when you can make a volun­ta­ry purcha­se, how the maxi­mum pos­si­ble pen­si­on fund purcha­se is cal­cu­la­ted, and what else you need to con­si­der.

*To sim­pli­fy mat­ters, we gene­ral­ly use the term “pen­si­on fund” in this arti­cle, alt­hough of cour­se other occup­a­tio­nal pen­si­on sche­mes are also meant (such as 1e collec­ti­ve foun­da­ti­ons).

When you have purchasing potential

To make purcha­ses, you must have a purcha­sing gap. Such gaps usual­ly occur in the 2nd pil­lar in the fol­lo­wing situa­tions:

  • You chan­ge your employ­er, which is affi­lia­ted with a pen­si­on fund that offers hig­her bene­fits or your sala­ry is incre­a­sed.  Then you will also pay more con­tri­bu­ti­ons to the second pil­lar. If you had always paid the hig­her con­tri­bu­ti­ons, you would have saved more reti­re­ment savings. You have purcha­sing poten­ti­al and can pay the dif­fe­rence by purcha­sing into the pen­si­on fund.
Einkaufslücke infolge Lohnerhöhung oder höhere Leistungen
Purcha­sing gap due to wage and bene­fit incre­a­ses
  • You have tem­pora­ri­ly not worked. The rea­sons can be dif­fe­rent: Star­ting a fami­ly, stu­dy­ing, ente­ring working life later, unem­ploy­ment or a trip around the world. If so, you have saved less than you could have saved. You are mis­sing con­tri­bu­ti­on mon­ths and/or years.
Fehlende Beitragsjahre
Mis­sing con­tri­bu­ti­on years

Special cases

Non-repaid WEF advan­ce with­dra­wals: Befo­re you are able to make a volun­ta­ry purcha­se, you must repay any with­dra­wals made under the Home Ownership Pro­mo­ti­on Pro­gram (WEF), regard­less of the pen­si­on fund in which you made the advan­ce with­dra­wal. A WEF repay­ment is pos­si­ble up to three years befo­re reti­re­ment, after which it is no lon­ger per­mit­ted.

You can rec­laim the tax paid on the WEF refe­rence after the refund. For the refund, you must sub­mit a writ­ten requ­est to the tax aut­ho­ri­ty that levied the tax. Important: The tax aut­ho­ri­ties do not act on their own initia­ti­ve. The right to a refund expi­res after three years from the date the WEF advan­ce pay­ment was repaid.

Divor­ce. In that case, you may have a divor­ce gap. In the event of a divor­ce, the assets saved during the mar­ria­ge or regi­stered part­nership are added tog­e­ther and divi­ded equal­ly. If you have saved more pen­si­on fund assets during your part­nership than your part­ner, you must pay out your part­ner. A divor­ce gap ari­ses in your pen­si­on plan. Befo­re you can make a volun­ta­ry purcha­se, you must clo­se this divor­ce gap.

Divor­ce gap

Both pay­ments are trea­ted equal­ly for tax pur­po­ses (clo­sing the divor­ce gap or volun­ta­ry purcha­se). You can deduct the pay­ment from the tax­able inco­me in your tax return.

Ear­ly reti­re­ment: Would you like to reti­re ear­lier? Then you have less time to save. Your reti­re­ment bene­fit will be cor­re­spon­din­gly lower. You can pre­vent this by pre­fi­nan­cing the mis­sing con­tri­bu­ti­on years. Howe­ver, whe­ther you can make use of this opti­on in your case depends on your pen­si­on fund. Plea­se refer to the pen­si­on fund regu­la­ti­ons. Ear­ly reti­re­ment should be regu­la­ted the­re.

Vorsorgelücke im Falle einer Frühpensionierung
Pen­si­on gap due to ear­ly reti­re­ment

If ear­ly reti­re­ment is sub­se­quent­ly wai­ved, the regu­la­to­ry bene­fits may exce­ed the bene­fit tar­get by a maxi­mum of five per­cent. Let’s assu­me you had a pro­jec­ted reti­re­ment savings of CHF 500,000 on ordi­na­ry reti­re­ment. Due to the plan­ned ear­ly reti­re­ment at the age of 62, a gap of 50,000 Swiss francs ope­ned up. You purcha­sed this amount. At the age of 62, you will, the­re­fo­re, reach the maxi­mum regu­la­to­ry bene­fits of 500,000 francs. If you nevertheless con­ti­nue to work until the regu­lar reti­re­ment age, the 500,000 francs may be exce­e­ded by a maxi­mum of 5 per­cent or 25,000 francs.

Important for your under­stan­ding: The actu­al amounts may dif­fer from this rule in indi­vi­du­al cases. Howe­ver, the pen­si­on plan must be struc­tu­red in such a way that the bene­fit tar­get is exce­e­ded by a maxi­mum of 5 per­cent. The pen­si­on fund regu­la­ti­ons con­tain various pro­vi­si­ons to ensu­re that the 5 per­cent rule is obser­ved: Employ­er and employee con­tri­bu­ti­ons are sus­pen­ded, the inte­rest is stop­ped and the con­ver­si­on rate is fro­zen. If the­se mea­su­res are not suf­fi­ci­ent, the funds are allo­ca­ted to the dis­po­sable assets of the foun­da­ti­on. Buy­ing into ear­ly reti­re­ment should, the­re­fo­re, be well-con­si­de­red, as you may suf­fer dis­ad­van­ta­ges if you wai­ve your enti­t­le­ment at a later date.

With 1e plans, things are a litt­le simp­ler: the maxi­mum purcha­se sum is cal­cu­la­ted on the basis of the con­tri­bu­ti­ons. The­se may not exce­ed 25 per­cent of the insu­red sala­ry per pos­si­ble con­tri­bu­ti­on year. If ear­ly reti­re­ment is sub­se­quent­ly wai­ved, con­tri­bu­ti­ons are sus­pen­ded.

Calculation of the purchasing potential

As descri­bed in the pre­vious chap­ter, the­re are dif­fe­rent cir­cum­stan­ces that can lead to a purcha­sing gap. And alt­hough the­re are dif­fe­rent rea­sons, the gap its­elf is always cal­cu­la­ted iden­ti­cal­ly. Your cur­rent pen­si­on assets are com­pa­red with the assets you could have saved up in the best case:

Purchasing potential

You will find the cur­rent reti­re­ment assets in the pen­si­on state­ment of your pen­si­on fund. The maxi­mum regu­la­to­ry bene­fits are cal­cu­la­ted as fol­lows (high­ly sim­pli­fied for­mu­la for illu­stra­ti­on pur­po­ses)

Con­tri­bu­ti­on years x
savings con­tri­bu­ti­ons in % x
cur­rent insu­red sala­ry + (inte­rest and com­po­und inte­rest)

An inte­rest rate of 1.5 % to 2 % is accep­ted for tax pur­po­ses (gol­den rule). In the case of 1e plans, the­re is no com­po­un­ding of inte­rest, as the Super­vi­so­ry Com­mis­si­on cla­ri­fied on 8 April 2020.

The dif­fe­rence bet­ween the maxi­mum pos­si­ble reti­re­ment assets based on the cal­cu­la­ti­on for­mu­la and the cur­rent reti­re­ment assets cor­re­sponds to the purcha­sing poten­ti­al. You can often find the maxi­mum amount of a volun­ta­ry purcha­se in your pen­si­on state­ment.

  • Maxi­mum regu­la­to­ry bene­fits
  • - Cur­rent pen­si­on assets
  • = Purcha­sing poten­ti­al

Reductions

With the sup­port of the 1st pil­lar, the 2nd pil­lar aims to enab­le you to main­tain your accu­sto­med stan­dard of living in the third pha­se of your life. The fol­lo­wing deduc­tions are inten­ded to pre­vent you from exce­e­ding the bene­fit tar­get with a volun­ta­ry purcha­se:

Special case of migration from abroad

If you have moved to Switz­er­land from abroad and have never been a mem­ber of a Swiss pen­si­on fund befo­re, you may purcha­se a maxi­mum of 20 per­cent of the insu­red sala­ry during the first five years. Unless you trans­fer pen­si­on assets acqui­red abroad from a for­eign occup­a­tio­nal bene­fits sche­me to a Swiss pen­si­on insti­tu­ti­on. Howe­ver, the trans­fer is not tax-deduc­ti­ble.

Blocking period of 3 years for advance and capital withdrawals

Prevention of tax avoidance

The legis­la­tor allo­ws the purcha­se of 2nd pil­lar bene­fits to clo­se a pen­si­on gap. It pro­mo­tes the clo­sing of such a gap by allo­wing the purcha­se sum to be deduc­ted from tax­able inco­me. This tax saving is hig­her than the tax you pay when you with­draw your capi­tal (capi­tal with­dra­wal tax). To pre­vent the 2nd pil­lar from being misus­ed for tax arbi­tra­ge tran­sac­tions, the legis­la­tor has taken a pre­cau­tio­na­ry mea­su­re:

If you make a volun­ta­ry purcha­se, a blocking peri­od for capi­tal with­dra­wals is acti­va­ted. During this peri­od, you may not with­draw any reti­re­ment assets in the form of capi­tal. The blocking peri­od is three years. It begins on the day of purcha­se and ends three years later to the day. Assu­ming you make a volun­ta­ry purcha­se on Sep­tem­ber 15, 2019, the vesting peri­od will expi­re on Sep­tem­ber 15, 2022. Two full tax peri­ods are affec­ted by the restric­tion.

3‑year blocking peri­od after a volun­ta­ry purcha­se

Both the advan­ce with­dra­wals (WEF, self-employ­ment, emi­gra­ti­on) and the lump-sum with­dra­wal on reti­re­ment are affec­ted by the blocking peri­od. Only if you recei­ve a pen­si­on on reti­re­ment ins­tead of the lump sum, the vesting peri­od does not app­ly. As an alter­na­ti­ve to an advan­ce with­dra­wal from the WEF, it is gene­ral­ly and spe­ci­fi­cal­ly pos­si­ble to pledge the reti­re­ment assets during the blocking peri­od. Pledge is also pos­si­ble without restric­tion during the blocking peri­od.

Which pension assets are affected by the blocking period

In its ruling of March 12, 2010, the Federal Supre­me Court defi­ned which pen­si­on assets are affec­ted by the blocking peri­od. This cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on was necessa­ry becau­se rea­ding the wor­d­ing of the law (Art. 79b para. 3 BVG) one might think that only the purcha­se sum would be affec­ted by the blocking peri­od. Howe­ver, this is not the case: The enti­re 2nd pil­lar pen­si­on capi­tal is blocked for three years, regard­less of the pen­si­on fund with which it is held.

If you do not com­ply with the reten­ti­on peri­od and make a capi­tal with­dra­wal during this peri­od, the tax aut­ho­ri­ties will initia­te an after-tax pro­ce­du­re. The tax with­held at that time will be retroac­tively off­set against your tax lia­bi­li­ty. The dif­fe­rence bet­ween the tax that you paid and the tax that you would have had to pay without the deduc­tion will be char­ged to you retroac­tively.

Exception Closure of divorce gap

The­re is no blocking peri­od after the re-purcha­se to clo­se a gap in the divor­ce sett­le­ment.  Capi­tal with­dra­wals wit­hin the fol­lo­wing three years are gene­ral­ly pos­si­ble.  Howe­ver, the Federal Supre­me Court’s ruling of July 18, 2016 reser­ves the right to review tax avo­id­ance. Such tax avo­id­ance was estab­lished in the fol­lo­wing case: 14 years after the divor­ce, an insu­red per­son made a purcha­se to cover a gap in the divor­ce sett­le­ment. He finan­ced the purcha­se by taking out a loan from his mother. Two years later he with­drew the capi­tal and pres­um­a­b­ly repaid the loan. In this spe­ci­fic case, the re-purcha­se to clo­se the gap in the divor­ce sett­le­ment was not accep­ted and was sub­se­quent­ly off­set. It is obvious that the insu­red only wan­ted to make a tax deal with the purcha­se and later redemp­ti­on.

Notes

  • If your tax domic­i­le is not in Switz­er­land or the­re is no regu­lar taxa­ti­on, the deduc­ti­bi­li­ty and effects of purcha­ses must be care­ful­ly exami­ned.
  • Purcha­ses can­not be rever­sed. Purcha­ses may only be rever­sed on the inst­ruc­tions of the tax aut­ho­ri­ties.
  • Alt­hough we have care­ful­ly rese­ar­ched this arti­cle, we can­not gua­ran­tee that it is com­ple­te, cor­rect and up-to-date.

In ano­t­her arti­cle we look into the que­sti­on of when it makes sen­se to buy into the pen­si­on fund volun­ta­ri­ly.