The federation of trade unions of canton Bern has launched an initiative for fair taxes for families. The center piece of their initiative: the abolition of the flat-rate tax, or Pauschalsteuer, which is paid by wealthy foreigners who reside in Switzerland. They are collecting signatures and hope for a vote in 2011.
Here in Saanenland this has caused an uproar, since it is here that most of the people who are eligible for this tax live. But it's not just the rich who are up in arms. Across the community in Saanenland, many are against the abolition of this rather unusual tax structure (at least when compared to other European countries). Simply put, it allows wealthy foreigners to pay a fixed rate of tax irrespective of often considerable income which is loosely based on the rental value of owned property (and the quality of your negotiation skills with the local authorities).
But despite seeming regressive and unfair, ordinary folks in Saanen are largely against the abolition of the tax as they fear an outflow of chalet owners and a halt in the inflow of those considering to move here. Indeed local businesses fear the loss of up to SFr 20 million from the local economy as well as the disappearance of 1,500 jobs. There was even a delegation from Saanenland in Bern the other day protesting to the powers that be not to endorse the abolition of the tax (photo album here).
It was also the topic of hot debate at a local town hall meeting in Saanen last week, where various ideas and compromises were discussed by community members, including the possibility of changing the formula for calculating the tax from today's level of five times the rental value of the owned property to 7 times. We'll keep you posted on this hottest of local topics. If your read German, check out some of the comments made by the people of Saanenland on our sister website Anzeiger von Saanen.