February 16, 2023
Switzerland significantly increases safe harbor interest rates for 2023
Swiss safe harbor interest rates for 2023
On 7 and 8 February 2023, the SFTA published its annual Circular Letters concerning the safe harbor interest rates for loans to and from shareholders and related parties. The two Circular Letters (one for loans denominated in CHF and a separate one for loans denominated in foreign currencies) can be downloaded from the SFTA website:
Loans in CHF: German1, French2, Italian3
Loans in foreign currency: German4, French5, Italian6
2023 increase of minimum lending interest rates (equity financed)
Compared to last year, the following changes have been made:
2023 increase of minimum lending rates (debt financed)
For debt-financed loans granted by Swiss lenders, as per prior years the applicable minimum lending rate is the respective debt interest rate plus a margin of 0.50% (0.25% for the portion of loans above 10 million in CHF only) but not lower than the minimum safe harbor lending rate for equity financed loans in the respective currency (e.g., 1.50% for CHF).
2023 increase of maximum borrowing rates
The maximum borrowing rate is the minimum lending rate as shown above plus a spread. The published Circular Letters received the following updates:
These spreads are applicable irrespective of the currency of the loans. Compliance with the Swiss thin cap rules are nevertheless still to be adhered to.
Consequently, the 2023 Swiss safe harbor interest rates for CHF and the most common foreign currencies are as follows:
Different safe harbor interest rates are applicable to real estate loans denominated in CHF. See Circular Letter for loans in CHF.
The minimum lending interest rate for other currencies can be retrieved from the Circular Letter for foreign currencies (refer to last page of the PDF, column 2023 and the particular currency). See further below regarding the spread to be added to determine the maximum borrowing interest rate.
In general, Swiss tax authorities do not challenge the interest deduction and interest income at the level of a Swiss company if the published minimum interest rates for loan receivables and the published maximum borrowing interest rates for loan payables are adhered to.
The published Circular Letters specify that interest rates deviating from the safe harbor interest rates provided by the SFTA are accepted as long as the applied rates adhere to the arm's-length principle. In practice, such deviations are generally accepted by the Swiss tax authorities when taxpayers can provide supporting evidence. Appropriate transfer pricing analyses and corresponding documentation need to be available to demonstrate arm's-length terms and conditions.
Interest rates not at arm's-length result in adverse Swiss tax implications including:
It is strongly recommended to review and potentially adjust interest rates on loan transactions of a Swiss company with shareholders and related parties. The increased safe harbor interest rates generally allow higher interest deductions on payables of Swiss companies. For loans granted by Swiss companies, it should be ensured that the interest income is still in line with the minimum lending safe harbor interest rate or proper analysis and documentation is available to demonstrate the arm's length terms and conditions.
In addition, depending on the materiality of the loans taxpayers should seek an advanced tax ruling with the Swiss tax authorities (SFTA and cantonal tax authority) in order to confirm the arm's-length nature of the conditions and terms of the loans including typically the level of interest rate but also the applied spread and/or debt to equity ratios.
For additional information with respect to this Alert, please contact the following:
Ernst & Young LLP (United States), Switzerland Tax Desk
Ernst & Young Ltd, Zurich
Ernst & Young Ltd, Bern
Ernst & Young Ltd, Geneva