Capital gains tax and professional investor status

I understand that capital gains in Switzerland are tax free providing the authorities do not determine you are a “professional investor”. According to there are 5 criteria to meet, one of which is:

Capital gains generated through securities trading do not account for a significant portion of your basic income. The rule of thumb: Capital gains should account for less than 50 percent of your net income.

It seems that this rule could be easy to break if one funds FI by selling parts of an ETF portfolio. Does anyone have experience with this rule? Is it rigorously enforced or will the authorities look at someone in such a situation and decide that slowly selling assets isn’t a professional trader, at least in spirit?

It seems that this rule could be easy to break if one funds FI by selling parts of an ETF portfolio.

That would imply an unsustainable >4% withdrawal rate

Is it rigorously enforced

No, enforcement is fairly rare. From what I hear they’re targetting more options and day traders rather than buy&hold crowd


Surely this depends on the size of the pot? If one had a pot of 2M CHF a 4% withdrawal rate is 80k CHF/year. Depending on how much additional income one has from dividends etc the capital gains could comprise > 50% income. Or is there something fundamental I’m missing here?

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What you’re missing is that the typical dividend yield is 2% per year, and you will pay tax on it. So additional 2% from sales will not be enough to trigger that rule.

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No, on the size of dividends. They are about 2% now, if this makes up less than 50% of your yearly income+gains, it would imply you made another 2+% by selling stocks, or over 4% withdrawal in total.

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Just one thing as an afterthought: im pretty sure the 4% rule applies to the initial savings at reaching FIRE. So I can imagine that when the markets shrink by 50%, then 4% might not be enough, so you need to sell more.

Otherwise i could tell you that each year you can withdraw 99% of what you have left, and youre mathematically guaranteed never to run out of money :wink:

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Got it. I suspected dividends would play into this but I’m still trying to figure much of this stuff out.

Yes, obviously :wink:

Putting the withdrawal rate and proportion of dividends to capital gains aside (different topic).

Does anyone have a secure source whether early retirees would be treated as pro traders if capital gains are 50% of their income?

In comparaison to other countries, Swiss tax laws can be interpreted. Depending of the case, canton, tax office employee, a closed/similar situation could result of two different treatments.

Based on the custom until now, the likelyhood that a retire only selling ETF on a regular basis (non linked to the market condition) would be considered as a pro trader is low. If you have a legal insurance, you can always dispute the tax administration decision in court.

So, unfortunately, no secured source.


Than you for your summary of the Swiss approach. However, since it could have a 20-40% impact, its still a huge uncertainty for early retirees.

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Hey everyone! New member, long-term lurker (registered to ask exactly about this, smart forum function guided me here before posting…)

Regarding the question if somebody who is retired might face professional trader tax status and therefore be taxed on capital gains: I also read the relevant guidelines (Kreisschreiben 36) as such that living off your principal is an indication, but in no way would trigger that tax status.

Does anyone have any practical first/second-hand experience on this? Has anyone ever heard details of any professional trader ruling at all? Seems to be extremely rare to find anyone with that status in general…


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I know one guy who’s algorithmic options trader and he got the status.

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I recently met a guy who was assigned this status. To put things into perspective, he had the following profile:

  • 8000+ transactions per year
  • used a bot to trade
  • traded a lot of options
  • gains were significantly more than his annual income from his day job

The end result was that the capital gains were added on top of his regular income and he paid income tax on the whole sum.

He is the first one I’ve ever met (in person) to have a pro investor status. I think the average Mustachian need not worry about this.


You mean the capital gains of the trading, or also capital gains for his ETFs? Also, did he have to pay and social security stuff like AHV on top?

Do you know which canton the guy lives in?

I met someone who was also assigned the status in canton Schwyz three years ago. He was “just” trading options. No algorithms, no bot. I don’t know about the number of transactions, but from what he told me it was not crazy.

I’m not aware if he has/had ETFs or not or if he sold any during that year. To my knowledge it was only shares and options. I would assume all capital gains for that tax year were taxed the same. He was in Basel (not sure of BS or BL). He didn’t mention anything about AHV.

SZ is one of the tougher ones to my understanding. They may have favorable taxation for withdrawing your 2nd or 3rd pillar but are really strict when it comes to more active investing/trading or derivatives. If one were to really follow the letter of the law and challenge the SZ Steueramt, better make the options positions look like they are an insurance for an existing asset like some shares (this is a legit scenario which is explicitly mentioned by many cantons and from memory also at the Bund level).


Thanks for the update @LeStache. Much appreciated.

To my knowledge, that’s only possible by buying PUT options (which doesn’t earn you money). Selling PUTs to earn a side income is definitely not an insurance.

That’s still a tricky thing though. The tax office in BS will not care if AHV was paid or not, but if Ausgleichskasse gets the info about professional trader status, they might ask some questions.

Nevertheless, thank you very much for the update.

wow, I am really curious how he managed.

When discussing this topic, we need to account for the whole picture. the criteria provide only part of that.

I guess selling 10+ year old ETF shares won’t make you a professional investor, no matter how much you sell, because there is clearly no intention whatsoever to act professionally here.

But In the end, I find it quite daunting as well, to be depended on a random tax employee to determine that. As far as I know, you can call the tax office and write them an email with concrete numbers and they have to respond in a legally binding number.

(f. e. “Hello, I earned 30K in Dividends this year. I plan to sell 70K in stocks and realize 60K in capital gains. Are those 60K going to be taxed as ordinary income?”

But I believe that the situation will clear up more and more, since it is more common to invest in stocks. And prey that the left doesn’t oppose taxes on our already double- and tripple taxed wealth buildup.

Can you give us a reference here? Like what proportions?

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Actually it’s harder to answer because I can only assume what he makes in his day job. The ballpark for the trading gains was around 200kCHF.

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