Leaving CH for country with capital gains tax: how to plan?

There is a fairly high probability that I move from Switzerland to a country that has capital gains tax on non-real estate assets. Due to some new career opportunities, this may occur sooner rather than later (although I am not feeling excited about the prospect of leaving Switzerland as I love it here). How should one manage assets knowing such a move is possible?

One consideration is that in the countries I could move to, real estate is king and buying a home would make sense there as real estate capital gains are tax-free (on primary residence) and my time horizon for selling the house would be 10+ years (I should add here, it is not the USA). In Switzerland, buying a home doesn’t really make sense for me in the medium-term if I stay so I don’t consider it in my asset allocation.

I try to think in probabilistic, risk-management terms, so let’s say there’s a 33% chance I leave CH next year to a place where I will buy a house. At the moment, my instinct is to ramp down the risk and hold more cash/bonds than I normally would (or, e.g., switch main ETF holding from VWRL to VMVL), but this could be detrimental in the long term. Normally, I aim for 5/25/70 (cash/bonds/stocks), including 2nd and 3rd pillar.

How would you plan in this situation?

Other considerations are more specific:

  • How do brokers deal with change of residency?
  • Does it make sense to move ETF/stock holdings to a brokerage that operates in both Switzerland and the destination country?
  • Would I need to sell everything, transfer cash, then repurchase ETFs with new account?
  • Cashing out Pillar 3a and Pillar 2 (if non-EU destination): Ideally, how should one time this to only pay the (small) Swiss taxes on the amounts?
  • In which cases would it make sense to simply leave Pillar 3a and 2 in Switzerland for the long-term?



I know under Swiss law vested pillar 2 benefits and pillar 3a assets are bankruptcy-privileged. I would have to do some research as to whether that privilege extends to holders outside of Switzerland. If it does, that could be a possible argument for keeping part of your retirement assets in Switzerland. Of course, there may be a similar privileged category in the country you will move to.

1 Like

Only 100k each. So I wouldn’t keep it in cash.

Hi Cortana, I wasn’t referring to bank depositor protection. Pillar 2 and 3a assets are privileged against personal bankruptcy and debt collection. They cannot be claimed or attached by creditors as long as they remain in the pillar 2 and pillar 3a. This applies to all assets managed by pillar 3a retirement foundations and pillar 2 pension fund and vested benefits foundations - not just bank deposits. Obviously this is only a benefit if there is any risk of debt or personal bankruptcy.

I moved from Switzerland to EU recently.

  1. Most Swiss banks (UBS, CS, Post) wanted to charge me a hefty monthly fee for an address abroad, so I transferred my securities to Swissquote. They accept my foreign domicile without charging extra. The transfer cost CHF 50 per position.

  2. Your tax treatment (for your investments) might be different with the foreign bank. Moving from one jurisdiction to the other mostly requires repapering. Your foreign bank would be better at generating a local tax report. However, this is something you could do manually if you don’t have too many positions.

  3. see 1. Transfers cost a nominal fee regardless of position size

  4. It is only about timing if you have made voluntary contribution. In that case you would have to wait 3 years to avoid paying income tax. If not, the question is more about source tax (Quellensteuer). Some cantons have very low such taxes with Schwyz being the lowest one. Transfer all your pillar 2 and 3 moneys to a FreizĂĽgigkeitsstiftung in Canton Schwyz if you plan on withdrawing the cash from abroad.

  5. If you don’t need the money and if you don’t want to worry how to explain your nest egg to a foreign tax person. The automatic exchange of information does not apply to pillar 2 and 3 money. And like @Daniel wrote, your cash is safe or you can invest it in funds (each bank has their own products, mostly more expensive as the ETFs we mostly discuss here)

1 Like

Most Swiss banks do not charge non-resident fees for pillar 2 and pillar 3 accounts. See the non-resident fee comparison available here for details: https://www.moneyland.ch/en/swiss-bank-fees-abroad

As long as you only keep pillar 2 and pilalr 3 accounts, non-resident fees shouldn’t be an issue.

1 Like

“Only 100k each. So I wouldn’t keep it in cash.”

FYI, vested benefits and pillar 3a aren’t covered by Esisuisse.