Mustachian deductions? Trouble with Tax office

Hey everyone, I’ve been more of a lurker in this forum, usually soaking up everyone’s wisdom as I have no formal financial education.

Our situation is: 40s professional couple, both working part time, living pretty unconventionally with a very high savings rate. TL;DR the tax office thinks our wealth grew too much compared to our taxable income in 2019 and we are finding difficult to explain it in a plausible way.

We always have our taxes done by a Steuerberaterin for a small fee, and used to just sign the dotted line and pay whatever tax bill was sent to us.

So after scrutinizing our tax declaration, we realised she put in deductions that were far higher than what we actually spent: 12000 for Health Insurance (we paid 6000 for the cheapest one), 5000 each for Berufsauslagen (we paid practically nothing) and so on.

So the income we were left with to save money and invest was far higher than what the tax office sees as plausible and they believe we are hiding something.

Now, my question to you: is what our Steuerberaterin did even legal? We signed the tax declaration without paying any attention (most of this stuff still goes over our heads…), are we now in trouble?

ANY insights welcome and gratefully accepted, also recommendations for a clever Steuerberater in Zurich who will not frown at our numbers and know his way around what is needed from our IB account.

Thanks so much! Susanna

I guess since you signed, they might be off the hook… It seems pretty standard behavior from them, most accountant do those kind of “tricks”. (that said, I never heard any of them try to inflate the health insurance premiums, esp. since deductions are capped at like 5k for married filings, it sounds really risky)

From what I understand, the tax office is usually pretty nice. One potential way to go, would be to go talk to them, explain what your incompetent tax advisor did and you didn’t pay attention and offer to correct it, there’s a possibility you’d only pay the extra taxes no penalty (but then from what I understand this has been going on for years, so maybe not so simple).

There’s still a risk they aren’t so friendly, I’m not familiar enough with tax audits to know what the odds are :confused:

Maybe you have legal insurance? That might be the right time to use it (if you start having legal issues with the tax offices legal fees might get expensive quickly, might just be easier to pay whatever penalties they ask for).

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I’m no specialist but I’d direct the tax office toward the Steuerberaterin and let her handle the case. There are standard deductions, using them is fine. Maxing deductions not linked to real expenses is probably more problematic. Checking that the income still covers the claimed expenses and extra savings should probably be part of the process of filling the declaration. It may depend on what specific agreement you had.

In all cases, I’d play it straight with the tax office.

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I assume you have listed the major Abzüge that are “false” and under “and so on” is not many more of these “far higher” Abzüge.
So you’ve deducted, as a couple, 16000 “too much”, that’s 666 Fr per month per person.
I don’t feel this kind of amount can be the main reason for the tax office to come checking. You simply spend too little for “Swiss standards”, and this probably rings alarm bells. It’s like a small frugality medal.

In my experience, if they dont like a deduction (too high or not justified), they ask for proof to be delivered within a certain defined time, else the deduction is “cancelled” by the tax office.

What I want to say, the tax office is enquiring how you are living on such little money and you think it’s because of those inflated Abzüge, but I think you’re reaching a wrong conclusion. First try to convince them you just don’t spend a lot, which is not illegal.

Someone who pays 12k in health insurance (even for a couple) surely isn’t very thrifty.

It just doesn’t add up when they claim not to spend a lot. “Oh, you’re just very health-obsessed and generous with your health insurance coverage in particular? Sure, just show me the bills!

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That is a possible reason, for your and most of our thinking, but I’d not focus on these “wrong” Abzüge initially, if they’re saying “you have increased your Vermögen by too much in a year, it doesn’t add up.”

If they doubt this Abzug they ask directly “send bills”, not in a roundabout way “hey we doubt that Abzug, so convince us the rest of your expenses was reasonable to live on”.

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Thanks @nabalzbhf and no, we don’t have legal insurance.
Our tax advisor is rather incompetent, but we stayed with her for a number of years because she didn’t bat an eyelash at all the different unconventional things we were doing.

I just never thought we’d have the problem of “too much money”.

Thanks @Wolverine - I’m just not sure this is a standard deduction. We have tried to call our Steuerberaterin and not been able to reach her, and I’m afraid after 10 years we’ll be switching to someone else.
I so hope this won’t blow up in our faces… S#it.
We’ll talk to the tax office.

My 5c:
Answer the tax office questions. They should have asked you something precise, so you give them a precise answer. If your berater doesn’t answer, tell the tax office about it and ask them if they want you to send all the stuff you have.
If/when they will tell you about your health deductions, just accept what they say and pay the difference if you have to. Your berater made an error, it’s just fair to pay the missing taxes. Do not worry. It’s like paying a parking ticket. You won’t go to jail or anything similar.

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Hi @ma0, happy Sunday morning! I think the main issue is that we

a) actually did save a lot (ultra-rock-bottom rent by living in an awful tiny place, cheapest health insurance, no car, no anything really) despite earning 6 figures
b) our tax advisor deducted a great deal of stuff and we’re not sure it’s legal to do so. She never asked us for paperwork for some of the deductions. So our Steuerbares Einkommen is lower than it was in reality, and the tax office can’t believe we saved as much as we did

So that’s the mess right now. We’re talking to them again tomorrow.
I just wrote here wondering if this is an issue for more of you guys and if you had any advice. We did answer the tax office questions, even sent them a copy of our Mietvertrag. They just are not buying it right now, and the more we look into the tax declaration the more problems we are seeing.

xo Susanna

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Aren’t there maximum deductions for health insurance that the tax office will automatically apply?

I can’t claim more than 2400 per year as health insurance deductions.

Might be different in different cantons.

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Honestly, I wish I knew. Maybe there are, but that’s why we were paying a tax lady to do this.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully agree with what you said. The Health insurance deduction is likely not the salient point per se - but merely another little point of evidence, if anything.

Claiming deductions that haven’t actually been made as expenses is clearly illegal (unless allowed as a flat rate deduction).

Well, the obvious question …or rather the options you have seem to be:

  1. You admit to having “forgotten” (instead of deliberately hidden) to list some income and/or wealth you’ve had.
    → the tax office will likely request additional documents, which you are unable to provide

  2. You admit to having claimed bogus deductions, but truthfully tell them your tax advisor did put them in, with you merely signing off on the tax papers provided
    → a correction will be made, you pay up on it. They may also impose a fine.

  3. You just ignore their (further) questions and requests for documents
    → They’ll eventually…
    a) give up on you and accept your tax return as is, or
    b) will arbitrarily assess you.
    Either way, I assume you risk being fined and/or further legal action being taken.

  4. You continue giving them the runaround
    → Again, you’d be unable to provide a acceptable explanatiosn or documents. For further course see 1-3.

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Thanks @San_Francisco - we did NOT, in fact, hide significant income except some money my parents had given us, which we honestly forgot about. It was about 10k, and the discrepancy is several times that. But it seems our savings rate, combined with (potentially) not-OK inflated deductions (I need to somehow find out which ones are allowed as a flat rate) led to a glaring discrepancy for the tax office. Aaaand, we just discovered she had omitted 25k in Bitcoin from the tax declaration of the year before. Thankfully, we had submitted the printout and they have it so hopefully the tax office will believe we didn’t mean to sign off on this - they have the paper but the amount is not in the tax declaration for 2018. Time to get a new tax person… sigh…

Given btc went up by 300%, that surely wouldn’t help, that’s a 75k discrepancy.

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Hahaha, not in 2019 it didn’t - that would have been great in explaining the discrepancy in a way that could not be disputed! We still have it, it’s not much but almost 4x what it was then (I can already foresee the exact same issues for this year…)

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