US vs. IE based funds if you dont qualify for W8BEN

Hey, I’m considering switching from my IE iShares to Vanguard US. However my broker does not qualify for the W-8BEN reduction.
Now I know that this prevents me from reducing the withold tax to 15%. The other 15% I’d still be able get back with DA-1 afaik.
What I haven’t found any information on is if a US based fund without the 15% W8BEN is atleast equal to one based in IE with the unrefundable withhold tax by US dividends.

Should I stick with IE? (Given that I don’t want to switch to IB)
I was considering two ETFs: VTI & VEA

You have to do some math…
Have a look at @nugget Wiki article and in the bogleheads wiki (also linked in the above quoted article). There is a sample with VT (which assumes L2TW = 30% -> not qualified broker)

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I dont get you, man. An Irish ETF has a 15% witholding tax that cannot be reclaimed. If you use an American ETF without W8BEN, you will pay 30%. So on a portfolio of 100’000 with a dividend of 2’000, that’s 600 CHF per year of extra cost. You want to pay 600 chf per year, because youre too stubborn to get IB? Be my guest.


First of all thanks you guys for your answers.
@Bojack I know its not reasonable, I just feel insecure with having a broker in the UK even though I’m confident that it will probably never be a problem. Second: I thought that I could reclaim 15% of those 30% or am I wrong? (I know that that would still be 300.- p.a.)

Then have two brokers, probably the most reasonable solution to not keep all eggs in one basket.
You could hold US stocks with IB and the rest with Strateo if you wish.

If you pay 30% withholding tax and then have to reclaim 15%, you might as well keep IE domiciled funds and have the 15% deducted at fund level and avoid paperwork.

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Well I was hoping for it to be the same because the Vanguard ETFs would have quite a lower TER and are more of what I’m looking for. It isn’t really paperwork, in ZH the DA-1 is very well integrated into the tax-tool. I’m already using it for dividends on Microsoft stocks I own separately.
But yeah maybe I should just give it a try with a parallel IB depot.

VUSA is IE domiciled and has 0.07% TER. It’s even listed on SIX in CHF so your swiss broker wont rob you on currency exchange.

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I did some math (probably it’s not very accurate but thats what I got)

US based:

  • L1WT : 7.5%
  • L2WT : (30% but 15% is reclaimable) 15%
    So the total distributed dividend is: (1-0.075)*(1-0.15) = 78.625% or 21.3% withheld tax

IE based:

  • L1WT : 12.3%
  • L2WT : 0%
    So the total distributed IE dividends are: (1-0.123)*1 = 87.7% or 13.4% withheld tax

Now my portfolio using US-funds would have a lower TER ~0.08% instead of 0.2% in IE.
Assuming a dividend-yield of 2% p.a. the withheld tax in US would make for an extra 0.427% p.a. tax-expense while the IE-withheld tax would be 0.22% p.a.

If I sum this up I end up with:

  • 0.507% total expense for US
  • 0.42% total expense for IE

So IE-funds would still be slightly cheaper.
Now this is only aslong as your broker doesn’t qualify for W-8BEN otherwise the US-funds would perform better than IE. I just added my calculations here in case somebody else asks the same question as I did.

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Hi Leap, maybe naive but why dont you open with afaik they asked me to fill the W8BEN, and buy VT there?


L1WT is 0% for US shares owned by a US ETF.

Non US withholding is about similar between US and IE, maybe slightly in favor of IE, not really enough to bother in light of lower TERs and trading costs

L2WT doesn’t really matter unless you earn so little that you’re taxed at source only. On any respectable swiss job you’ll likely be taxed more than 15% and can fully offset US taxes against swiss.

If your broker withholds 30%, you should just change broker, any respectable broker withholds only 15% from US equities.

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Through the W8BEN form? I know that CornerTrader also doesn’t offer it.

Degiro isn’t regulated by FINMA afaik. Then I could also switch to IB.

Last I checked, the majority of people earn less than 120k. In Kanton Zurich, that would be 96%. If your taxable income is 100k in Kilchberg or Rüschlikon, your tax is 14k, so 14%. So what exactly do you consider a respectable salary?

I thought the same thing. You can have a respectable salary with respectable income tax in Zug or Liechtenstein, but not in other Swiss cantons. But still it’s not easy to get > 120k.

Well, a job that pays less than what half of population makes certainly doesn’t sound particularly dignifying to me.

Exactly. Nothing to respect them for.

(However you can still in principle get those extra 15% back by filing a US tax return)

Neither is IB, they don’t have a banking license here or anything of that sort. Their presence in Zug is limited to technical and support staff from what i gather, no financial operations.

According to bfs, 77.5% of the CH population (in 2016) earn less than 104k

Hi Leap,
can you elaborate more what you mean by that? I mean regulated…?


I would like to have a Swiss broker which I know is unreasonable for most as they’re expensive but for the moment I’d feel uncomfortable to have my broker under non-swiss jurisdiction which is what you have with Degiro and IB.

sure, then you simply have to pay $$$ for the convenience

and I suppose you’d also want to go then not with a cheap but a too big to fail kind of broker, because guess where all your american stocks are kept - at american dtcc.

I had similar doubts before opening IB account. Was afraid of USA. But eventually I gave in under the assumption of “since everybody’s doing it, it can’t be that bad”. But I don’t know what are the real dangers when you have a Swiss broker, and when it’s American.

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