Applying for and paying taxes on foreign pensions: What to do

Do you live in Switzerland after having lived in a different country and accrued retirement savings there? Then you are entitled to a foreign pension when you retire. Learn how you can apply for a foreign pension and how foreign pensions are taxed in Switzerland.

Applying for a foreign pension

If you were insured in an EU or EFTA country

You can enter your pension entitlement on the application for your AHV retirement pension.

1.    Six months before you enter retirement, you will fill out an AHV pension application form and indicate the periods during which you lived and/or worked in foreign country.

2.    Afterwards, you will send the application to the last compensation office that handled your contributions in Switzerland. If you do not know which compensation office that was, you can find out by using the InfoRegister information directory. Note: If your spouse is already receiving an AHV retirement pension, your pension application must be sent to the same compensation office that pays your spouse's pension.

3.    The compensation office that processes your application is also your point of contact. It will forward the application to the authorities in the countries where you were previously insured.

4.    Each country will examine whether you meet the requirements for a retirement pension. The conditions differ from country to country, as do the regular retirement age and amount of pension paid.

5.    Your point of contact will compile a Document P1 for you with a list of the decisions regarding your application in each country (form available online in German, French, and Italian only).

6.    Every country in which you have a pension entitlement will transfer the retirement pension payments to a bank account at your domicile in Switzerland.

If you were insured in a country with which Switzerland has signed a bilateral social insurance treaty

The bilateral social insurance treaties govern the transfer of pensions between Switzerland and the nations of Canada, Brazil, Chile, the US, Israel, Japan, North Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, San Marino, Turkey, the Philippines, India, Uruguay, and Australia.

If you wish to apply for pension benefits from one of these countries, please complete a pension application online on the Swiss Central Compensation Office's website.

If you were insured in a country with which Switzerland has not signed a bilateral social insurance treaty

If your country has not signed a bilateral social insurance treaty with Switzerland, you will need to get in direct contact with the insurer from which you are entitled to receive pension benefits. To do so, send your request for a pension to the embassy of the appropriate country. Here is a list of all the foreign diplomatic missions in Switzerland.

Paying taxes on a foreign pension

Pensions have to be taxed as income in Switzerland. This also applies to benefits received from foreign pension funds. Pension payments from government insurers are deemed equivalent to Switzerland's Old Age and Survivors' Insurance, and the full amount is subject to taxation.

But keep in mind, the country of origin may also collect taxes on the payments. To prevent double taxation, Switzerland has concluded bilateral agreements, referred to as double taxation agreement (DTAs), with many countries.

Most foreign pensions are taxed where a person lives

Pensions generally have to be taxed at the place of residence of the recipient. In your case, that is Switzerland. If the pension is based on a previous employment relationship under public law, for example, civil service, the payments will be taxed in the country of origin. That is the country paying your pension.

In either case, you should read the respective double taxation agreement carefully because special provisions may exist between the two countries. If you have any questions, it is also worthwhile to inquire at your cantonal tax office. If you have experienced double taxation despite the DTA, you are entitled to reimbursement for the excess tax paid. To do that, contact the tax authorities of the country that taxed you in violation of the DTA.

Worry-free retirement – with the right timing and assistance.

Entering retirement is a major milestone in life. To make sure there is no need to worry about payment of your pension, you should submit your pension application six months before your retirement begins. Send the application to your Swiss compensation office and, if necessary, to the appropriate foreign agencies.

Taxes are also a complicated subject, especially when multiple countries are involved. We advise contacting a tax expert for assistance so you can keep track of things. That way, you will receive the retirement benefits you are entitled to and can enjoy your hard‑earned retirement in Switzerland.

Tax treatment depends on the individual circumstances of each client and may be subject to change in the future. This material does not contain tax advice of any kind. You should consult with a professional tax advisor as you deem necessary.