Travel is fatal to prejudice. When doing comparative summaries of tax systems around the world, Switzerland is always the awkward territory. The Swiss have both a federal and a cantonal (local) system of tax, and each tax liability is deductible from the other, resulting in impossible calculations. The tax rate is also somewhat negotiable. All very difficult when you want to just put a percentage tax rate in a box.
So I am delighted to be part of the UK BioIndustry Association delegation to Switzerland to find out what the Swiss tax and fiscal environment is really all about, from people who live in it. The trip takes in four locations over three days to meet a variety of businesses and opinion leaders, to discover more of how a non-EU country business environment actually works.
As a tax person I spend my life coping with rules changes. Outside the fake drama of politicians and journalists, what Brexit actually means in a business context is that we will have new sets of rules which bring risks and opportunities. I remember the intake of breath when the UK capital gains tax taper relief rules were removed, followed immediately by the thought ‘now what’? That is why I relish the opportunity to look at practical examples of how the Swiss system works for biotechnology businesses, employees and investors, to get indications of how the UK could operate. And hopefully it can all be done dispassionately, without talk of ‘symbolism’ , ‘storm clouds over the UK’ or other unhelpful waffle.