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Value added tax (VAT) exemption at source for diplomatic missions and career consular representations

Additional information

The website of the VAT Main Division of the Federal Tax Administration (FTA) offers additional information, for example templates of VAT forms and legitimation cards for persons entitled to VAT exemption. 

Services Value added tax, Federal Tax Administration 

In 2014, the Swiss Mission issued a circular at the request of the FCA's VAT Main Division clarifying a number of regulations concerning VAT exemption at source and applications for reimbursement in exceptional circumstances (the note verbale is available at the bottom of the page in the 'Documents' rubric). 

Exemption from value added tax (PDF, 7 Pages, 191.6 kB, English)

General principle

Exemption from VAT, where an entitlement exists, is applied at source, or in exceptional circumstances in the form of a reimbursement. 

Under Art. 107 para 1 let. a of the Federal Act of 2 June 2009 on Value Added Tax and Art. 143–150 of the Value Added Tax Ordinance of 27 November 2009 the following institutional beneficiaries are exempt from VAT liability for goods and services supplied on Swiss territory on condition that these are destined exclusively for use in an official capacity. 

Diplomatic missions and career consular representations. The following persons are exempt from VAT liability for goods and services supplied on Swiss territory on the condition that these are destined exclusively for their own private use. 

  • heads of diplomatic missions and diplomatic staff (holders of type B and C legitimation cards)

  • heads of career consular representations and career consular officers (holders of legitimation cards of type K with pink/black band, KB and KC).

  • the members of their families admitted on the grounds of family reunification who hold the same status as the main beneficiary (with legitimation card type B, C or K with pink/black band, KB, KC, or with a Ci permit obtained in exchange for a legitimation card type B, C or K with pink/black band, KB or KC). 

The following persons are not entitled to VAT exemption 

  • staff members with a legitimation card of type D, E, F, H, K blue/black band, K purple/black band or K white band, KD, KE or KH.

  • staff members with Swiss nationality

  • staff members with permanent residence in Switzerland (holders of a residence permit B or permanent residence permit C). 

VAT exemption process 

VAT exemption is applied at source by the supplier (retailer or company) on amounts of CHF 100 or above (incl. VAT) per invoice. 

In duly substantiated exceptional circumstances, an application may be submitted for VAT reimbursement: twice a year by institutions and once a year by eligible persons (grouped submission by the institution to which the persons belong). 

VAT exemption application process for eligible institutions (diplomatic missions and career consular representations) 

Form A: application for VAT exemption at source

All invoices equal to or greater than CHF 100 (including VAT): prior to payment, or when placing an order, the institution presents the supplier with form A, duly completed and bearing the official seal of the institution and the signature of the authorised person. The VAT exemption is then applied at source by the supplier. 

The purchaser must be able to prove that they are making the purchase on behalf of an institution. It is highly recommended that staff buying directly from retailers be provided with documentation of their authorisation to make the purchase on behalf of the institution. 

Form AA: application for VAT exemption at source on telecommunications, water, gas and electricity bills. 

VAT exemption is applied at source on bills for telecommunications (Swisscom and other operators based in Switzerland), water, gas and electricity (municipal services and electricity companies). There is no minimum amount for VAT exemption in this case.

The institution submits form AA, duly completed and bearing the official seal of the institution and the signature of an authorised person, to each supplier. Form AA is valid for five years from the date of issue. The VAT exemption is then applied at source by the supplier. 

Form 'C': application for VAT reimbursement in exceptional circumstances 

In duly substantiated exceptional circumstances, in particular if the supplier refused to apply the VAT exemption at source although an application was submitted in the prescribed manner, an application for reimbursement may be granted. Only invoices equal to or above CHF 100 (including VAT) are eligible. 

The Swiss authorities reserve the right to contact the supplier to ask why they did not agree to apply the VAT exemption at source in a particular instance. 

The institutions may submit a request for exceptional reimbursement twice a year. They must apply directly to the Federal Tax Administration (see address below) using form C, duly completed and bearing the official seal of the institution and the signature of an authorised person. The original invoices must be attached to each form C (or in exceptional cases photocopies bearing on each invoice the original seal of the institution). The invoices will be returned to the institution in due time. 

Procedure for eligible persons 

To claim exemption from VAT, diplomatic agents and career consular officers (holders of legitimation cards type B, C and K with a pink/black band) and members of their families admitted on family reunification grounds and enjoying the same status as the main beneficiary (holders of legitimation card type B, C and K with a pink/black band) must present their personal legitimation card or Ci permit along with a TVA exemption form to the supplier prior to payment (or when placing the order). 

Form B: application for VAT exemption at source 

All invoices equal to or greater than CHF 100 (including VAT): prior to payment, or when placing an order, the institution presents the supplier with form B, duly completed and bearing the official seal of the institution and the signature of the authorised person. The VAT exemption is then applied at source by the supplier. 

Form BB: application for VAT exemption at source on telecommunications, water, gas and electricity bills 

VAT exemption is applied at source on bills for telecommunications (Swisscom and other operators based in Switzerland), water, gas and electricity (utilities providers and electricity companies). There is no minimum amount for VAT exemption in this case. 

The eligible person presents the supplier with form BB, duly completed and bearing the official seal of the institution in which they are employed and the signature of an authorised person. Form BB is valid for five years from the date of issue. The VAT exemption is then applied at source by the supplier. 

If the supplier refuses to apply the VAT exemption at source: 

Form D: application for VAT reimbursement in exceptional circumstances 

In duly substantiated exceptional circumstances, in particular if the supplier refused to apply the VAT exemption at source although an application was submitted in the prescribed manner, an application for reimbursement may be granted. Only invoices of CHF 100 or over (including VAT) are eligible. 

The Swiss authorities reserve the right to contact the supplier to ask why they did not agree to apply the VAT exemption at source in a particular instance. 

Eligible persons may submit a request for exceptional reimbursement once a year. They must apply directly to the Federal Tax Administration (address below) using form D, duly completed and bearing the official seal of the institution in which they are employed and the signature of an authorised person. Each form D must be accompanied by the original invoices (or in exceptional cases photocopies bearing on each invoice the original seal of the institution). The invoices will be returned to the institution in due time, which will forward them to the individuals concerned. 

Applications by individuals should be grouped in a single annual submission (by the employer institution).  Individuals about to leave Switzerland permanently may, however, submit their final requests prior to departure through the institution in which they are employed. 

Rates of VAT 

There are three rates of VAT (valid from 1.1.2018): 

  • reduced rate of  2.5% on food products and beverages (with the exception of alcoholic beverages), medicine, newspapers and other publications, seeds and plants, animal food and litter, radio and television services and piped water

  • special rate of 3.7% on accommodation (overnight stays and breakfasts)

  • normal rate of 7.7% on all other supplies and services subject to taxation. 

Important 

The forms for VAT exemption at source (A, AA, B, BB) and the forms for exceptional reimbursement of VAT (C, D) can be obtained from the Privileges and Immunities Section, Protocol (see details on p.1). They are available in three Swiss official languages: French, German and Italian. It is advisable to submit the form to the supplier in the language spoken in their region. 

Please remember, although diplomatic missions and consular posts may photocopy the empty forms (front and back), each form must be duly completed by the beneficiary and bear their original signature and the original seal of the diplomatic mission or consular post in addition to the place and date. 

On the back of each form is important information for the supplier which details the procedure they must follow to apply the VAT exemption. The forms must, therefore, be photocopied front and back. It may be necessary to draw the supplier’s attention to the details printed on the back of the form. 

The institutions shall ensure that the forms are securely stored away. The Swiss authorities reserve the right to take action if the forms are used by unauthorised persons. 

Beneficiaries are entitled to VAT exemption only for as long as they remain in their function in Switzerland. The period of validity featuring on the legitimation card does not, therefore, entitle the holder to VAT exemption. The status of the spouse and children of the legitimation card holder is in principle the same as that of the card holder. 

In the event of misuse of VAT exemption, the Swiss authorities reserve the right to take action in accordance with the current diplomatic norms. 

Forms AA and BB must be resubmitted every five years. 

Official capacity: For goods and services to be considered destined for use in an official capacity, it is not enough for the invoice to be addressed to the representation. The goods and services must also fulfil a need in the context of the representation's official functions as specified in international law, in particular under the Vienna Convention of 18 April 1961 on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention of 24 April 1963 on Consular Relations. 

Invoices pertaining to:

  • the presence in Switzerland for private purposes of members of government or royal families

  • the presence in Switzerland of nationals of the accredited/sending state on medical grounds

do not fall within the scope of goods and services destined for use in an official capacity by the foreign representation, even if governments instruct the representations to ensure payment of the invoices for practical reasons. VAT must be paid on all such invoices. 

If the competent Swiss authorities consider that the conditions for VAT exemption under Art. 144 and 145 of the VAT Ordinance have not been or are no longer fulfilled, the supplier shall reimburse the applicable amount of VAT to the Federal Tax Administration. In this case, the supplier is entitled to apply to the foreign representation or individual concerned for reimbursement of the amount paid in VAT to the competent Swiss authorities, in accordance with the conditions stated on the application form and accepted by the applicant upon submission of the form.

Competent authority

Federal Tax Administration, VAT Main Division

Schwarztorstrasse 50, 3003 Bern

Tel.: +41 (0)58 480 85 64 / +41 (0)58 480 84 69 / +41 (0)58 465 75 93 

Fax: +41 0 58,465 76 51

http://www.estv.admin.ch

Last update 26.01.2022

Contact

Section privileges and immunities

Bundesgasse 32
3003 Bern

Phone

+41 (0)58 464 85 26