Succession and donation
There is no inheritance or donation tax at the federal level. These taxes are levied only by the cantons and sometimes the communes. The cantons are free to choose the applicable scales, rates, tax-exempt amounts, and how to calculate the taxable amounts.
For example, the canton of Lucerne has no gift tax at the cantonal level if a gift is performed 5 years before the taxpayer dies. However, inheritance tax is applicable in this canton. The cantons of Schwyz and Obwalden have no gift and inheritance tax at all.
Spouses, persons related by a registered partnership, direct descendants, and adopted or spousal children are generally exempt from such tax. However, each canton is free to set its own rules. Inheritance tax is due by the heirs and/or legatees in the canton of the deceased while Gift tax is usually due by the recipient in the donor's canton.
In general, the scale is the same for inheritance tax and gift tax. The rates vary greatly from one canton to another. However, they are generally all progressive and fixed according to the degree of relationship.
Please find below an overview of the tax exemptions concerning the circle of taxpayers in the various cantons:
|UR, FR, TI, VS, NW, ZG, SO, BL, AR, AG, GE, GR, OW, SZ||Exempt||Exempt||Exempt|
|ZH, JU, BE, SH, LU*, BS, SG, GL, TG||Exempt||Exempt||Taxed|
|AI, VD, NE||Exempt||Taxed||Taxed|
*Regarding inheritance tax in the canton of LU due by descendants, no tax is collected at the cantonal level, but the municipalities may collect a tax, capped at 2%.
As you will have noticed, all the cantons exempt the spouse of gift/inheritance tax and only three cantons still tax the children. These cantons are Vaud, Neuchâtel and Appenzell Innerrhoden. Various cantons also exempt the parents and/or grandparents.