• Sarah Robert, Partner |
  • Jean Steiner, Expert |

Switzerland and France have extended the application of flexible tax rules until 31 December 2021, allowing French cross-border employees continued flexibility to work from home. Employers should, nevertheless, start addressing flexible work policies for cross-border commuters.

Flexible Rules

As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted work patterns of cross-border employees (frontaliers), the Swiss authorities have reached agreements with neighbouring countries to apply flexible rules to taxing rights of employment income and the social security affiliation.

Under these flexible rules:

  • Employees are taxed according to the same regulations as if they were physically working at their actual place of work.
  • Employees retain their social security status as before the travel restrictions due to COVID-19 came into force, minimizing administrative efforts for employers and ensuring continuity for employees.

Broadly speaking, an individual's status as frontalier should not be questioned even when the individual works entirely from home in France. As such, frontaliers to the cantons of Bern, Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft, Jura, Neuchatel, Solothurn, Vaud and Valais continue to be taxed on their employment income in France via their personal French tax return, whilst the French authorities pay a rate of 4.5% of the gross salary to the canton of employment  (special rules apply if an employee has more than 45 business related non-returning days). French-resident cross-border commuters to Geneva remain subject to Geneva withholding taxes. For social security purposes, French resident cross-border employees are subject to Swiss social security and pension contributions, provided the Swiss employment is their only employment and they spend less than 25% of their working time in France. 

Extension

Tax: The mutual agreement between France and Switzerland to relax tax rules was originally reached on 13 May 2020 and has been extended several times since. On 23 September 2021, the Swiss authorities announced a further extension of approximately six weeks bringing the current end date to 31 December 2021.

Social Security: The current relaxation of the social security rules between France and Switzerland is valid until 15 November 2021. 

Outlook

The latest extension of the relaxed tax rules by just six weeks is an indicator that the duration of the temporary measures is kept to a minimum. It has to be expected that the provisional rules will be terminated as soon as the situation allows. Employers are advised to get prepared for the post-pandemic era now and to define flexible work rules specifically for their French cross-border commuters. In that regard, they should consider the consequences that work from home of French cross-border commuters can have on their payroll reporting requirements:

  • French tax withholding requirement: The French tax reform which came into force as of 1 January 2019 introduced a requirement for employers of French residents to calculate and report French withholding taxes. This obligation also applies to Swiss employers that need to register for and report French withholding taxes if their employees spend workdays in France, regardless of the number of days.
  • French social security: French instead of Swiss social security contributions were to become due, if an employee spends 25% or more of his or her working time in France (additional rules need to be considered if the employee has other employments). This would not only mean additional administration for the Swiss employer but would also result in higher employer social security contributions of approximately 45%.