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My background: I am a Belgian student studying for 6 months in Lausanne (Switzerland) in an exchange program. Recently I received a letter where I was asked to pay a television license tax of 365 euros. It is stated on the website of the organization collection this tax money (1) that every house-hold having a device capable of receiving radio or television (laptop, radio, television, wifi,…) needs to pay this tax. However, I find this a little bit ridiculous since I am only for 6 months in Switzerland without even listening or watching any Swiss television or radio. Also in Belgium as a student dependent on its parent’s one does not have to pay any kind taxes. Keeping this in mind it seems weird to pay a tax as a student without any income and being dependent on my parents.

So my questions are:

1) Do have to pay this tax even as a student without any income and being dependent on its parents? I tried to check the FAQ of the Swiss government on this tax but could not find any useful information (2)

2) At the moment, since I will leave Switzerland in June and only received the demand of payment recently, my plan is to try to postpone the payment as long as possible. Doing this I hope that I will leave Switzerland in time so that it is safe to ignore the payment of this tax. Is this a safe strategy?

3) Is their maybe another option to avoid/reduce this tax (which is a lot for a student without an income staying in a VERY expensive country)?

I hope this is the relevant stackexchange, if not, please refer me to the correct one.

Thanks in advance!

  • Do you have a radio or television device in your home? – prl Mar 26 at 1:19
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    Not that it makes much difference, but the amount seems to be 365 swiss francs, not euros; that's about 325 euros. – prl Mar 26 at 1:21
  • Hi I do not have radio or television but on the website of the Swiss government they state that even Wi-Fi with a laptop counts as a device able to receive radio or television. – Feynman007 Mar 26 at 13:09
  • Was the letter personally addressed to you or to whoever was the home-owner? If I were you I would most likely make an opt-out application at the latest possible timing allowed and hopefully, you 're out of the country before they potentially try to enforce a check on you(since by law your possession of a laptop/mobile phone makes you liable apparently). – Leon Mar 26 at 14:15
  • Seems like a good option to me. However, since the fine is at least 5000 CHF it seems a rather dangerous option. – Feynman007 Mar 26 at 15:40
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As fare as I understand the law every houshold has to pay this tax (income is not important).

There are the following exceptions.

  • households in which at least one member receives AHV / IV supplementary benefits.

  • Residents of retirement and nursing homes, residential homes, boarding schools, boarding schools, institutions for the disabled, hospitals

  • which consist exclusively of deaf members.

Households that are without any reception of electronic media can also petition for exemption. However, this "opting out" is limited to five years.

So if you have no radio or television at home you perhaps don't have to pay this tax.

Your plan with not paying the tax is probably not the best plan (if you want to return to Switzerland (or the EU not sure about that)) since they will probably not let you throw immigration. But that is just a guess.

  • Thank you very much for your answer! Switzerland is within the Schengen area so I don't expect problems with leaving or entering Belgium or Switzerland again. Of course it may be possible that they will try to get their money via the Belgian government. But I don't know about that. – Feynman007 Mar 26 at 13:29
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In addition to marcramser's answer, which correctly states that you have to pay the fee, it is worth noting that you will get reimbursed for the months after you leave.

This (as well as other relevant information) can be found on the government web page:

I have already received the annual bill, but I am emigrating in June. Will I get a refund for the remaining 6 months?

Yes, you will get be reimbursed the amount for this period. Here's how it works: the residents' registration office will inform Serafe of the household's deregistration and of your emigration. To receive the refund of the amount, inform Serafe of your bank account details.

Note that even though you can "opt out" it can become very expensive if you are lying about not having a device which falls under the rules (like a smartphone or a laptop):

Anyone who is a member of an opted-out household but who has or operates equipment suitable for reception of radio or television programme services is liable to a fine of up to CHF 5000.

Furthermore the authorities are allowed to check your household to verify that you comply.

Regarding your idea not to pay, SERAFE will most likely (but I cannot know for sure) file for a European payment Order, and then you will still have to pay, perhaps with additional fines. Switzerland is expensive, but trying to circumvent the rules is often even more expensive.

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