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Everything you need to know in 2024 to successfully start a company in Switzerland

Updated on May 17, 2024

The relationship between entrepreneurs and trustees

Starting a business successfully in 2024 requires, more than ever, dedicated trustees who fully commit to a company in its entirety. Especially in the SME-centered market environment of Switzerland, the true added value of a business-trustee relationship manifests itself in combined expertise in taxes, accounting, and organization. Such a partnership should be characterized by personal commitment, confidentiality, and competence. These are values that we have internalized at Zürcher Treuhand. Our recent experiences confirm: Constructive, open exchange is crucial for business success.

What are the requirements for founding a company?

To establish a company in Switzerland, the appropriate legal form must first be found, followed by the suitable canton (including residence) for the business activity. Most company forms require registration in the commercial register. As this process can quickly become complex and complicated, we recommend seeking support from experts.

What are the possible legal forms for companies?

In Switzerland, according to the Code of Obligations (CO), in addition to sole proprietorships, there are eight other forms of companies defined. These include the popular joint-stock company (AG) and the limited liability company (GmbH).

The sole proprietorship allows individuals to conduct business and be liable with their private assets. Ideal for professions such as architects or doctors, the company name must contain the founder's surname.

Partnerships include:

  • Simple partnership: A flexible agreement between parties for an unspecified purpose.
  • Collective partnership: Several individuals jointly operate a company and are fully liable with their assets.
  • Limited partnership: A trading company with limited liability for some partners.

Capital and mixed companies include:

  • Joint-stock company (AG): A popular form with a minimum capital of CHF 100,000, with only the company's assets liable for debts.
  • Partnership limited by shares: Combines elements of AG and partnerships with two types of shareholders.
  • GmbH: Ideal for SMEs with a starting capital of CHF 20,000. Shareholders are only liable up to their contribution.

Other company forms:

  • Cooperative: A community of at least seven members pursuing an economic goal, e.g., in housing construction.
  • Association: A non-profit organization with an idealistic purpose.

For founders, it is crucial to choose the right form of company. This takes into account liability, capital requirements, and business goals. If unsure, it is advisable to seek professional advice.

Can foreigners start a company?

Switzerland is increasingly popular as a location for company foundations by foreigners. An increase in company foundations by non-Swiss passport holders emphasizes that the country has become particularly attractive for entrepreneurs due to its innovation and favorable tax rates.

As a foreigner, the question often arises: Can I start a company in Switzerland on my own? The answer is, there are various legal forms such as sole proprietorships, GmbHs, and AGs that one can found as an individual. Swiss citizenship is not necessary. However, it's essential that at least one of the registered individuals resides in Switzerland.

The nationality of the founder usually doesn't matter in founding a company. However, it significantly affects applying for residence in Switzerland - often a decisive criterion for establishment. EU/EFTA nationals in possession of an employment contract benefit from a simplified process thanks to the freedom of movement agreement. For third-country nationals, the process is more complicated, with annual quotas and extensive checks.

However, there are also options for those without their own residence in Switzerland: If you register another person with Swiss residence and sole signature authority, you don't need your own residence or a residence permit in Switzerland.

Note that opening a Swiss bank account is essential for accounting and is legally required for joint-stock companies and limited liability companies. For foreigners, this might require more effort than founding the company itself.

The price of self-employment

Those considering the path to self-employment should stay realistic: Very long days and short nights are part of many young entrepreneurs' experiences. But even if they sacrifice much of their free time, satisfaction often remains. Studies show that, according to their statements, entrepreneurs are often more satisfied than their employed colleagues.

However, it's essential to understand that self-employment has its own risks. Some who choose this path fail within the first few years of being self-employed. According to the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) in 2019, 8.3% of the self-employed were in the poverty range, compared to 3.6% of employees. Entrepreneurs without employees are especially at risk (8.6%).

Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the Swiss economy. Over 99% of all companies here employ fewer than 250 full-time employees. So, those who start a small business in Switzerland are in good company.

Zürcher Treuhand is always at your side as a trustworthy and personal partner. If you, too, as an entrepreneur, want to benefit from our support, contact us

Oliver Diggelmann

Contact me now for a personal consultation!

Zürcher Treuhand is your trustworthy and reliable financial partner.

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Oliver Diggelmann

Do you have questions? Get in touch with me, I am happy to help.

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