How Can a US Citizen Open a Tax-Free Swiss Bank Account?

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The IRS wants to know when Americans open Swiss bank accounts.
The IRS wants to know when Americans open Swiss bank accounts. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Any adult U.S. citizen can open a Swiss bank account. And despite what you see in novels and movies, Swissbanking.org says the account cannot be opened anonymously. There are no taxes for accounts in Switzerland. American citizens, though, must report their Swiss accounts to the Internal Revenue Service.

Immediate Documents

You cannot open a Swiss bank account entirely on the Internet as verification of your private information is impossible online. You can still fill out a Swiss bank’s online application, however. They will then send you official forms by snail mail requiring your personal information. Or, you can visit them in person. A Swiss bank will want to see an authenticated passport if you happen to be visiting Switzerland. Additionally, they will want to see proof of your financial standing in bank accounts, tax returns and licenses.

Information for Deposits

Before you can deposit money into your Swiss bank account, the bank will ask to see the origins of your deposit. This could be money from a house sale, an inheritance or just part of your existing funds. The bank requires receipts as proof of the money's origins. Also required will be your birth name, current address and proof of your birth date. With that, Swiss-bank-accounts.com says Swiss banks will want to know how much you plan to deposit and what you intend to use the money for in the future.

Minimum Deposit

According to Swissbanking.org, most Swiss banks won’t require a minimum deposit. Some private banks there, however, may require a set amount to officially start your account. Most Swiss banks will take U.S. dollars, also, which may make it easier if you don’t want to convert your deposit into Swiss francs.

Tax Exceptions

Despite Swiss bank accounts being generally tax-free in Switzerland, you as an American citizen must still report your Swiss bank account on a W-9 form. The IRS will determine whether you pay taxes based on American citizenry. This could include having a permanent resident permit that means living in the United States most of this year and the past two years. Other considerations will be if you’re a dual resident of the U.S. and Switzerland, have a spousal joint tax return or if you’ve lived in Switzerland long enough to have given up U.S. nationality. Switzerland also has one tax exception if you make investments in Swiss companies and receive dividends. As of 2011, a 35 percent withholding tax will be applied to all dividends or interest made on any Swiss investments.

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