Public Finances

Public debt in Switzerland is low by international standards. Public finances have been in surplus for a number of years. 

Swiss franc pieces falling out of a machine
Switzerland's government balance sheet has been in good shape for some years. This is partly because of the debt brake introduced in 2003. © Swissmint

Federal government spending accounts for around 33% of total public expenditure. The bulk of public spending, roughly 43%, takes place at cantonal level, while the remaining 24% is spent at communal level.

Taxes are the main source of public revenue. There are two federal taxes: value added tax (VAT) and direct federal tax. The cantons and the communes primarily generate revenue from income tax and wealth tax.

Changes in public debt levels

Switzerland experienced a sharp increase in public debt during the 1990s, rising from 30.9% of GDP in 1990 to 52.8% by the end of 2004. Following the introduction of a spending cap by the federal government in 2003, Swiss government debt levels declined once again. By 2014 the debt-to-GDP ratio had fallen to 34.7%.

Switzerland's consolidated public accounts (federal government, cantons, communes, and social security system) have posted a surplus or only a slight deficit since 2006.

Although Switzerland has not escaped the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public deficit in 2020 was only 2.6% of GDP, which is low by international standards.