24 heures: "Switzerland, paradise for wealthy foreigners".
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24 Heures, January 3, 2001
Vincent Stöcklin

jpg version article These first-class immigrants are progressively being won over by the quality of life in our country. Whether they are young retirees or families with children, they are looking for serenity and security. For the past few years, specialized companies have been helping them take the right steps. An increasing number of celebrities and well-to-do people are choosing Switzerland’s calm environment to spend the rest of their days. Sometimes in order to avoid financial hassles, but often to enjoy a better quality of life. So is Switzerland a tax haven for rich retirees? “No, it’s not a tax haven, far from that,” insists Mr. Micheloud, director of a Lausanne-based company that specializes in helping foreigners who want to move to Switzerland. “Foreigners also have to pay taxes, and sometimes they are quite hefty.” Compared to tax havens like Monaco or the Bahamas, Switzerland is expensive. And yet more and more people are choosing Switzerland as their final destination. Just how many? “I can’t give out the number of people who want to come to Switzerland through our agency,” says Mr. Micheloud straightaway, although he does confide that he is far from having to close up shop. “Much the opposite,” he smiles.

It is easier to obtain information on where these immigrants come from. Most of them are from Scandinavia, England or the United States, and they are looking for a good quality of life above all. “On that front, Switzerland is paradise for them,” emphasizes the director.

Taxes and residency permit
The price to pay for this paradise is calculated at a flat rate. “When they arrive, the tax authorities calculate a flat rate based on their lifestyle,” explains Mr. Micheloud. Those who have an annual income of less than 200,000 Swiss francs are rare. “It should be assumed that whatever the case may be, the taxable amount will be somewhere around 60,000 Swiss francs per year. This is not negotiable,” adds the expert. But in comparison to the other alternatives, Switzerland is still a viable option. It’s location in central Europe, the culture, the price of housing and the pratically non-existant crime rate always makes things lean in favor of our country. “I have a client who lived in the Bahamas for seven years before coming to Switzerland,” says Mr. Micheloud. “Having to go through Miami to get anywhere and having to live on an island where there is not much to do pushed him to find another place to live.”

With regards to getting a residency permit, the authorities assure us they don’t give breaks to rich foreigners who want to come and live in Switzerland. The conditions to be met are very strict, to the point that inquiries may be made at the Swiss embassy in the person’s home country. In fact, only those who have a rock-solid file will get through without any difficulty. “I remember the case of an English engineer who worked for two years in the Eastern Europe. He had to prove right down to the last detail that everything he had done was totally legal,” recalls the director.

Rent at 5,000 francs per month
Where do these first-class foreigners live? Do they all live in castles on the coast? “I always recommend that our clients should first rent an apartment,” explains Mr. Micheloud. That lets them make sure they actually like the country and gives them time to look for the house of their dreams.

The apartments that they stay in are often very high class. “There is a real market for apartments that cost more than 3,000 francs per month,” adds the expert. “And most often the person renting is getting the better deal.” In order to find the ideal apartment, there are people who specialize in high-class rentals, but they can also be found through word of mouth. “You know, the owners do not balk that much at having an English lord as an occupant,” chuckles Mr.  Micheloud. “Often it’s the owner himself who contacts us.” Some opt for a castle (see caption), while others  live in villas or large apartments. The choices are endless.

From Finland to Montreux
Since last September, M. R. has lived on the upper three floors of a 15th century castle in Montreux. As the director of a large Finnish communications company, he decided to retire to Switzerland.
-What do you like best about Switzerland?
- Switzerland’s central location in Europe makes for easy access to other parts of the continent. The climate is milder than it is in Finland. You can go skiing, which is something that Finnish people are crazy about. Furthermore, it is a well-organized society, cleaner than the rest of Europe, and the trains are on time. When the schedule says that the train leaves at 8:03, you can be assured that it will leave at precisely that time. Pünktlich as they say here.
- How does it feel to be living in Switzerland?
- We are ecstatic and our first impressions surpass our expectations. The weather is great and our neighbors are very kind and helpful. We had read that the Swiss are not very warm, but up to this point, our experience has shown just the opposite to be true.

Interview provided bywww.switzerland.isyours.com

Useful information
For more precise details, visit the site www.switzerland.isyours.com featuring a complete list of celebrites that have chosen to live in Switzerland.


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