Which Imports into Switzerland are Subject to the CO2 Tax?

Which Imports into Switzerland Are Subject to the CO2 Tax?

Legal Basis

The legal framework is based on the Federal Act of December 23, 2011 on the Reduction of CO2 Emissions (CO2 Act; SR 641.71) and the Ordinance of November 30, 2012 on the CO2 Tax (CO2 Ordinance; SR 641.711).


All fossil fuels (heating oil, natural gas, coal, petroleum coke and other fossil fuels) that are used to generate heat and light, are used in thermal plants for electricity production and for the operation of combined heat and power plants (CHP plants), are regarded as fuels subject to the CO2 tax. In contrast to mineral oil tax legislation, this definition corresponds to the definition of fuels used for energy and CO2 statistics and for the greenhouse gas inventory under the Kyoto Protocol.

Fossil energy sources that are used in non-thermal power generation plants, for example to operate stationary power generation plants (generators), are regarded as fuels and are therefore not subject to the CO2 tax on fuels. The import of petrol and diesel is also not subject to the CO2 tax.

Tax and Enforcement Authority

The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) and the Federal Customs Administration (FCA) are responsible for implementing the CO2 Ordinance. The FCA is responsible, in particular, for levying and reimbursing the CO2 tax.

Tax Rate

The structure of the duty tariff in Annex 11 to the CO2 Ordinance is based on the nomenclature of the Swiss customs tariff of October 9, 1986 (SR 632.10). In order to determine the rate of duty applicable to a given product, the corresponding customs tariff number is first determined in accordance with the principles of the customs tariff and then the rate of duty associated with the customs tariff number is applied. This procedure ensures a uniform application of the tax rate.

The decisive factor for the different load of the individual energy sources with the emission is the CO2 emission, which occurs during combustion. The calculation is based on internationally recognised CO2 emission factors. These emission factors determine the tax rates for the individual energy sources.

Taxable Persons

Those liable to pay duty on coal imports in accordance with the Customs Act of March 18, 2005 (SR 631.0), as well as domestic producers and manufacturers are subject to the tax.

The taxable persons for the other fossil fuels are those liable to tax under the Mineral Oil Tax Act of June 21, 1996 (SR641.61), namely importers, authorised warehouse keepers, persons who supply, use or cause to be used taxed goods for purposes subject to a higher tax rate and persons who supply, use or cause to be used untaxed goods.

Proof of Payment of Tax on Invoices

Article 95 of the CO2 Ordinance requires that traders of fuels subject to the levy must show the CO2 tax rate on the invoices for purchasers. In this way, the purchasers of taxed fuels are to be informed transparently about the amount of the CO2 tax paid and an abusive circulation can be prevented.


For the import and export of coal products, the procedural provisions of the customs legislation apply. Coal is exclusively imported and not produced domestically. The assessment takes place at the time of import and the duty requirement is based on the provisions of customs legislation.

Other Fossil Fuels

The tax claim arises together with the mineral oil tax when the goods are released for free circulation.

Procedure for Levying the CO2 Tax

The close link with the incentive tax on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is used to levy the CO2 tax at the border. The fact that certain tariff headings are subject to the CO2 and VOC levies is of crucial importance.

These apply in particular to white spirit, petroleum, gas oil and petrol used for purposes other than fuel. These products can be used both energetically (subject to the CO2 tax) and non-energetically (subject to the VOC tax).

As soon as fuels are converted into energy, e.g. by combustion, they are considered to be energetically used. «Non-energy use» includes fuels that are used for technical purposes. Technical purposes are e.g. cleaning, lubrication or the admixture of substances as additives in the pharmaceutical industry.

If a customs tariff number is subject to the CO2 and VOC taxes and the last tax is levied, the CO2 tax may temporarily not be levied because it is assumed that the goods will not be used for energy purposes. If the VOC levy is subsequently refunded on request when used as a fuel, the CO2 levy will subsequently be invoiced.

Which Companies Can Be Reimbursed for the CO2 Tax?

According to Article 31 of the CO2 Act, CO2 reimbursement is possible upon request. A distinction is made between

  • reimbursement of the CO2 tax to exempted companies and power plant operators, and
  • reimbursement of the CO2 tax for non-energy use

Exempt companies and power plant operators include companies that have undertaken to reduce their greenhouse gases (Art. 31 para. 1 CO2 Act), participate in the emissions trading system (ETS) (Art. 17 CO2 Act) and operate fossil-thermal power plants with an obligation to compensate (Art. 25 CO2 Act).

Companies which use taxed fuels for non-energy purposes and which have an obligation to use taxed fossil fuels (heating oil) for stationary power generation plants may submit a request for reimbursement for non-energy use.

February 2019 | Author: Karl Fässler

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