VAT regulation for vouchers in Switzerland

In this article

Difference between service and value vouchers

Service voucher (voucher functioning as payment in advance)

If, on the date of voucher issuing, the obtainable service (e.g. a 6-course tasting menu for 2 persons) that is available upon voucher handover is already specified, there exists an advance payment for this service, whereby tax liability arises at the time of voucher handover for the specific service or when remuneration is received for the voucher.

Value voucher (voucher functioning as means of payment)

If, however, the voucher merely entitles the buyer to obtain the supplier´s services for a certain sum, this is not yet equivalent to a specific service already paid for in advance. Only the value and supplier of these vouchers is determined, but not the specific service to be obtained. The voucher is rather a means of payment, whereby the voucher sale does not represent a service. If there is a tax liability, in this case tax liability arises pursuant to Item 1.12.1 of the MBI 06 , independently of the type of billing at the time of voucher redemption or, in other words, at the time of handing over the means of payment «voucher» (payment) for the receipt of a certain service.Receipts (invoices, receipts etc.) for the sale of value vouchers do not include a reference to VAT.

Issue all vouchers as value vouchers

To ensure that all your vouchers are valid as value vouchers, and that consequently the service is not taxed until the time of redemption, the following sentence can be added to the text of all service voucher printouts (e.g. vouchers for brunch or overnight accommodation):   

The voucher can also be redeemed for other services.

This addition means that at the time of issuing, the service and tax rate are not determined for voucher booking, rendering it a multi-purpose voucher. Tax liability therefore arises at the time of voucher redemption. It is to be assumed that the supplier actually has to offer alternatives to the voucher owner if so requested.

Confirmation of Swiss Federal Tax Administration ESTV

Swiss Federal Tax Administration (Eidgenössische Steuerverwaltung, ESTV), confirmed this procedure to us in writing on 12. April 2019 with the note on redemption on the voucher printout.At this point it should be mentioned that information provided by ESTV is only legally binding when concerning the relationship between taxpayer and ESTV. With respect to legislation on good faith, the information does however have an effect.


It is to be recommended that turnover from the sale of value vouchers should be booked on a liability account in the balance sheet, and not in the income statement.Remuneration at the standard rate of tax is taxable at the time of voucher redemption. Remuneration is the equivalent value of the service performed (or item sold).VAT is then stated on the cash receipt or an invoice, for example.

Booking example

This booking example is a voucher with the note "The voucher can also be redeemed for other services".

Sale of voucher
A customer buys a voucher from you for a romantic evening meal for two, valued at
CHF 166.00. He pays for the voucher with his credit card.
Debit Credit Amount Note
Bank (credit card) Vouchers (liability account) CHF 166.00 No remuneration, no VAT owed

Redemption of voucher

Your guest pays the evening meal for himself and his girlfriend with a voucher in the amount of
CHF 166.00.

Debit Credit Amount Note
Vouchers (liability account)
Income account CHF 166.00 taxable service
Income account Creditor VAT
CHF 11.87 7.7% VAT

VAT treatment of vouchers in the light of the case law of August 10, 2021

In the complaints procedure ( Judgment of August 10, 2021, A-2587/2020) the Federal Administrative Court (DFAC) had to assess whether the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (SFTA) violated federal law by qualifying the turnover from service vouchers that were proven to have been sold but not yet redeemed as advance payments.
According to previous case law, vouchers issued against payment qualified as a means of payment for VAT purposes. It follows from this that the recipient does not in principle receive any service from the payment of vouchers. Only their redemption leads to a delivery or service relevant to VAT, which is to be taxed by the service provider as sales.
Prepayments in the sense of value added tax exist if a fee paid in advance is paid for a specific or at least determinable future service. 
In the case to be judged, the Federal Administrative Court came to the conclusion that the service vouchers sold by the complainant each clearly designated a specific activity (e.g. "Bungy [...]", "[...] Vol en ballon [2 pers.] / [...]" or "Survol [...] / Lieu de rencontre: [...]"). Therefore, the economic value to be granted by the complainant - from an economic point of view - does not consist in the service voucher as such, but in the clearly defined activity described on the service voucher. The voucher itself, on the other hand, primarily has an identification, receipt, organizational and control function, which also enables it to be easily transferred (e.g. as a gift). The fact that the time at which the activity described on the voucher is used when the voucher is sold - within the expiry date - has not yet been determined or can be determined does not change the fact that this activity has a determinable economic value.
In its judgment, the Federal Administrative Court did not accept the complainant's objection that the voucher issued for a specific activity could also be used for other services and should therefore be equated with a value voucher. The reason given was that this was not evident from the voucher.

As early as 2019, we pointed out to our customers that a distinction is made between service and value vouchers and that a corresponding note must be made on the service vouchers. If you have implemented our recommendations in this article, there is no need for action.