Which donations are tax-deductible?

Donate money and save taxes at the same time? You can. But not every donation qualifies for a tax deduction. In this article you will learn what is important.

Quick Summary

  • You can include many, but not all, donations on your tax return.
  • You can get tax deductions for donations to organisations with a charitable or public purpose.
  • Donations or membership fees to political parties are also tax-deductible.
  • In addition to monetary donations, you can also deduct in-kind donations.
  • You can take your donation into account for cantonal tax and federal tax. Note, however, that (in some cases) minimum and maximum amounts exist.

In many cases, you have the option to deduct your donations from your income on your tax return. One requirement is that the donation must go to an organisation that is tax-exempt for public or charitable purposes. In addition, the organisation must have its registered office (or at least a permanent establishment) in Switzerland. If you would like to donate to WWF, for example, you should direct your donation to WWF Switzerland in order to benefit from the deduction.

By the way, you can also deduct donations or membership fees to political parties for tax purposes . Also deductible are donations to the Confederation, cantons, municipalities or their institutions (e.g. ETH).

How can I recognize such a tax-exempt organisation?

Non-Profit Organisations

You can recognize tax-exempt organisations with a charitable purpose by the Zewo seal of approval, for example. Zewo is a foundation that awards their seal of approval to organisations that are audited and trustworthy with regard to donations. Donations to Zewo approved organisations are always tax-deductible. However, there are also organisations that are not on the Zewo list but still qualify for the deduction. One way to locate them is to consult the lists of the cantonal tax administrations. Some cantons maintain lists of organisations with exclusively charitable purposes that have their headquarters in that canton (see, for example, here for the canton of St. Gallen or here for the canton of Lucerne). The recognition of the public utility or public purpose is usually accepted by the other cantons as well.


You live in St. Gallen and would like to donate for “Water for water” But you don’t know whether “Water for Water” – based in Lucerne – is tax-exempt. To find out, can access the list of tax-exempt, non-profit organisations in the Canton of Lucerne.

However, it is possible that an organisation is not on the cantonal list. If you do not find the considered organisation on either the Zewo list or the cantonal list, inquire directly with the cantonal tax administration. On DeinAdieu you will find a selection of non-profit organisations.

Organisations with public purpose

As mentioned, you can also deduct donations that go to tax-exempt organisations with public purposes. A public purpose may exist if the organisation performs tasks normally performed by the state. Private schools are one example.

Organisations that do not qualify for the deduction

There are organisations that are tax-exempt, but you cannot deduct your donation. The reason for this is that the organisation does not pursue charitable or public purposes. One example is organisations with a purely cultic purpose, such as religious communities. Donations to such organisations are only deductible if they also pursue charitable or public purposes. In addition, it must be ensured that your donation is intended for this charitable or public purpose.

Which donations are tax deductible?

Donations in kind

Normally, money is donated in Switzerland. You can declare the donated amount as a deduction in your tax return. In addition to monetary donations, you can also deduct donations in kind from your taxes. In-kind donations can range from clothing to furniture to real estate. However, you must be able to prove the market value of your donation (e.g. by providing a receipt for recently purchased goods). If you provide this evidence, you can therefore also declare donations in kind on your tax return. Donations of time, on the other hand, cannot be deducted. For example, if you volunteer for a nonprofit organisation, you cannot include the time spent doing so on your tax return.

Membership and patronage fees

With regard to many non-profit organisations in Switzerland, the membership or patronage contribution is tax deductible. This is the case if it is predominantly of a donation nature. To obtain information on a membership and patronage fee, it is best to directly contact the organisation or the tax administration.

How much can I deduct?

You can take donations into account for both cantonal and federal tax. The decisive factor for the question in which tax period you can take the donation into account is the time of payment.

For federal taxes, there is both a minimum and a maximum amount. Thus, you can only claim donations that total at least CHF 100 in a tax year. Further, deductions are limited to donations up to 20% of net income. You can deduct donations and membership fees to political parties up to an amount of CHF 10’100. Legal entities can also benefit from a deduction. This is limited to 20% of the net profit.

The deductibility of donations at the cantonal level varies from canton to canton. So there are different minimum and maximum amounts depending on the canton. In many cantons, the minimum and maximum amounts are similar to those for federal tax. An overview of how the individual cantons regulate this can be found on the Zewo website.

Concluding remark

Every day, several hundred organisations in Switzerland are committed to charitable causes. These organisations cover a wide range of social, cultural, environmental, and health-promoting purposes. If you’d like to learn more about some of these nonprofits, here’s what you need to know.

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