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Types of Swiss Companies

Types of Swiss Companies

When opening a company in Switzerland, one of the most important decisions related to this aspect is choosing the most suitable legal entity. There are several types of companies local and foreign investors can choose from.

 Our team of consultants in company formation in Switzerland can provide an extensive presentation on all the business forms that foreign investors can register here, as well as advice on the advantages available for each company type.

What are the main Swiss company types?

Of all the Swiss company types, one of the most common ways to start a business here is by registering a limited liability company or a joint stock company. Other business forms favor foreign companies that want to open an office and expand to the Swiss market or investors who want to open their individual business.

Businessmen who want to open a company in Switzerland as a small and medium-sized company can select a limited liability company; one of the characteristics of this structure is that its shares can’t be listed on the Swiss stock exchange. The company’s founders are named shareholders and their names have to be mentioned in the company’s statutory documents. 

Furthermore, their names have to be made public with the Swiss Commercial Register. In order to register this business form, one of the requirements for company formation in Switzerland is to deposit the minimum share capital; in the case of this structure, the minimum share capital is established at CHF 20,000.  

The corporation (AG or SA) is suitable for all business needs and its simple requirements for the transfer of shares make it a widely used business form. The company’s founders have the quality of shareholders as well, but in their case, their identity does not have to be made public. The Swiss corporation (or public limited company or Swiss SA) is characterized by the following:

  • it can be founded by a single shareholder and a single director;
  • the company’s shareholder and the director can be represented by the same person;
  • although foreigners can register this business form, it is legally required to have at least a shareholder who is a resident of this country;
  • the incorporation costs associated with this legal structure can reach CHF 7,000;
  • it can be the ideal business structure for those interested in an easy process regarding the transfer of the company’s shares. 

The corporation requires a larger minimum share capital than the limited liability company (minimum CHF 100,000 with at least 50% paid at the time of the incorporation). Our consultants can help you open any type of company in Switzerland. We can also help you in case you need an accountant in Switzerland for your business.  Partnerships in Switzerland can be simple, general or limited. General partnerships are commonly used by small family businesses that carry out commercial activities. The limited partnership bears many similarities with the general type, however, the activities undertaken by the business partners do not need to be commercial.

Branches in Switzerland are suitable for foreign companies abroad that want to expand on the Swiss market. Individuals who want to run a business on their own can form a sole proprietorship. In case you intend to invest in Switzerland by starting a business here, our company registration agents in Switzerland can give you further details about the requirements for each business type. We can also advise on how to use the EORI number in Switzerland, for entities engaged in trading activities. 

Who can register a Swiss sole trader?

The Swiss sole trader is the simplest way to carry a business activity in Switzerland; this business form is available in other European countries as well and its purpose is to provide a legal framework for persons who want to start their own business activities. It can only be registered by a single person, who must be a natural person. Businessmen who want to open a company in Switzerland as a sole trader must consider the next aspects: 

  • the Swiss sole trader does not have a legal personality; 
  • thus, there is no legal distinction between the founder and the company;
  • the sole trader can be registered without depositing a share capital (there are no requirements set out in this sense);
  • foreigners can register as sole traders as well, but they need to have their domicile in Switzerland;
  • as a foreigner, it is not necessary to have Swiss residency in order to register this structure. 

In the case in which the sole trader becomes a developed business, the owner has the possibility of changing the legal structure of the company and it is advised if this happens, considering that there is no legal distinction between the founder and the sole trader (which means that the owner is responsible with his or her personal assets for any debts that the business may have). 

Our team of specialists in Swiss company formation can represent investors in the formalities regarding the modification of the legal structure of a business registered in Switzerland. In this particular case, the most advisable option is to change the sole trader into a limited liability company. It is also important to know that if the owner wants to close down the sole trader, the structure benefits from the simplest liquidation procedure, considering that it has a simple structure and few requirements regarding its accounting system.  

You can also rely on us if you want to buy a virtual office in Switzerland.

You can also rely on us for other services, such as accounting. Our Swiss accountants are at your disposal with tailored solutions for small and large businesses, in accordance with their needs. Among these are bookkeeping and accounting services, but we can assist in more complex matters, such as audits that are mandatory in most cases.

The business forms that can be registered in Switzerland can be found in other European countries, but they can also be established in jurisdictions located on other continents; for example, the company types available in Switzerland can also be found in Hong Kong. Furthermore, if you need company formation services in NorwayHong KongThailand or Cuba, our partners are at your disposal. Clients who need legal consultancy or representation in Denmark can receive help from our Danish lawyers.

Our specialists in Swiss company formation have made a short presentation on the types of companies that can be incorporated in Switzerland

Partnerships in Switzerland

There are two types of partnerships that can be created in Switzerland:

  • the general one;
  • the limited one.

The Swiss general partnership is one of the best types of legal structures for a small company founded by 2 or more people. No share capital is needed to establish a general partnership, and the foundation deed is easy to create. However, the partners have joint and several liabilities towards the business.  The partnership must be listed in the Commercial Register. Unless the partners agree otherwise, all partners are accountable for the management. At least one of the members must be appointed as a representative.

From an accounting perspective, general partnerships with less than CHF 500,000 in revenue are required to maintain simplified accounts. They must also keep records and submit accounts in compliance with the guidelines outlined in the Commercial Code if turnover exceeded CHF500,000 in the previous fiscal year. Our accounting company in Switzerland can offer more information on the taxation of this structure.

The Swiss limited partnership is one in which the general partner, who has unlimited liability, and the limited partner, who bears limited liability, are 2 different natural persons, businesses, or legal entities. There is no startup cost involved in forming this type of structure. Limited partnerships that function as businesses are required to register with the Commercial Register.

If you want to open a company in Switzerland and are unsure about the legal entity to use, our local consultants can advise you.

Options for foreign companies in Switzerland

Apart from local investors who can set up various types of companies in Switzerland, foreign enterprises can also expand their activities through the following entities:

  • the subsidiary;
  • the branch office;
  • the liaison office.

Choosing the correct business form will impact not only the liability of the parent company but also the activities it can undertake. From this point of view, our Swiss company formation agents can advise on choosing the appropriate legal form based on your goals.

As a short presentation:

  • the subsidiary will operate as any other Swiss type of company as it can be registered as a private or public corporation;
  • the branch office is an extension of a foreign company and is legally bound to undertake the same activities as the parent business;
  • the representative office is restricted from completing any commercial activity, however, it is a good market testing tool before expansion.

Our company registration consultants in Switzerland can help you incorporate any of these types of companies.

What are the characteristics of the Swiss business market? 

According to the latest data:

  • at the level of 2023, there were 51,637 newly registered companies in Switzerland;
  • this is the equivalent of 141 businesses incorporated per day;
  • the number of new companies established in 2023 was 3.2% higher than in 2022;
  • the number of start-ups also rose by 13.7% in 2023.

The total number of foreign subsidiaries operating in Switzerland is quite impressive, most of them being set up by foreign investors from countries such as France, Germany, or the United States of America; our team of specialists in company registration in Switzerland can provide legal representation to those who want to enter the local market through a subsidiary or a branch office.  

Invest in Switzerland

When it comes to opening a company in Switzerland, investors should know that this jurisdiction is a country with many business advantages. A good geographical location, excellent infrastructure, and highly qualified workforce, as well as its cultural diversity, are just some of the reasons why foreign investors choose the beautiful country.

Companies activate in essentially any business field and the country is not only attractive as a business destination. The high quality of living makes many investors decide to remain in the country. If you would like to know more about business opportunities in the country and the company law, you can contact our company registration consultants in Switzerland.