In this article you will learn everything about the CO2 tax for importing cars into Switzerland (also known as the CO2 tax) and how CO2 Börse AG can offer you a reduction on your high-emission vehicles or a bonus for vehicles with low CO2 emissions.
Definition of CO2 tax: What does the CO2 tax on car imports mean?
In July 2012, Switzerland introduced CO2 emission regulations for passenger cars (cars) registered in Switzerland for the first time. The limit value of 130 g CO2/km that has since applied to passenger cars will be reduced to 95 grams per kilometre from 2020.
In addition, a CO2 limit value of 147 grams of CO2 per kilometre will be introduced for light commercial vehicles (LNF) in 2020. LNFs include light semitrailers and vans.
The CO2 tax on car imports is a government incentive designed to help reduce CO2 emissions in Switzerland. If the CO2 target values are exceeded, the importer must pay a CO2 tax on passenger cars as a sanction and from 2020 also a CO2 tax on light commercial vehicles. For the 2018 calendar year alone, the 74 major Swiss importers paid a CO2 tax totalling 31.1 million Swiss francs.
The CO2 tax on passenger cars and light commercial vehicles is aimed at the transport sector, which contributes the most to Switzerland’s CO2 emissions (32 percent) of all economic sectors.
The CO2 levy on fossil fuels such as natural gas and heating oil, which has been levied since 2008 and to which separate provisions of the CO2 Act apply, must be distinguished from the CO2 levy on passenger cars and the CO2 levy on light commercial vehicles. CO2 tax Switzerland Refund: Two thirds of the CO2 tax on fossil fuels are returned to the Swiss population and the Swiss economy as an eco-bonus via the health insurance funds, irrespective of individual fuel consumption.
Which vehicles are affected by the CO2 tax on car imports?
CO2 levies must be paid
- for passenger cars that exceed the CO2 limit value of 130 g/km (import up to and including 2019) or 95 g/km (import from 2020) and
- for light commercial vehiclesthat will be imported from the beginning of 2020 and have CO2 emissions of more than 147 g/km.
A CO2 tax on light commercial vehicles and passenger cars is levied on imported cars.
- which are approved for the first time in Switzerland, and
- who were admitted abroad for a maximum of six months before being imported into Switzerland.
Vehicles that have been registered abroad for more than six months are not subject to the CO2 tax obligation for light commercial vehicles and passenger cars and can be presented to the Motor Vehicle Inspectorate (MFK) on the occasion of the first placing on the market in Switzerland without a test procedure for the CO2 tax.
CO2 tax: small importers and private importers
What are small importers?
Small importers are those who, in a calendar year.
- less than 50 PW respectively
- less than 6 LNF
Small importers also include those who import their own new private vehicles from abroad and place them on the Swiss market (private importers).
The status of small importer or large importer shall be determined separately for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.
Small importers settle the CO2 tax on each car individually with the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO). A CO2 tax due must be paid by the small importer before the imported vehicle can be put into circulation.
CO2 tax on cars: price differences between ASTRA (Federal Roads Office) and CO2 Börse AG
Since June 2012, CO2 Börse AG has been enabling small importers (car dealers and private individuals) to process the CO2 tax at an improved rate. Small importers can calculate possible cost reductions online with the CO2 tax calculator of CO2 Börse AG.
Lucrative CO2 bonus for importers
Car importers can obtain an attractive CO2 bonus from CO2 Börse AG, which we use to reward the import of particularly fuel-efficient vehicles. For multiple importers, the CO2 bonus effectively means a CO2 tax refund for Switzerland.
The CO2 bonus of CO2 Börse AG is an immediate cash payment that small importers and large importers receive if the CO2 emissions of an imported vehicle are below the CO2 target value (for example: below the 2019 target value of 130 g CO2/km for passenger cars).
Small and large importers, private individuals and commercial car dealers benefit from the CO2 bonus of CO2 Börse AG as if they were reimbursed for CO2 tax in Switzerland. Small importers and large importers, private individuals and commercial car dealers benefit from the CO2 bonus of CO2 Börse AG as well as from a CO2 tax The only mandatory requirement for paying a CO2 bonus is that the vehicle is registered in the same calendar year.
The amount of the CO2 bonus depends on the factors vehicle empty weight and CO2 emissions.
If you are a private importer and would like to benefit from the CO2 bonus, please send us the original Swiss customs form 13.20A and the COC (EU Declaration of Conformity) by post.
Private individuals can calculate their CO2 bonus with the CO2 calculator of CO2 Börse AG.
Large and small importers
As a commercial car dealer (small importers or large importers) you first register on the online platform of CO2 Börse AG in order to receive the CO2 bonus according to our dealer tariff and thus a de facto attractive CO2 tax refund Switzerland. Please then send the customs document 13.20 A and the type certificate data sheet to our e-mail address email@example.com. You will then receive information from CO2 Börse AG on how to proceed. Take advantage of the possibility of a de facto CO2 tax refund Switzerland!
This is how the CO2 tax on passenger cars and light commercial vehicles is calculated
As small importers of a new vehicle imported into Switzerland, you can easily determine the CO2 tax using our online tool. (The tool is only suitable for calculating CO2 levies on passenger cars and light commercial vehicles of small importers, but not for calculating CO2 levies on cars belonging to the fleet of a large importer. For this purpose, registration on the dealer platform is mandatory.)
Please enter the following data in our online form for calculating the CO2 tax:
- the manufacturer’s brand
- the year in which the vehicle was imported into Switzerland,
- the vehicle weight as well as
- the vehicle’s CO2 emissions.
The weight and vehicle-specific CO2 emissions can be found in the Certificate of Conformity (COC) issued by your vehicle manufacturer.
Note: The COC shows three CO2 emission values (urban, nonurban and combined). Please enter the combined value indicated in the COC into the online form.
Finally, please complete your personal contact details (name, telephone number and e-mail address).
The further procedure for handling the CO2 tax on cars
After you have determined the CO2 tax, please send us (in the original)
- the COC and
- the Swiss customs document 13.20 A.
After receipt of your documents, we will process the CO2 tax on your car via our CO2 pool at the Federal Roads Office (ASTRA).
Determination of the CO2 emission on a car: Formula and calculation example
The amount of the CO2 tax for a car depends on the vehicle weight and the extent to which the vehicle exceeds its individual CO2 target value.
The CO2 tax on passenger cars is calculated according to the following formula (taking into account the CO2 fleet target of 130 g/km for 2019):
1.) Determination of the vehicle-specific permissible CO2 emissions
Vehicle-specific permissible vehicle target value in g CO2/km:
130 g CO2/km + 0.0457 * (vehicle empty weight minus average empty weight of all new vehicles of the previous year) g CO2/km
- The value 0.0457 is a legally specified value on a target value straight line.
The above formula is based on the following basic rule: the higher the vehicle weight, the higher the vehicle-specific permissible CO2 emission.
2.) Checking compliance with the CO2 emissions permitted for each individual vehicle
Let’s assume, for example,
- that the calculation under 1.) has resulted in an individually permissible CO2 target value of 134 g CO2/km and
- that the COC shows a combined CO2 emission value of 138 g C/km.
In this case, the vehicle exceeds its permissible CO2 emission value by 4 g CO2/km. This excess of 4 g CO2/kg forms the basis for calculating the CO2 tax in Swiss francs.
3.) Calculation of the CO2 emission on cars: proportional to the exceedance of the target value
DETEC (Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications) determines the CHF amount of the CO2 tax per gram of CO2 target value exceeded each year. DETEC has a bandwidth defined in the CO2 Act at its disposal, which will be between 95 and 152 francs from 2019 (Article 13 (1) and (2) of the CO2 Act).
For the year 2019, a CO2 levy of CHF 111 per gram of excess target value will be charged on passenger cars.
This results in the following CO2 tax for a passenger car in our calculation example:
Because the target value of 4 g CO2/km has been exceeded, the CO2 tax for the car is 4*111 CHF, i.e. 444 CHF.
CO2 tax on car imports: How is CO2 Börse AG handled?
- If CO2 Börse AG is included, private individuals can calculate the CO2 tax themselves using a clear online tool with just a few data entries.
- The private importer then sends the following original documents to CO2 Börse AG:
- Customs document 13.20 A
- Certificate of conformity, COC
- a foreign registration certificate, if applicable
- After checking the documents, CO2 Börse AG will send them including the CO2 assignment form to ASTRA.
- The original documents will be returned after receipt of the tax payment.
- The entire process usually takes three to five days to complete.
Commercial importers (small importers and large importers) register free of charge on the CO2 Börse AG trading platform.
- The importer records the import vehicle on the online dealer platform.
- With the now available database, the CO2 assignment form is automatically created and sent to the importer by e-mail in just a few seconds.
- The commercial importer now sends the following documents to ASTRA:
- Customs document 13.20 A
- Certificate of conformity, COC
- CO2 transfer form
- a foreign registration certificate if necessary.
- Processing via the Federal Roads Office usually takes two to three days.
How is the CO2 tax handled without the inclusion of CO2 Börse AG?
For a vehicle which is imported into Switzerland by a small importer and for which a CO2 tax is payable on passenger cars and from 2020 also on light commercial vehicles, the small importer must apply to the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO) for a certificate to be issued.
- First, the small importer must assess on his own responsibility whether the vehicle is affected by the CO2 tax on cars. The ASTRA website provides only a schedule for the examination of a possible CO2 tax liability.
- If the importer comes to the conclusion that his car is eligible for a CO2 tax, he downloads an application form for the certificate from the ASTRA website.
- After proper completion of the form, the importer sends his application to the Federal Roads Office together with the required original documents (customs form 13.20 A, COC and, if applicable, a foreign registration certificate).
- ASTRA will endeavour to send the applicant an invoice for the CO2 tax by A Mail within five working days. The invoice shows the vehicle for which a CO2 tax was calculated during car import and also specifies the CO2 target value exceeded.
- Upon receipt of the tax payment, ASTRA will return the original documents to the small importer.
Who is a major importer?
Major importers are defined as those who, in a calendar year
- at least 50 PW respectively
- at least 6 LNF
imported into Switzerland and put into circulation.
(Article 18 CO2 Regulation)
Provisional status as a major importer
An importer can apply to the Federal Office of Energy for provisional treatment as a major importer for a reference year if he has not yet fulfilled the conditions for major importers (import of at least 50 PW or 6 LNF) in the previous year (Article 19 CO2 Ordinance).
Formation of emission pools
Importers and manufacturers can form a PW or LNF emission community in order to jointly achieve the minimum import volumes applicable to large importers (Article 22 of the CO2 Ordinance).
Individual targets for major importers
Major importers receive individual CO2 targets from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE). The implementation of these CO2 targets is monitored by the SFOE in cooperation with the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO).
Calculation of CO2 target achievement by major importers
Major importers do not charge the CO2 tax on cars individually for each imported vehicle. The billing of the CO2 tax for light commercial vehicles and passenger cars to be carried out by major importers via the Federal Office of Energy is rather uniform for the entire vehicle fleet, namely at the average CO2 value (arithmetic mean) of all new vehicles imported in a calendar year.
When calculating CO2 target achievement, major importers will benefit from the following until 2022
- the exemption limit regulation, according to which the vehicles with the highest emissions in their import fleet are not included in the determination of target achievement (Article 27 (2) of the Ordinance), and
- the multiple weighting of vehicles with CO2 emissions below 50 g/km (super credits under Article 27(3) of the CO2 Regulation).
Calculation of the CO2 tax for large importers
If a major importer exceeds his individual CO2 target, CO2 tax becomes due.
Each year, the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) determines the amount of the sanction for exceeding a gram of CO2 target (Article 13 (2) CO2 Act) and lists it in Annex 5 to the CO2 Ordinance.
CO2 Börse AG: CO2 tax solutions for large importers
The fleets of large importers have a high volume of imported vehicles for which CO2 tax is payable on passenger cars or (from 2020) on light commercial vehicles. CO2 Börse AG has therefore developed a novel solution for large importers for the CO2 levy on car imports in the form of so-called volume billing.
Volume billing for large importers: Reduction of CO2 tax
The legal basis for volume invoicing at CO2 Börse AG is the possibility, permitted by the CO2 Ordinance, to assign the CO2 emission volumes of imported vehicles to other companies after they have been imported into Switzerland.
Major importers can book a CO2 volume quota for a specific calendar year with CO2 Börse AG.
The acquired quota enables major importers to transfer the CO2 emission volume, in particular high-consumption vehicles, to the CO2 Börse AG. This means that high-emission imported vehicles will be removed from the CO2-taxable vehicle fleet.
Optimisation of the CO2 tax on cars: processing and monitoring
Importers who opt for volume billing at CO2 Börse AG have online access to the CO2 Börse platform. Using their own calculation and monitoring tool, major importers can query their currently available remaining quota in real time.
CO2 Börse AG guarantees transparent processing and compliance with the highest standards of data security and discretion.
CO2 target values for vehicle manufacturers
General procedure for the determination of manufacturer CO2 target values
Each vehicle manufacturer receives an individual CO2 target value for its vehicle fleet. If the unladen weight of its vehicles is lower than the EU average (“reference mass”: 1,372 kg), the manufacturer receives a CO2 target value below the generally applicable target value of 130 g CO2/km (for passenger cars 2019).
Example (passenger car 2019):
- Vehicle with 1,550 kg unladen weight: Target value 138 g/km
- Vehicle with EU average kerb weight (1,372 kg): 130 g/km
- Vehicle with 1,200 kg unladen weight: target value 122 g/km
CO2 target value: based on the average of a manufacturer’s fleet, not on an individual vehicle
The target values (e.g. 130 g CO2/km for PW 2019) are not a rigid upper limit that applies to each individual vehicle, but a target value that refers to the average of the total fleet of an individual manufacturer. Vehicle manufacturers may therefore sell high-performance cars with CO2 emissions above the target value if this excess is offset by other vehicles with lower CO2 values.
CO2 tax on cars: special targets for small and niche manufacturers
Small producers and niche producers can apply to the EU Commission to set special CO2 targets (Article 28(2) of the CO2 Regulation).
- Small manufacturers are vehicle manufacturers who produce less than 10,000 vehicles in the European Union within one calendar year.
- Niche manufacturers in the European Union produce between 10,000 and 300,000 vehicles within one calendar year.
CO2 targets for small and niche manufacturers’ vehicles are set on the basis of vehicle weight and CO2 emissions. Niche manufacturers may themselves propose a reduction target to be approved by the EU Commission.
Switzerland recognises the decisions taken by the EU Commission on the special objectives of small and niche manufacturers vis-à-vis small importers and large importers.
- With regard to those vehicles for which a special target applies, an importer is classified separately as a small importer or a large importer.
- A major importer who wants to levy a CO2 tax on cars of a small or niche manufacturer with a special target must notify the Swiss Federal Office of Energy before putting the first of these vehicles into circulation in the reference year in question.
(Article 28(3) CO2 Regulation)
Why was the CO2 tax introduced on cars?
Since the beginning of industrialization, the earth’s atmosphere has been warming faster and faster. The climate change associated with the rise in global temperatures endangers the natural environment and human livelihoods.
One of the propellants that is particularly responsible for global warming is carbon dioxide, which is released in large quantities during the combustion of fuels.
Switzerland is affected to an above-average extent by climate change. While the average global annual temperature increased by an average of 0.85 °C since measurements began in 1864, temperatures in Switzerland rose by 1.9 °C over the same period, more than twice the global average.
Between 1990 and 2017, CO2 greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland decreased by only 12 percent. It currently appears uncertain whether Switzerland will achieve its CO2 reduction commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (1997) of 20 percent by 2020.
Climate protection in Switzerland: CO2 Act
Kyoto Protocol 1997: the starting point for Switzerland’s CO2 Act
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol stipulated a 15.8 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 for the period between 2013 and 2020.
CO2 Act: Implementation of international requirements
The “Federal Act on the Reduction of CO2 Emissions” (CO2 Act), the first version of which entered into force in May 2000, serves to implement the international obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.
The CO2 Act provides for a 20% reduction in Switzerland’s CO2 emissions by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
Paris agreement and planned revision of CO2 law
According to the Paris Climate Protection Agreement of December 2015, Switzerland is obliged to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
In order to implement the requirements of the Paris Climate Protection Agreement, a far-reaching revision of the CO2 Act is necessary. The new CO2 Act is currently in the legislative process.
Switzerland aims to achieve its emission reduction target of 50 percent compared with the 1990 baseline as follows:
- at least 30 percent of total emissions (-11.9 million metric tons of CO2) by reducing their domestic CO2 emissions, and
- a further maximum of 20 percent of the total emissions (-6.6 million tonnes of CO2) that arise abroad but are attributed to Switzerland (e.g. due to purchases of foreign products in Switzerland whose manufacture causes CO2 emissions abroad).
The CO2 Ordinance aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland. The ordinance was issued on 30 November 2012 on the basis of the CO2 Act.
The CO2 Regulation regulates in particular
- the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,
- emission targets for the transport, buildings and industry sectors,
- emission targets for the transport, buildings and industry sectors,
- emission targets for the transport sectors, the calculation of CO2 levies on passenger cars and light commercial vehicles if vehicle importers exceed the CO2 targets, buildings and industry,
- an emissions trading system (trading in emission reduction certificates using an electronic emissions trading registry, EHR).
From the New York UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992 to the revision of the Swiss CO2 Act 2019
- 1992: Adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in New York.
- 1997: Conclusion of the Kyoto Protocol on climate protection.
- 2000: Entry into force of the 1st version of the Swiss CO2 Act. Establishment of binding targets for the reduction of CO2 emissions.
- 2008: Introduction of a CO2 tax in Switzerland on the fossil fuels heating oil and natural gas.
- 2012: Switzerland commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
- July 2012: Switzerland: Introduction of CO2 emission targets for passenger cars registered for the first time. Emission target: 130 g/km.
- November 2012: Switzerland: Adoption of the CO2 Ordinance on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
- December 1015: Paris Convention, successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
- Objective: to limit global warming to well below 2 °C.
- Switzerland’s commitment: to halve CO2 emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.
- Switzerland’s commitment: to halve CO2 emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. Objective: To adapt to the 2030 climate objectives of the Paris Convention.
- as of 2020:
- Passenger cars: Reduction of the CO2 target value to 95 grams/kilometre
- light commercial vehicles: introduction of a new CO2 target value of 147 grams/kilometre
Conversion to the new test methods WLTP and RDE for consumption measurement: Effect on CO2 emissions for cars from 2021 onwards
Since September 2018, the new WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure), which replaces the NEDC (“New European Driving Cycle”) test cycle used since 1992, has applied throughout Europe to the measurement of consumption values and vehicle emissions.
With the test bench test WLTP more realistic exhaust gas and consumption measurements can be carried out. (The test results for consumption and emission values determined in the previous NEDC test procedure were mostly below the WLTP data).
In addition, the WLTP test procedure used internationally enables a worldwide comparison of vehicles in terms of fuel consumption and emissions.
Data differences between real operation and consumption measurements
The gap between real operation and NEDC test results, which is given as 42 percent, is to be reduced to 20 percent under WLTP. The reason for the high difference between real operation and NEDC data, which has widened in recent years, is a wide variety of factors such as vehicle consumption, vehicle weight, climate and lighting systems that have not yet been depicted in consumption, and NEDC-specific optimizations by vehicle manufacturers.
From September 2019 additionally: Free track test method RDE
From 1 September 2019, all new vehicles will also be subject to the RDE (Real Driving Emissions) test procedure, which has been used for the approval of new vehicle types since 1 September 2017. With RDE, the emissions of vehicles are controlled in practical driving operation, i.e. outside a test bench under defined test conditions on a specific outdoor route.
The RDE free-stretch process is used in addition to the WLTP test bench process.
CO2 target achievement by importers: from 2021 stricter CO2 measurement according to WLTP decisive
In a transitional phase until the end of 2020, consumption and emission values will be measured according to both NEDC and WLTP.
- From the beginning of 2020, the consumption and emission values determined in the WLTP process must be shown on energy labels and in sales documents.
- The lower NEDC CO2 test results (in comparison to WLTP usually) are decisive for the verification of the CO2 target achievement of importers until the end of 2020.
- From 2021, the CO2 target achievement of importers will be verified on the basis of the generally stricter WLTP emission measurements.
As measurements will be carried out in parallel according to the NEDC and WLTP by 2020, importers will be able to adjust early to the higher requirements for CO2 target achievement under WLTP from 2021 onwards. If necessary, importers should initiate additional appropriate measures (e.g. regarding the emission structure of their import fleet) to ensure that their CO2 targets are met and to minimise CO2 taxes on light commercial vehicles and passenger cars.
CO2 tax on cars: Outlook for 2020 and 2021
For importers of vehicles registered in Switzerland for the first time, compliance with CO2 target values is becoming increasingly important. Anyone who exceeds the emission values specified in the CO2 Ordinance is threatened with sensitive CO2 taxes on car imports.
The requirements for meeting the CO2 targets will become significantly stricter at the beginning of 2020.
- The CO2 target value for passenger cars of 130 g/km that has been in force since 2012 will then be reduced to only 95 g/km.
- The new introduction of a target value for light commercial vehicles of 147 g CO2/km extends the CO2 regulations to a vehicle category that is important for Switzerland.
By contrast, the legally provided simplifications for large importers will be gradually reduced. If in 2020 the 15 percent of an import fleet with the highest emissions are not taken into account when determining an importer’s CO2 target achievement, all vehicles – regardless of their emission levels – will be included in the calculation of target achievement from 2023 onwards.
In addition, the calculation of emission values using the NEDC test bench method, which has been used since 1992, will expire at the end of 2020. Starting in 2021, CO2 emissions from vehicles will be determined using the more realistic WLTP test cycle, which shows around 20 percent higher emission values. Changing the test bench procedure alone therefore presents vehicle importers with a major challenge in terms of meeting their CO2 target values.
This makes it all the more important for large importers in particular to make intensive use of the transitional phase until the end of 2020 to build up low-emission import fleets.
Particular attention should be paid to increasing the import share of electrically powered vehicles. The legislator rewards importers with a double weighting of each e-vehicle when determining the target achievement for the reference year 2020.
It is also important to make full use of other available opportunities. Intelligent CO2 tax solutions such as the volume billing for importers offered by CO2 Börse AG or the CO2 bonus for low-emission vehicles offered by CO2 Börse AG can noticeably reduce the CO2 tax burden on importers.
In addition, legislators are required to create optimal framework conditions for Switzerland to be as CO2-free as possible. A standardisation of the Swiss promotion programmes for energy-efficient vehicles and increased investment in the charging infrastructure would clearly support the achievement of Switzerland’s CO2 targets.
CO2 tax FAQ
Questions and answers about CO2 emissions
On the basis of the CO2 Act, the CO2 Regulation was introduced in Switzerland for vehicles in June 2012. The Ordinance concerns private individuals, small importers and large importers.
Cars registered abroad for no longer than 6 months and imported into Switzerland are affected.
The costs depend on the vehicle make, weight and CO2 emissions and can be calculated online.
After importing your car into Switzerland, please send the original form 13.20 A and the original COC for CO2 processing to CO2 Börse AG.
All costs for the processing have already been included in the fees you pay to us.
You can reach our CO2 tax hotline on +41 52 202 88 25 or visit us at our company headquarters Büelrainstrasse 15a 8400 Winterthur Switzerland. at