As of January 1, 2024, the Federal Council wants electric vehicles to be subject to the 4% motor vehicle tax, putting them on an equal footing with vehicles with internal combustion engines. A corresponding consultation has just been completed and the responsible federal office is now evaluating it. The date of entry into force has not yet been determined, but it is assumed that the adjustment will take place at the beginning of next year.
Tax benefit on electric vehicles
Currently, electric vehicles benefit from various tax incentives. The Confederation promotes electromobility by exempting the import of such vehicles from automobile tax, and the cantons also grant reductions or waive the annual motor vehicle tax altogether.
The measure to abolish the fiscal privilege for the import of electric vehicles is part of an overall package with which the Federal Council is trying to counteract the dwindling fiscal revenues. This is because the increase in new registrations of electric vehicles is striking. This increased from 1.8% of all new registrations in 2018 to 17.7% in 2022. However, it is not only the lack of revenue from the automobile tax that affects federal revenues, but also the revenue from the mineral oil tax that is not guaranteed in the longer term. And it is precisely the latter that are used to finance the road and national motorway network. Against this background, the abolition of the fiscal privilege for the import of vehicles is only the first step in a catalog of measures that the federal government intends to introduce by 2030. Trade in new and/or used vehicles that have already been imported will remain exempt from the levying of the automobile tax on electric vehicles.
Several cantons have already abolished tax benefits for electric vehicles
Unlike the automobile tax, the annual road tax is regulated on a cantonal basis. Several cantons, including AG, AR, AI, LU, SZ and VS, have already abolished the incentive for electric vehicles. Most cantons apply a partial reduction of the road tax for electric vehicles and passenger cars with low CO2 emissions. The subsidy in the form of a rebate is limited to the first 3 to 4 years after the vehicle is put into circulation. A full waiver of the road tax, albeit for a limited period of time, is applied in a quarter of all cantons. The canton of Zurich exempts electric cars without any restrictions. There is no intention of abolishing this cantonal support for electromobility, despite the planned change in the automobile tax. In addition, in the canton of Zurich, particularly energy- and fuel-efficient vehicles also benefit from a rebate of the road tax. It remains to be seen how the cantons that today grant generous discounts on the road tax of electric vehicles will behave, since this revenue is also used to finance the cantonal road network.
Consolidation is emerging
The trend is clear: After the Confederation and the cantons have indirectly promoted electromobility, a consolidation is noticeable. The focus is now on securing earmarked revenues to finance the cantonal and national road infrastructure, which is used by electric vehicles to the same extent as by combustion vehicles. The preferential treatment of certain vehicles can therefore no longer be justified in the medium term.
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