How does the 3rd pillar work?

How does third pillar work?
The Swiss pension system

The third pillar forms part of the Swiss pension system.This optional private pension plan supplements the benefits offered by the first and second pillars. It was introduced in 1972 as a supplementary pension capital scheme to the first and second pillar pension plans.

On average the first and second pillars cover only 60% of the last salary received before retirement or even less if your earn a high income from paid employment.

Once you retire, your income is reduced. This decrease in income can be problematic depending on your expectations or retirement plans. By subscribing to an individual third pillar pension plan, you guarantee your normal standard of living.

With this in mind and in order to encourage citizens to build up third pillar capital, the government has put in place significant tax benefits, which are detailed below.

What are the benefits of the third pillar?

The third pillar offers many possibilities according to your objectives, expectations, savings capacity, current or future circumstances, as well as your tax situation.

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Build up capital

Build up capital and make dreams a reality, like buying a home, starting your own business and being self-employed, reducing your mortgage, financing the work on your main residence or even taking early retirement.

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Ensure financial security for your family

Ensure financial security for your family while building up capital for your retirement by taking out a third pillar life insurance policy. By taking this step, you protect your family from financial worries in the event of death or disability while making sure you have a pension in the event of disability. At the same time, you generate additional income upon retirement and fill the pension gap.

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Take advantage of tax deductions

Take advantage of tax deductions from the moment you make your first contribution, throughout the contribution period and also when withdrawing assets. Contributions are deductible from taxable income, capital and interest are exempt from withholding tax, on maturity; and early withdrawal tax is withheld at a reduced rate.


Each year the Swiss government sets the maximum contribution entitling taxpayers to a tax incentive. For 2019 the maximum contribution to a 3a pension allowed was CHF 6'883 per employee.


Each year the Swiss government sets the maximum contribution entitling taxpayers to a tax incentive. For 2019 the maximum contribution to a 3a pension was 20% of a self-employed individual's annual income and up to CHF 34'416.

The different types of third pillar pensions

The third pillar pension is the wealth you build up during your lifetime or that you ensure in anticipation of your life goals or retirement. The third pillar pension plan are made available in the form of a bank account or life insurance. Naturally, each of these two solutions offer very different advantages, but you can take full advantage of both by combining them.

Pillar 3a and 3b

There are two types of third pillar plans. With a ‘restricted’ 3a pension,you can only withdraw money under certain conditions, while with an ‘unrestricted’ 3b pension, you have more freedom in terms of the contractual period and the payment amount, but you are generally not entitled to a tax deduction.

Cases of withdrawal of 3a pillar assets provided for by law

  • normal withdrawal: at the normal retirement age (64 for women and 65 for men)
  • early retirement: maximum of five years before the normal retirement age
  • continuation of employment: maximum of five years after the normal retirement age
  • leaving Switzerland: departure and permanent move abroad
  • self-employed: transition to a self-employed activity
  • access to property: for a main residence only
  • mortgage reduction: for main residence only
  • other events: according to law
1The annual contribution must respect the legal upper limit
2Withdrawals are authorised according to the list of legal exceptions.

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