Financial control: Airbnb and Co. should have reporting requirements

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Financial control: Ricardo, Airbnb and Co. should have a reporting obligation

Digital marketplaces such as Ricardo or Airbnb are very popular. But the financial control criticizes that the operators in this country have no information or reporting obligations. The federal government would have to create the appropriate legal basis. However, the latter sees no need for action.

Switzerland should create reporting obligations for platform service providers, analogous to the EU, demands the financial control. (icon picture)

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Anyone who wants to buy or sell a used mobile phone or rent a holiday home today is very likely to use one of the numerous digital marketplaces. But although platform service providers such as Ricardo or Airbnb are firmly established in this country, they currently have no information or reporting obligations to the authorities.

This is the conclusion of the Swiss Federal Audit Office (SFAO) in a report published on Tuesday evening. She carried out a cross-sectional audit at the Federal Social Insurance Office (BSV), the Federal Tax Administration (ESTV), the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).

The aim of the audit was to examine the challenges of the so-called platform economy for the authorities. The SFAO paid particular attention to the tax and social security contributions and levies.

OECD and EU lead the way with laws

Financial Control notes that certain platform activities are not always visible to the authorities or are not declared by the platforms. She attributes this to the partly “non-transparent activities across cantons and countries” of such platforms and the “anonymous mediation or payment”. In some cases, there is simply ignorance about the obligations on the part of the platforms, but “deliberate tax evasion or undeclared work” would also occur.

From the point of view of the SFAO, this could not only lead to tax losses and reduced income in social security, but also to unequal tables compared to other providers. She therefore recommends creating a legal basis for platforms to provide information or report.

As an example, she cites the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation OECD, which has adopted corresponding model rules for platforms. In addition, the EU will introduce reporting obligations and data exchange by 2023. Financial Control considers these measures to be “reasonable”.

How important are the platforms for the job market?

The authorities examined in the report, on the other hand, react skeptically to the recommendations of the financial control. In a statement, Seco criticizes, for example, that the SFAO takes the phenomenon of the platform economy “very broadly” and thus “overstates” its importance for the Swiss labor market.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs relies on a survey by the Federal Statistical Office from 2019. According to this, only 0.4 percent of the population stated that they had done internet-based platform work in the last year. The FSO estimated the turnover of the services at CHF 580 million. Consequently, Seco questions the proportionality of the recommended measures.

The State Secretariat for International Financial Matters argues similarly. The data from the FSO would show that internet-based platform work in Switzerland “so far has not been widespread,” according to a statement. The SIF therefore considers the introduction of the OECD model rules in Switzerland to be “premature”. Should the initial situation change, the SIF wants to re-examine the creation of appropriate rules.

In fact, the SFAO estimates the extent of the platforms relevant to tax and social security to be higher than the authorities examined and the Federal Statistical Office. “This is based on researched studies, data on growth, sales, number of users and providers, advertisements, market shares, etc.”, as she states in the report.

While the FSO estimates the turnover of the platform services at CHF 580 million, the SFAO assumes a “low to mid single-digit billion amount”. This explains why financial control insists on stricter regulation, while Seco and Co. wave it off.

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