Federal finances

Brief summary

The federal budget ended 2022 with a financing deficit of CHF 4.3 billion. The deficit was attributable to lower receipts and high extraordinary COVID-19 expenditure. Based on the June extrapolation, a financing deficit of CHF 1.5 billion is expected for 2023, instead of the budgeted deficit of CHF 4.8 billion. Extensive adjustment measures were necessary for the 2024 budget, and the financial plan years remain challenging with structural deficits.

Federal financial results, 1990–2022
Figure 1: Federal financial results, 1990–2022

The Confederation's financing statement ended 2022 with a high deficit, just as in the two previous years. In 2022, this deficit amounted to CHF 4.3 billion. The deficit was attributable in roughly equal measure to the ordinary and extraordinary budgets. In the ordinary budget, the deficit of around CHF 1.9 billion was due to receipts that were lower than expected. Withholding tax, in particular, was well below budget. At this stage of the economic cycle, a deficit of CHF 0.3 billion would have been permissible. Therefore, this deficit is largely structural in nature (-1.6 bn).

Low withholding tax receipts in 2022

In 2022, ordinary receipts grew by 1% year on year, but were still CHF 1.8 billion below budget (-2.3%). The lower receipts were mainly attributable to withholding tax (-3.2 bn). Meanwhile, the two largest sources of federal government receipts developed positively compared with the previous year: value added tax grew at a similar rate to nominal economic growth (+1.1 bn, or +4.8%). Direct federal tax was also significantly higher (+0.9 bn, or +3.7%). This was mainly due to profit tax (+0.9 bn, or +7.1%), while income tax was virtually stagnant.

Ordinary expenditure ended 2022 just under CHF 0.6 billion below budget (-0.7%) and thus grew by 1.6% year on year. Larger supplementary credits were incurred in the areas of migration (340 mn), reserve power plants (192 mn), interest payable (135 mn) and regional passenger transportation (97 mn).

In the extraordinary budget, expenditure of CHF 4.0 billion was incurred in 2022, on the one hand for COVID-19 measures (3.3 bn), and on the other for people from Ukraine seeking protection (0.7 bn). This was offset by extraordinary receipts of CHF 1.6 billion. These came mainly from the distribution of profits by the SNB from its 2021 financial year (2.0 bn, of which 1.3 bn extraordinary).

2023 deficit probably lower than budgeted

According to the June extrapolation, the Confederation is anticipating a financing deficit of CHF 1.5 billion for 2023. A financing deficit of CHF 4.8 billion had been expected in the budget. The improvement is attributable primarily to the extraordinary budget, as the rescue mechanism for the electricity industry will probably not be needed (budget: 4.0 bn). However, there is no SNB profit distribution in 2023 (budget: 2.0 bn, of which 1.3 bn extraordinary).

The Confederation is likewise anticipating an improvement in the ordinary budget (- 0.6 bn instead of -0.7 bn). Receipts are likely to be below the budgeted figure (-0.3 bn) overall, but at the same time expenditure is set to be lower (-0.4 bn). According to the debt brake, a financing deficit of CHF 0.6 billion is permissible in the ordinary budget for 2023. The result is a structural financing deficit of CHF 53 million. If this estimate holds true, the structural deficit would be charged to the so-called compensation account, which provides the debt brake control statistics for the ordinary budget.

2024 budget and 2025-2027 financial plan

At the start of the year, the updated budget figures showed a structural financing deficit of CHF 2 billion for 2024, caused mainly by new, unfunded expenditure. Consequently, back in the spring, the Federal Council adopted adjustments of around CHF 2 billion for the 2024 budget in order to comply with the debt brake requirements. This means that the debt brake requirements can just about be met for 2024, but the fiscal policy leeway is minimal.

However, the measures are not sufficient to completely eliminate the structural deficits from 2025 onwards. The Federal Council has therefore decided that, in addition to loosely earmarked expenditure, strictly earmarked expenditure should also contribute to the adjustment of the budget. Structural deficits of up to CHF 1.2 billion will nevertheless remain in the financial plan years 2025 to 2027.

Further information

Last modification 24.08.2023