A Taxing Idea

The Swiss pay a lot of taxes, to me it seems like EVERYTHING has a tax on it, even taxes are taxed. But nothing is fun if you just keep it to yourself, go ahead, spread the joy around, get everyone involved, the more the merrier. That’s why we also have tourist taxes. After all, tourism accounts for a whopping 3% of the Swiss gross domestic product.

Anyone who doesn’t have a permanent address in Switzerland and stays in a hotel here is required to pay a tourist tax. The tax is used to help pay for the upkeep of the touristic infrastructure. It actually somehow makes sense. As a tourist you might take for granted all the well kept hiking trails, strategically placed benches, signs pointing out what to look at, where to go and how to get there and they were all brought to you and paid for by the local tourist organization. Unfortunately, Switzerland is not cheap and as a tourist, at the end of the day, I suppose you would have more money in your pocket if you didn’t have to dish out additional taxes everywhere you went. So you might grumble a bit to the person who is asking for the extra money. But the hotel or the restaurant owners who collect the money are only the middlemen and aren’t the ones who set the price, it is set by the local authorities.

One restaurant owner in Appenzell in eastern Switzerland had had enough, he thought the taxes he had to collect weren’t fair and was ruining his business. He went to the local authorities to try and stop or at least lower the amount he had to pay. Like I said, taxes are a part of life here in Switzerland and they are not just lowered, if need be a good Swiss compromise is found. So the politicians put their heads together and decided that instead of lowering the taxes, if more organizations had to pay them everyone would be treated the same (and as a bonus more money would be collected), something like misery loves company. But who else could they possibly tax? Then someone came up with a winning idea.

When you leave the hospital after a major operation or intervention and are no longer in need of the intensive care you get there you usually go home. In spite of good hospital care and depending on what was done some people are still not well enough to go home. In that case a rehabilitations clinic or rehab-clinic for short is the answer. These are good and important facilities, they help you learn to walk or talk again and in general help you to get your life back on track after whatever it was that happened to you. There are rehab-clinics all over the country and some are in the most beautiful and touristic parts of Switzerland like Chur or Appenzell. While you are lying in the bed, regaining your strength, you are also watching TV and getting your meals served. Once you are strong enough to get back on your feet you start taking short walks and then longer walks outside and are able to enjoy the beautiful countryside (brought to you by, ta-da, the tourist organization!). So, in fact, you are a tourist. If you look at it this way, that isn’t a hospital bed, it’s a tourist bed and the people in the rehab-clinics are tourists and should to be taxed pro bed and night.

This scenario was actually thought through and discussed as a possible source of taxes by the Appenzell authorities. Thank goodness they came to their senses and the majority voted against the motion. So, at least in Appenzell a patient is still a patient and not a tourist.

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