Geneva is one of the best Swiss locations for multinational companies or for establishing a company in general due to its international nature and multicultural tradition. More than 140 multinational companies have been registered in Geneva, asides from 36 international organizations, more than 300 NGOs and 200 international missions. The city is truly a cosmopolitan location, with a foreign population reaching up to 40%.
Regarding business locations, Geneva reached high scores in the most important international rankings. Among the most important advantages offered by Geneva as a business location is the attractive taxation system, the fact that it is an accessible location right in the heart of Europe, it provides various services for supporting businesses from several industries, a highly skilled and multilingual workforce, a business-friendly environment and great quality of life.
Taxation in Geneva
Foreign companies may be granted a specific status or some kind of tax break if they meet a certain set of requirements.
Companies established in Geneva
Multinational companies have their headquarters based in Geneva, due to the very convenient European location, as well as the proximity to Africa and the Middle East region. In addition, the stable and secure surroundings, high quality of life and highly skilled workforce are important advantages for companies and entrepreneurs willing to do business in Switzerland.
The companies that are already established in Geneva are activating in different industries, varying from international banks, high-tech and biotech companies, or trading companies. Most companies that decide to choose Geneva as a business location are active in high value-added industry sectors and business relationships with partners and businesses from all over the world.
Companies that want to relocate to Geneva can benefit from the support of local authorities which consists of simplified administrative procedures, a quick procedure of obtaining work permits for qualified workers (as little as 5 days for EU citizens), networking opportunities and personalized solutions for a wide range of demands.
Company registration in Geneva
The first step for any type of newly-formed company is to choose the most suitable business structure. Under the Swiss legislation, a business entity can be established using several business structures: public limited company, limited liability company, partnerships, foundations and non-profit association.
The main difference between the several types of companies that can be established in Geneva lies between the liabilities of the founding partners. In the case of incorporated companies, the liability is limited to the capital invested in the respective company, while in the case of partnerships; the partners are personally liable for the company’s debts.
Depending on the type of business structure, there are certain conditions that apply for companies, such as the obligation of having a registered office in Switzerland, to have a company representative that is a Swiss resident or to deposit the necessary paid-in capital in a Swiss bank.
The most common business structures used by foreign entrepreneurs interested in company formation in Geneva are the limited corporation (AG) and the limited liability company (GmbH). Foreign companies may also open Swiss subsidiaries or company branches.
The name under which a company conducts its business activities can be freely chosen, with the exception of company branches or regional offices which must include the name of the head office. The name must also indicate the legal status of the company and it must be different from any other existing company names. Name availability can be checked through the Central Business Names Index or the Federal Commercial Registry Office.
Any company that conducts trading or manufacturing activities, or operates any other commercial activities must be entered into the Commercial Registry. This procedure is usually handles by notaries as it is a requirement necessary to form a GmbH or an AG.
Companies dealing with intellectual property rights can benefit from the excellent intellectual property protection measures established by the Swiss authorities. Patents, trademarks, copyrights and designs are registered through the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property. Switzerland is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization, which has its headquarters located in Geneva.
Other authorization and business permits are not required for company formation in Geneva, with the exception of certain business activities. Therefore, it is necessary to apply for business permits and authorizations in the case of hotels, restaurant, professionals from the health sector, notaries, lawyers and certain commercial activities (wine merchants, employment agencies, temping agencies etc.)
Authorizations and registrations are also mandatory for the import and commercialization of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, cleaning products, electrical devices and heating systems.
As a business location, Geneva is preferred by companies that activate in the banking and financial sector, in commodity trading, life sciences, information and communication technologies, watchmaking and the luxury goods sector.