Statutory retention obligation in Switzerland


Legal requirements play a decisive role in the archiving of business data. The lawgiver prescribes how retention is to take place.

The following Swiss legal codes and ordinances define the requirements relating to the retention obligation:

  • Code of Obligations
  • Ordinance on Commercial Book-Keeping and Retention
  • Data ProtectionAct
  • Value-Added Tax Act
  • Criminal Code

The following are bound by these regulations

  • Commercial companies (general and limited partnerships; limited companies - AG, GmbH)
  • Businesses run on a commercial basis with turnover greater than CHF 100,000
  • All businesses dealing in cash transactions, bill brokerage, securities, stock market trades and collections; factors, agents, brokers, trustees, administrators, message transfer agents, insurance companies

Period of retention

  • In principle business data must be kept for 10 years after the end of the financial year. Dissolved companies are also bound by this obligation.
  • Exception: if the records relate to immovable assets with VAT implications, they must be kept for at least 20 years.

Form of retention

  • The records may be kept in written, electronic or similar form.
  • Exception: the profit and loss account and balance sheet must be kept in signed, written form.


What does the retention obligation cover?

  • Financial statements (profit and loss account, balance sheet, annual report)
  • Books and business records
  • Posting documents
  • Business correspondence
  • Tax records

Rules on retention in electronic form

  • Undetected editing of records must not be possible.
  • Electronic records must remain legible, i.e. there is an obligation to update hardware and software.
  • Availability must be guaranteed in reasonable time.
  • Current records and archived records must be kept separate.
  • There is an obligation to log accesses to the archive.