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Founding a company in Switzerland: Foundations

A foundation in Switzerland is a legal entity where assets are dedicated to a specific purpose, established through a foundation deed and statutes, and registered in the commercial register to gain legal personality. Foundations have no members, are independently managed, and are subject to state supervision, offering long-term support for charitable, cultural, or research activities.

How to start a Limited Partnership

A foundation in Switzerland is a legal organisational form where assets are dedicated to a specific purpose. Foundations are regulated by the Swiss Civil Code (ZGB), particularly in Art. 80-89c ZGB.

Features of a Foundation

  1. Purpose-Bound Assets: A foundation is established by dedicating assets to a specific purpose, which must be defined in the foundation's statutes.

  2. Independence: A foundation is an independent legal entity and acts through its governing bodies.

  3. Governing Bodies: Typically, a foundation has a board of trustees responsible for its management and administration. Additional governing bodies may be specified in the statutes.

  4. No Members: Unlike associations and cooperatives, a foundation has no members or shareholders.

  5. Immutability of Purpose: The purpose of the foundation can only be changed under certain legally regulated conditions.

Steps to Forming a Foundation

  1. Foundation Deed: The founder creates a foundation deed, which establishes the intent to form the foundation and defines its purpose. This deed can be in the form of a public will or a notarial act.

  2. Foundation Statutes: In addition to the foundation deed, statutes must be drafted, detailing the purpose, organisation, and administration of the foundation.

  3. Dedication of Assets: The founder transfers the necessary assets to fulfill the foundation's purpose to the foundation.

  4. Registration in the Commercial Register: The foundation must be registered in the commercial register to obtain legal personality.

  5. Supervision: Foundations are subject to state supervision, which can vary depending on the foundation's purpose and activities, with the exception of family and ecclesiastical foundations.

Advantages of a Foundation

  • Long-Term Purpose Fulfillment: Foundations are an effective way to support a specific purpose in a sustainable and long-term manner.

  • Tax Benefits: Charitable foundations can benefit from tax advantages.

  • Independence: A foundation is an independent legal entity, acting free from the interests of individual persons or members.

Examples of Foundations in Switzerland

- Cultural Foundations: Supporting arts and culture (e.g., Fondation Beyeler).

- Social Foundations: Assisting needy individuals or groups (e.g., Pro Juventute).

- Research Foundations: Promoting science and research (e.g., ETH Zurich Foundation).

Foundations play an important role in Swiss social and cultural life, enabling long-term and targeted support for charitable or philanthropic projects.

Detailed information can be found at SME Portal for small and medium-sized entreprises


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