On 1 January 2011, the law regarding the company identification number (UID number) came into force in Switzerland. Every company active in Switzerland receives a unique number with which it can be identified in all official contacts. The company identification number of a company can be requested at the central business register, the UID register. On the one hand, taxable companies are required to be entered in the register by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), but on the other hand registration is free of charge.
The idea of a corporate identification number is part of the Swiss e-government strategy. With the background to creating standards and ensuring that identical data bases can be shared, active companies in Switzerland are obliged to use an assigned UID number.
The UID number makes it possible to use a single identification number for contacts with the public administration. Numbers, such as the VAT number or the commercial register number are no longer required in this case. Instead, the UID number can be used as of January 2014 because all necessary adjustments in the centralized systems were completed in order to work with the UID number. The legal obligation to use the UID number finally applied to every canton and authority in Switzerland until the end of 2015.
The main advantage of the company identification number is a more efficient and easier cooperation between companies and the public administration, because it replaces other types of identification numbers used in the past, such as the VAT number or the Commercial Registry number.
Structure of the UID number
Since the beginning of 2014, both the commercial register number and the 6-digit VAT number have been replaced by the 12-digit UID number. The UID number results from using the country ID, which is CHE, a randomly assigned eight-digit number combination randomly assigned and a check digit which is determined by using the Modulo 11 method.
First of all, it should be noted that the Swiss UID number is a separate, national Swiss tax number, which must under no circumstances be confused with the UID numbers of the member states of the European Union. In principle, a confirmation received from the country where the company is established (in this case, Switzerland) would be required to prove the VAT-related entrepreneurial status of a Swiss company.
However, the new UID number for companies active in Switzerland should not be confused with the EU VAT number. A confusion could happen, as both numbers are abbreviated UID. The VAT identification number of the EU is used to provide tax-free intra-community services between two EU countries.
When is the UID number required?
From January 2017, customs declarations are no longer be possible in Switzerland without an UID number.
For this regulation, which has entered in force since January 2016, there was a transitional phase in which a forwarding agent number could be specified for an import to Switzerland. With the expiry of this measure, which lasted for one year, the notification of the company identification number (UID number) of the Swiss importer or exporter must be provided for all customs clearances in Switzerland. This is in line with EU practices.
In order to avoid difficulties with exports to Switzerland, companies and other business partners must have the UID number of the Swiss importer for customs clearance in Switzerland. Depending on the terms of delivery, this may be the responsibility of the exporter. The mention of the UID of the customer on the bill is recommended.
The UID number of a company can be found in the online UID register of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.