Finance Essentials for Startups

Helena Hlas

Aug 11, 2019
minute read

If you’re familiar with the swisspreneur blog, you probably think you’ve already soaked up what’s at the heart of startups. You know the significance of building a great product, how to make the most out of cost effective marketing hacks and you’re keen on putting together a diversely talented team. But hold on to that saturated sponge in your skull, because today, it’s all about getting excited about your financial duties!

Though it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about startups, bookkeeping and good financial management will make a critical impact on the lifespan of your business plan. That’s why we sat down with Renato Stadler, CEO of KLARA Business AG to learn what a good financial process for early stage startups looks like.

We divided his advice into four financial areas to master alongside your startup:

  • VAT
  • Payroll
  • Invoicing
  • Accounting Tips

To listen to the full interview with Renato, click here.

VAT (Value Added Tax)

There are varying intervals in which your financial task-list will need your attention and it’s a good idea to put time aside in your calendar for just these types of tasks that you dread the most! VAT is a self-declaration tax which you must submit on a quarterly basis. It’s required of you to submit your return within 60 days of the reporting period and pay the tax due at the same time. Any money due to be refunded to you will also be done within 60 days of the receipt of your return.

Remember, companies who generate less than 100k in revenue during the year do not need to declare VAT. That means your first step is actually determining which group you fit in and what your financial roles will be. If you do qualify, you must register with the FTA (Federal Tax Administration) within 30 days of the first day of tax liability. Further forms can be found here.

Note: you must also declare VAT on all imported goods, including software.


Payroll is heavily regulated in all countries and specific to each political system. In Switzerland, you will be dealing with a variety of different deductions for your employees’ salaries:

  • Mandatory: AHV (old-age pension), UVG (accident insurance) and EO (family allocation)
  • Mandatory for all employees earning above 21 300 CHF salary: BVG (occupational benefits law) and ALV (unemployment insurance).
  • Non Mandatory but highly recommended: insurance for salary payments in case of sickness (Krankentaggeld-Versicherung).

Note: Sickness insurance can be especially valuable in startups working with lean teams and limited resources. The insurance covers the employees salary after a certain time on sick leave. You’ll be able to choose between purchasing 30 (most expensive but most advantageous), 60 and 90 (cheapest with lowest threshold for coverage) day coverage. The most common is a 60 day plan.

Just like when it comes to understanding VATs, the first step in tackling payroll is determining which category you fall under and which coverage your team will need. That’s why we’ve put together this simple flowchart to give you a visual guide through the labyrinth of payroll deductions.


Invoicing, along with paying your own dues and managing payroll is a monthly recurring task. When it comes to invoicing your customers, the sooner the better! Although the law states that payment must occur at the moment the invoice is received, it’s common practice as an offer to the customer, to allow for 30 days until the due date.

If a customer is past due, and you’ve given them a few warnings without avail, give them a call to get to the bottom of the situation before taking further, more aggressive action. A specialized service or getting in touch with the enforcement services in the locality of the client is the best way to go about debt collection.

Note: You can use this 30 day window to your advantage when paying your own bills. Scheduling your own payments to go through on the last day of the 30-day period means better cash management and is common practice amongst finance savvy businesses.

Accounting Tips

Try to do as much as possible by taking advantage of available software and online tools that are well integrated with your banking system. Challenge yourself the first quarter by preparing all the bookkeeping and then get feedback from an accountant to see if you’re on the right track. If you stay on top of things by digitizing all your receipts and invoices the moment you get them and if you block time in your calendar for when you will send out the bills, it will seriously cut down the work and cost of any accountants you may involve. The two leaders of digitization tools to help with this process in Switzerland are bexio and KLARA. If you’re new to it and feeling intimidated by the idea of digitization, there are also various resources to help you with that!

Like legal advisory, financial help can be expensive if you do nothing for yourself. Start and try to handle as much as you can and at the point when you cannot do it any longer, ask for help. No need to stress off the start because startups generally won’t have any crazy problems in their first or second year because they’re in more of an investment phase and more frequently tasked with reporting of loses.

Note: A year-end review of your work by an accountant should cost something in the range of 1.5 to 4k CHF. If you employ more than 10 people, you have to undergo an external audit which will cost you another 1.5–2k CHF.


For additional information on taxes, wages, or registrations in Switzerland visit the Swiss Authorities Online.

For help with streamlining your bookkeeping and digitizing your accounting process test out either bexio business software or KLARA.

For all other swisspreneur related topics, visit our website or stream the latest podcast from any of the major streaming platforms!

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