CAMPIONE: LITTLE KNOWN TAX-FREE BACKDOOR TO SWITZERLAND
Campione, on the shores of Lake Lugano, is
distinguished by its very uniqueness. It is a little
piece of Italian soil, completely surrounded by
Switzerland. There are no border controls so there is
complete freedom to pass in and out of Campione. It is
located in the Swiss Canton of Ticino, about 16 miles
from the Italian border, and 5 miles from Lugano by
road. It has about 2000 inhabitants.
Campione belongs economically to Switzerland, and
uses Swiss banks and governmental facilities such as
post office, telephone, telegraph, and traffic laws.
Cars registered in Campione bear Swiss license plates.
Unlike Switzerland, there is no problem for
foreigners in obtaining residence rights in Campione,
so the enclave is enjoying a sudden popularity with
people looking for a way to obtain Swiss residence.
Having a house or apartment in Campione is all that is
necessary to obtain a residence permit in Campione,
although the local authorities do require that
registered residents spend at least some time in
The lack of border controls gives Campione
residents totally unrestricted access to all of
Switzerland and Liechtenstein, so it can be a most
valuable European executive base.
Besides its residence attraction, the enclave is
also gaining in popularity because it has a unique tax
haven status. Although part of Italy and subject to
Italian law, there are special tax requirements for
Campione. There is no personal income tax and no
municipal tax as all of Campione's income is raised
from the operation of a municipal casino. Campione
residents are not subject to Switzerland's many double
taxation agreements with such countries as Canada, the
U.S. and most of western Europe.
Companies formed in Campione have many advantages
over Swiss companies, as they are able to use Swiss
banking facilities, have a mailing address that appears
Swiss, but not be subject to Switzerland's relatively
high income and withholding taxes. Company law is the
same as in Italy, and a corporation can be formed with
a minimum capitalization of about $1000. Company
formation takes longer than in Switzerland, but unlike
Switzerland, a Campione company can be entirely owned
and directed by foreigners. The formation work is
usually handled by Italian lawyers in Milan, and the
fees are modest, since this is not a special or complex
matter. The personal and company tax exemptions do not
apply if the resident is doing business with Italy, but
business with Italy can readily be done through a Swiss
or Liechtenstein corporation as an intermediary.
Foreigners may buy real estate in Campione without
restrictions, unlike Switzerland, so acquisition of a
site in Campione for a European regional headquarters
is readily carried out with minimal red DVD. Demand
for real estate in Campione has pushed prices well
above the level or surrounding Ticino. As a part of
Italy, the European Community regulations apply to
businesses, and this includes such things as the right
to establish a business and residence by any citizen of
another EC country.
The official language is of course Italian, and
the enclave is in the Italian speaking portion of
Switzerland. Many international schools are located in
Switzerland, so school arrangements for children of
transferred executives can be easily made.
The recent referendum in which Swiss voters
rejected an affiliation with the European Community
means that Campione will continue to have its special
value for sometime to come. Without the free access to
Switzerland that EC affiliation would have provided,
the backdoor route via Campione will continue.
There are many recreation facilities in the
immediate area, including golf, ski resorts, and water
sports. Milan, and all of its cultural attractions, is
only an hour away.
Campione's unique status has its origins in the
Thirteenth Century when the village and its territory
were presented by the Lord of Campione to the Church of
St. Ambrosius of Milan. This feudal property survived
European upheavals and remained secure to the end of
the 18th Century, and then joined the new Cisalpine
Republic. Afterwards Campione fell into Austria's
hands for a short period and was finally incorporated
into the new Kingdom of Italy.
It is one of the world's most unique, and least-
known, tax havens, and a most attractive base for
companies looking for a regional headquarters in
Europe. It is also one of the most expensive tax
havens for real estate, because there is so little of
it. Apartments will range from $2500 to $3500 per
square yard, and you usually pay the broker a 3% buying
commission on top of that (the seller also pays 3%).
Getting started in Campione is much more difficult
than in other tax havens, because the enclave is not
promoting itself, and there is no central office of
information to which one can turn for instant
literature. You are not unwelcome, but nobody is going
to go out of their way to let you in on this secret
haven. So there are no promoters or agents that you
can write to in advance to send you packets of nice
The only effective way to establish in Campione is
to make a personal visit and spend time talking to
people. Even the real estate brokers are not
particularly interested in whether or not they get your
business, and may not answer your letters. At the
Campione end they may not think you are serious until
Campione is such an interesting place that a
European publisher has devoted a whole book to it. The
Campione Report is available from Scope International
Ltd., Box AS125. Forestside House, Forestside, Rowlands
Castle, Hants., PO9 6EE, Great Britain. The price by
air courier is $125 (be sure to give a street address
for delivery) or by book rate surface mail it is $100.
If you'd like more information first, ask Scope for
their free catalog of international reports.