AHV mandatory or not

AHV-Contributions
10 Questions and answers for musicians

Social security is an issue that many musicians regularly have to deal with: When are AHV contributions paid?
When must an AHV waiver declaration be filled out?

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In cooperation with the SVA Zürich we clarify some of the most common questions from the musicians’ everyday life. Important; our questions are based on the assumption that the musician is resident in the canton of Zurich, has Swiss citizenship or a C-card, and is registered with the SVA as a self-employed person. Social security is an issue that many musicians regularly have to deal with. When must an AHV waiver declaration be filled out?

  1. An orchestra hires the oboist Sebastian for the next project. Sebastian is registered with the SVA as a self-employed person. Does the orchestra have to pay AHV contributions?

General: If a musician is engaged by an organizer for recurring performances, then this engagement is considered a dependent activity and the organizer is obligated to settle AHV contributions. If a musician (as an organizer) acts in his or her own business under his or her own name and for his or her own account, then this is considered a self-employed activity: The musician himself or herself is liable to pay contributions. Since in this case the orchestra enters into an employment relationship with Sebastian, the orchestra must settle and pay the AHV contributions.

  1. A wind orchestra hires the same temporary musicians every year for the Easter concert. Since they only play once a year for 1-2 weeks (rehearsals and concerts), the wind orchestra does not pay AHV. Is that correct? And what if it were twice a year for 1-2 weeks each?

No. The wind orchestra acts as an employer for repetitive services and is therefore subject to AHV. Even if the concert were twice a year for 1-2 weeks each, the wind orchestra would still have to pay the musicians’ contributions.

  1. An association does not want to settle AHV contributions for the temporary musicians it hires for the concerts. May the association “ask” the temporary musicians to sign an AHV waiver? If so, must this be communicated in advance (with the request)?

The principle of question 1 applies, but the association does not have to account for AHV in the case of small salaries (less than CHF 2,300 per year and employee). However, if the musician demands the settlement of accounts, the association is obliged to do so. AHV waivers no longer exist.

IMPORTANT: Employers in the artistic and cultural sector such as dance and theater producers, orchestras, phonographic and audiovisual producers, radio and television as well as schools in the artistic sector must settle AHV contributions, even for small salaries.

  1. An ensemble always needs different temporary musicians for its concerts. Some of them have already played with this ensemble, some are newcomers. Does the ensemble have to pay AHV contributions for all musicians?

If the ensemble hires musicians regularly or intends to hire them regularly, AHV contributions must be settled.

  1. At a church, the violinist Sepp plays one or two times a year. Sepp earns no more than CHF 2300 gross per year with this church. Does the church have to pay AHV?

Churches or parishes are not among the employers explicitly listed in question 3 and therefore do not have to pay small salaries – unless the musician explicitly wishes so.

  1. What if Sepp is not paid directly by the mentioned church but by “Churches of the Canton of Schaffhausen” (collective account) and thus at the end of the year he has earned more than CHF 2300 gross?

The decisive factor is who the legal employer is. If this is “Churches of the Canton of Schaffhausen” and therefore Sepp’s annual income with this employer exceeds CHF 2300, the employer must settle AHV.

  1. A school (e.g. elementary school, cantonal school, music school) needs some musicians for a project. The musicians earn CHF 1200 gross per person. Does the school have to pay AHV contributions? Can/may it have an AHV waiver signed?

If the school is active in the artistic field, it is obligated to settle AHV contributions even for small salaries, otherwise not. Unless the musicians demand the settlement. AHV waivers no longer exist.

  1. A choir has engaged the cellist Angela for 2 rehearsals and 1 concert. Angela earns CHF 600. Does the choir have to pay AHV contributions? Can the musician demand that AHV be settled or refuse to sign an AHV waiver?

The choir must pay AHV.

  1. The flutist Melanie has a chamber music group (trio) with which she plays concerts at irregular intervals:

*   With this trio Melanie plays a public concert, which she organizes and performs herself. Who and how does the AHV have to settle accounts? Either all musicians play as self-employed persons on their own account and settle the AHV amounts individually or the chamber music group as a legal entity hires the musicians and settles the AHV for them.

  *   With this trio Melanie plays at a wedding (private event). She got the request through a mediation portal which collects a commission for the mediation. The fee is paid directly by the wedding couple to Melanie. What about the AHV? How an order comes about is irrelevant. What is relevant is who is the client or employer according to the engagement contract. Since it concerns a unique commitment, this can be accomplished absolutely in the contractual relationship in the context of the independence on own calculation. Thus each musician settles his own contributions. The prerequisite is, however, that the musicians are registered as self-employed persons. Alternatively, the trio can act as a legal vessel and hire the musicians, but must then settle AHV.

   *   With the same trio Melanie plays a concert at a well-known concert series. Who pays the AHV? As this is a one-time engagement, in which the trio was employed because of its name, it may be performed on a contract basis without AHV accounting by the organizer..

   *   And now and then Melanie’s trio plays house concerts against Gage or against Kollekte. Do the musicians have to pay AHV? What does a collection look like? This is a regular engagement. Therefore, either the organizer has to hire the musicians and pay the AHV accordingly. Or the trio acts as a legal vessel, hires its own musicians and settles AHV contributions for the musicians. In the case of a collection, the amount of the compensation must be recorded in writing. This amount in turn is the basis for calculating the AHV contributions.

  1. The pianist Wilhelm gives lessons at his home. Does he have to pay AHV? If the musician conducts the lessons on his own account (i.e. NOT on behalf of a music school) and does the collection himself, he will settle the AHV independently.

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