The electronic structure of a vacancy in silicon-germanium is studied using ab initio total-energy minimization methods. The calculations are based on density-functional theory in the local-spin-density approximation. We report ionic relaxations, defect formation energies and ionization levels of Si and Ge vacancies in a zinc blende model structure (SiGe). The Ge vacancy in SiGe is characterized by symmetry-lowering Jahn–Teller (JT) distortions and a negative-effective-U effect, in those respects resembling the vacancy in elemental silicon. For Si vacancy, the exchange-coupling energy is found to overcome the JT energy, and symmetric high-spin ground states are predicted.