Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Holiday rental income – income tax payable in Spain

  • Don’t get caught tax evading

  • Tax authorities in Spain ARE tightening the noose

  • It suits the Spanish – aimed at non-residents

August Update
Most correspondence that I have received on this subject has questioned why people who rent out their houses/apartments 'didn't know before'. I've referred them back to their agents. Well I'm not sure why they didn't tell you, if they are professional letting agents they should be telling you. If they are not professional, why are you using them?

It seems to me that its a case of doing it on the cheap. Unprofessional agents, paying no tax, asking no questions - it will end in tears! One last thought, 'if they didn't tell you about tax, did they tell you about Landlord Insurance?' A drunk falls down the stairs, a child falls in a pool or your property gets trashed.  Think about it!

I have written much about the difference between Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion and explained the difference. My most recent post was;

I’d like to draw your attention one item in that post. Under the heading of ‘Examples of tax evasion’

Not declaring income from property letting

There is very clear evidence that the Spanish Tax Authorities (La Hacienda) are now taking the subject very seriously. Given the Spanish Government’s massive budget deficit and the need for more revenue, I contend that holiday rental income is a ‘soft’ option. Everyone knows it happens, the houses / apartments don’t move and the Town Hall know who the owner is!

If you are a property agent you really should be telling your owners.

Not surprisingly, the Spanish public would support such a move as the vast majority of non-payers are Non-residents. Most taxpayers in Spain would love to see British and Irish citizens fined heavily for not paying their due taxes.

Ok, so you think I’m alarmist, it won’t come to that, I reckon I’ll get away with it. Even though I knew that this was a tax evasion issue, I never brought it to my readers’ attentions until now. In the last few days I have seen evidence that it is starting to happen. La Hacienda is cracking down.

My Telegraph
This is the blog of the ‘Daily Telegraph’. A post by Anna Nicholas indicates that the authorities ARE beginning a crackdown on non-payment of tax on holiday rental income.

Anna’s thoughtful contribution is good evidence…. But what follows is better
These people know what it’s all about. They advertise the properties which produce the income that should be taxed in Spain. They have copied Anna Nicholas’ blog on their website!

If you want the link, email me and I’ll send it.

What do I think?
As the economic crisis deepens in Spain, there will be a more proactive and ruthless approach to tax evasion of this kind. So for those coasting along the coast evading tax, perhaps now is the time for a little honesty, pay the 25% tax, before the Spanish taxman comes knocking at the door and looking to claim for previous years. Alternatively, pack up your illegal letting and stop worrying.

If you have any issues, any comments or just additional information please email me

Monday, 18 July 2011

Spanish Inheritance Tax (ISD)

The most important statement in this article, and one commonly misunderstood is as follows;

‘The beneficial exceptions from the various Communities (AC), never apply to Spanish non-residents.’

This complex issue is often ‘swept under the carpet’ but eventually everyone is affected. In particular, the prospect of a widow(er) paying inheritance tax on the death of their spouse can come as an enormous shock.

·         There are State (National) rules and variations by the Autonomous Communities (AC)
·         State (National) rules always apply to non-residents
·         Autonomous Region rules will apply ONLY to Spanish residents
·         There is no Double Taxation Agreement on inheritance Tax between Spain and the UK

This subject will continue to remain high on my Agenda, as the vast majority of expats in Spain are affected. Non-resident property owners may not think they are affected – unfortunately they are! Please email me if you want clarification of your own position

Impuesto sobre Sucesiones y Donaciones (ISD) is also called Succession Tax or Inheritance Tax and is a tax on inheritance and gifts, paid by the recipient of the inheritance or gift. It is due only if the recipient is resident in Spain or the asset being inherited or gifted is an asset located in Spain such as real estate or moveable property situated in Spain. If the property is owned by a UK company ISD is not payable on the death of a shareholder of the company.

Allowances are available depending on the relationship with the deceased or donor. In the first instance the Spanish State rules apply but these can be varied by the different Autonomous Communities (ACs) providing conditions set by the relevant AC are met. The State rules always apply to non-residents owning assets in Spain.

There is currently no blanket exemption between a husband and wife under the State rules. Where a married couple are both residents in Spain and one spouse dies, the surviving spouse can be fully liable on the worldwide assets inherited from the deceased spouse, subject to the allowances and reliefs available.

The worldwide estate of British expatriates who are UK domiciles on death will also be liable to UK inheritance tax, as well as to Spanish succession tax on chargeable Spanish assets. Any succession tax paid in Spain can be deducted from any UK inheritance tax liability on the same asset. There is such a fundamental difference between the inheritance tax in the two countries that no double taxation agreement exists on this issue. Please email if you need referral to a professional advisor.

State Rules
Beneficiaries are divided into the following four groups depending on the closeness of relationship to the donor or the deceased:
  • Group 1: Natural and adopted children and other descendants (such as grandchildren, great-grandchildren) under 21
  • Group 2: Natural and adopted children and other descendants aged 21 and over; parents and other ascendants (such as grandparents, great-grandparents), and spouses
  • Group 3: In-laws and their ascendants/descendants, step-children, brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles
  • Group 4: All others including friends or unmarried partners
State Allowances
There are tax-free State allowances on inheritances (not life-time gifts) for members of the different groups as follows:
  • Groups 1 and 2: €15,957
  • Group 3: €7, 993
  • Group 4: nil
Group 1 inheritors under the age of 21 can have an additional deduction of about €4,000 for each year they are under 21, restricted in total to €47,858 per recipient.
There are further reductions where the recipient is physically or mentally disabled depending on the recognised degree of disability.

Relief for main home

There is a 95% allowance against the inherited value of the main home of the deceased up to €122,600 per inheritor, provided that the beneficiary belongs to Group 1 or 2 or is a remoter relative over the age of 65 who lived with the deceased during the two years prior to their death. The property must be retained by the beneficiary for 10 years following the death, but it does not need to be the beneficiary's main home.
Succession tax rates vary from 7.65% to 34%. The tax liability is subject to multipliers based on the pre-existing wealth of the recipient, which can take the highest effective rate of tax to about 80%.


Gifts made by the same donor to the same person within a period of three years, taken from the date each gift is made and on the value at the time it was made, are aggregated and treated as one transaction for gifts tax. To determine the tax rate applicable, the value of all previous gifts made to the same person within the last three years plus the current gift are added together. The average rate of tax on the theoretical total is then calculated and applied to the latest gift.
Autonomous Communities (AC)
The Autonomous Communities (ACs) can vary the State rules in the taxpayer's favour. The State allowances and reductions apply in the first instance provided that the relevant conditions have been fulfilled. Any enhancement to the State allowances and reductions granted by the AC will then replace the State deductions, again providing any additional conditions imposed by the AC are fulfilled.

Please note, however, In the case of real estate in Spain owned by a non-Spanish resident, the State rules will always apply on the death of the non-resident owner. The beneficial exceptions from the various Communities (AC), never apply to Spanish non-residents.

In some ACs, spouses and children can receive a 99% reduction in the inheritance tax payable on death. This reduction currently applies in the Canary Islands, Balearics, Murcia Region, Madrid, and Valencia Community.

In AndalucĂ­a, spouses and children are exempt from inheritance tax where the taxable value of the inheritance received is no more than €175,000, and the wealth of the recipient does not exceed €402,678.

In Cataluña, personal allowances increase significantly from 1 July 2011.

In many ACs, unmarried couples registered as a pareja de hecho are recognised as spouses.
It is important to look closely at the rules relating to a specific AC’s to obtain full details of the range of allowances and exemptions available. I can put you in contact with professional advisors in most regions, if you email

Succession tax is paid under the AC's rules if the deceased was habitually resident there, in the case of an inheritance; or, in the case of a gift of real estate, if the real estate is located in that AC; or, in the case of a gift of any other assets, in the AC where the recipient is habitually resident.
To be habitually resident in a particular AC, you must have been resident there for five continuous tax years. So, the deceased or donee (as the case may be) must have been continuously resident in an AC for the past five years for that particular AC's rules to apply, otherwise the State rules will apply.

These complex rules and arrangements indicate that careful planning is required. You can get an indication of how this affects you by clicking on the link on the right of the page ‘Check your Spanish Inheritance Tax liability’. Seeking the information does not constitute any commitment on your part.

You can feel free to email me on any of these issues.

This complex issue has been researched using information available on web pages, consulting contacts and the writers own knowledge. It cannot constitute advice and professional guidance maybe required.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Five Spanish banks fail EU stress tests

Update 30th September 2011

Spain has now nationalised three of the failing banks to achieve stability!
  • CatalunyaCaixa
  • Unnim
  • Novacaixagalicia
A staggering €7.5 billion, which Spain doesn’t have, has been used to gain majority control.

July 2011

The five banks who failed the 'stress' tests were;

  • Caja Mediterraneo (CAM)
  • CatalunyaCaixa
  • Unnim  
  • CajaTres
  • Banco Pastor

In addition, more banks were said to have 'barely matched the minimum requirements' These are; 
  • Bankinter
  • Banco Sabadell
  • Banco Popular
  • Novacaixagalicia
  • Caja Ontinyent
Regular readers of 'Financial Pages in Spain' will know that I'm no friend of the banks or the lack of effective regulation, but not even I welcomed this news.

My response is twofold;

1. Don't panic
2. Get personal advice on the options you may want to look at.

Please email me if you feel I might help you 

You may also want to read previous posts of mine;

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Explaining Pensions Terms and Expressions

·         Cut through the jargon

·         Get a professional Adviser

·         Understanding QROPS & QNUPS

This is a straightforward alphabetical list which helps to cut through the jargon often used when discussing pensions.

A Day
6 April 2006 was the day the UK Government pension simplification rules came into effect.

ASP - Alternatively secured pensions
At the age of 75 an alternatively secured pension would allow an individual withdrawal of income, similar to an unsecured pension fund such as income drawdown

Since 6th April 2011, no new ASP can be commenced but existing ones can continue until the next review date. The existing ASP fund can be transferred to Income Drawdown (Unsecured Pension) plan or an annuity commenced.

AVCs – Additional Voluntary Contributions
A pension top-up for an occupational pension scheme. The scheme members pay contributions into an arrangement run by the employer to boost the main pension.

FSAVCs – Free-Standing Additional Voluntary Contributions
A pension top-up policy for an occupational pension, but separate from the employer’s pension scheme and normally run by an insurance firm.

Comision Nacional del Mercado del Valores is the principal financial services regulator in Spain and responsible for authorising investment products. A CNMV adviser can be recommended, please click here

Direccion General de Seguros y Fondos de Pensions is the Spanish regulator for insurance products which can be marketed in Spain. Email me to be referred to an authorised adviser

The Financial Services Authority - the UK's financial services regulator. The FSA also ‘passports’ authorised advisers to operate in Spain. For a recommended adviser click here

Group Personal Pension
A type of personal pension offered by some employers but not classified as occupational (see money purchase pension).

Lifetime allowance
This is a limit on the value of retirement benefits that you can draw from approved pension schemes before tax penalties apply. The Lifetime Allowance is £1.8m in the 2010/11 tax year.

Lifetime annuity
A lifetime annuity converts money from a pension fund into pension income, which is taxable. There are different types to suit different circumstances and generally treated favourably for tax purposes in Spain.

Money purchase pensions
Some occupational pensions and all personal, group personal, stakeholder, FSAVCs and some AVCs are money purchase pensions. The contributions are invested in, for example, the stockmarket or bonds. The size of the fund depends on the contributions and how well the investments perform. At retirement, there is a choice of options to provide you with a retirement income.

Occupational pension
These are only available through employers and run by pension scheme trustees. There are two types – salary-related (defined benefit) and money purchase (defined contribution).

Personal pension
A pension policy taken out by an individual from an insurance company or another financial institution and into which personal contributions are made. It may also be offered by employers.

Protected rights pension
This is the part of a pension fund which was used to contract out of the UK State Second Pension (SERPS or S2P) that must be used to buy a protected rights annuity.

QNUPS -  Qualifying Non UK Pension Scheme, which means it meets the criteria set by the regulations the UK government brought out in February of 2010. This means that or a UK or non-UK resident, there is an opportunity to make contributions to overseas schemes, established as QNUPS, with the knowledge that those funds will be sheltered from UK IHT. Individual advice should be taken in all circumstances from a regulated and authorised adviser. Please email for a recommendation.

By definition, a QROPS is a QNUPS but the reverse cannot be said.

QROPS - Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes
These became available from A-Day. It is a pension scheme set up outside the UK that is regulated and recognised for tax purposes as a pension scheme in the country in which it is located. QROPS have been established in various countries across the world, many in jurisdictions with beneficial tax rules. For specialist advice click here

Salary-related pension scheme (final salary or defined benefit)
A type of occupational pension. The amount of pension you get is worked out on your salary at or near retirement, or when you left employment, and your pensionable service.

Stakeholder pension
A type of personal pension that has to meet certain standards set by the UK Government. An individual can take one out or it may be available through an employer, but is not classified as occupational. 

State Pension
The UK Pension Service (part of the Department for Work and Pensions) will pay the basic State Pension based on an individual’s National Insurance contribution record. In addition, individuals may also qualify for the State Second Pension based on their own earnings and National Insurance contributions.

State Second Pension
The State Second Pension is an additional State pension paid on top of your basic State Pension. This was called SERPS. Self-employed people cannot build up a State Second Pension.

Tax-free lump sum
More accurately this should be called Pension Commencement Lump Sum (PCLS)

An amount of cash set by tax law which you can take at retirement free of tax. Salary-related occupational pension schemes may have different rules on the amount of tax free cash you can take. This is only tax-free to UK residents.

Unsecured Pension (Income Drawdown)
This is an alternative to buying an annuity but provides an income whilst the pension is still invested. At age 75, the unsecured pension must cease and be replaced by either a Lifetime Annuity or ASP. For non UK residents or those intending to become non-resident, QROPS could be another alternative.

Pensions Advisers, including the ones that I recommend, will be happy to cut through the jargon. Email me for a recommendation