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The EU – a Financial success or not?

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Catalonia, Catalunya, eu citizens, europe-news, spain, The EU
This article is published on: 31st October 2017

31.10.17
Chris Burke | Spectrum IFA Barcelona

What better subject to discuss, than one closest to the heart of someone living and studying in Europe.

Geneva Business School (GBS) in Barcelona, is a leading Business School providing cutting edge, innovative, Swiss quality education on a global scale. Part of their curriculum is to invite guest speakers along to hold a forum/debate on a topical subject, to enhance their knowledge, practice what they are learning and increase their debating skills.

So, where better to format the debate on discussing what the original reasons were for the EU being formed. Easy I hear you say. Ok, well we started discussing putting all the countries together and how that could make them stronger under one currency, against other economies. It was soon apparent that although this seems a sensible idea, did this work for everyone? Greece was debated as already being financially in trouble before it joined the EU, and has continued down that path, but why? When we looked at the Government debt of each country before joining the EU and present day, it’s clear many of the country’s debt has doubled; The UK, Greece, Italy, France to name but a few, but why haven’t others? No one was surprised Germany’s hadn’t, but why hadn’t it? We discussed Germany’s manufacturing capability compared to the other countries; this could well be a valid reason. There was mention of ‘black’ money still prevalent in certain countries, mainly Italy and Greece where in some places you still couldn’t pay by card, only cash. It was well known a few years back the Greek underground had been losing money hand over fist due to passengers not paying. Was there a cultural issue here that was denying the government, in those countries, of more revenue from tax?

Freedom of movement was on everyone’s lips as another good reason for the EU being born. Freedom to move elsewhere, find work, perhaps a new life, career. It was quickly pointed out this didn’t work for everyone, an Italian farmer (highlighted by an Italian student) would not agree this had worked well for him. Of course, you cannot please everyone and there are countries in the EU whose farmers receive subsidies to help.

Access to the common market, so trading made easier for countries in the EU, cheaper and more direct for them to sell within. This making them potentially more competitive than those outside it. This was a strong reason for the EU to be formed.

So there was one more, major reason, that after we discussed what it was, agreed that perhaps this could be the biggest reason for the EU being formed, but is hardly ever brought up. We discussed that during the Brexit negotiations this was hardly ever mentioned as a reason to remain, if it was its press headlines were minimal. When you are part of a team, whether it be a sports team or any other, you have a common reason/goal to make it work. You may have disagreements, but because you all want the same outcome, which benefits you all, you work hard to find a solution. Differences can be put aside, or debated, and there may be a skirmish occasionally but in general, conflict is usually avoided or at least minimal. Stopping wars and keeping the peace was one of the founding reasons for forming the EU, yet it hardly ever gets the status it should deserve.

So, taking all this into account, did we think the EU has been a financial success? Certainly not to everyone, but if you were a consultant brought in to investigate and make a decision, the debaters at Geneva Business School voted marginally it had. Wars cost money, however they can also generate it……

Other key questions asked were:

Where are we economically in the world?
We are in the second longest Bull Run in the history of the stock markets, we certainly aren’t on the bottom run of the ladder in terms of its upward curve, probably not in the middle, how long there is to go is anyone’s guess, but we are probably in the final third.

Government debt are at the highest rates ever, can it be repaid?
No. Even if we had ten more fantastic years on the stock markets, which is highly unlikely, it’s my belief it’s almost impossible to repay these. Looking at debt clocks is frightening and best not to be done!

Bitcoin, good investment or not?

The jury is still out on this, it continues to provide itself as an investment choice. Will it last? Do the bank’s want it to last? Will it be here tomorrow? For the high risk takers it’s a choice, for everyone else it’s too early to tell.

Property, a good investment in Barcelona?
Simply, if you are intending on holding it for a decade or so, and being able to fix the mortgage interest rate for life, it’s hard to advise against it. For anything less, you wouldn’t want all your investments in one asset class.

So, our final thoughts were, on Maslow’s Conscious Competence Model, where did we rate the EU? And the overwhelming answer was:

Conscious Incompetent – that is to say, the EU knows it isn’t working, and is arguably trying to fix it although isn’t sure how. But how much we wonder…….

Wealth Tax in Catalunya

By Barry Davys - Topics: Barcelona, Catalunya, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, spain, Succession Planning, Wealth Tax
This article is published on: 3rd August 2017

03.08.17

We understand the need to pay tax. It gives us hospitals to treat our family, care in later life and many other services. Yet it is also easy to feel unhappy about some taxes. Some seem just downright unfair.

Wealth tax is the first of these. Having worked hard and paid tax on our earnings, we have then also paid tax on our savings. Despite this we have managed to build our savings, have become less of a burden on the state and yet we are now taxed again with Wealth Tax for having saved. Fortunately, it is possible to pay what is due but also to manage the amount due.

Wealth Tax in Catalunya – How it works
Wealth tax ( Patrimonial ) is applied if your worldwide assets are more than 500,000€ with an additional allowance of up to 300,000€ for your main residence. The tax is based upon your net wealth; assets minus liabilities.

In Catalunya the rates of tax start at 0.21% and rises to 2.75% depending on your wealth. Each year!

Your wealth as at 31st December is declared as part of your Declaración de la Renta, your annual tax return and the payment of the tax made on the 30th June in the following year.

How to manage the amount due
There are some assets that are excluded from Wealth tax. Surprisingly, some of these are mainstream investments. It may be possible to reduce your Wealth Tax by using an exempt investment.

In addition, the amount of tax due is capped at 60% of your income tax base, subject to paying at least 20% of the total tax based on your wealth. It is often possible to adjust your income so that you are limited to the 60% of your income tax base. Typically, this is done by using investments which are not assessed for tax each year. However, there are several methods of planning to achieve a reduction in Wealth Tax.

Spanish Succession Tax (Inheritance tax)

By Chris Webb - Topics: Catalunya, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, spain, Succession Planning
This article is published on: 16th March 2017

16.03.17

If you are a resident of Spain it is important to understand that there will be liabilities due to the Spanish government in the event of a death. Whether it’s you that is inheriting part of an estate or it’s your estate being distributed the taxman is going to want his share.

Many British nationals don’t realise that depending on the asset and its location there may also be a claim from the UK taxman. Just because you are a non UK resident it does not eliminate the requirement to settle taxes in both the UK and Spain. Spanish succession tax will be due either when the assets being inherited are located in Spain, such as a property, even if the recipient of the asset lives outside of Spain OR if the assets are based outside of Spain but the recipient lives in Spain.

For example: if you leave your Spanish property to your children who are now UK residents they will be liable to pay succession tax to the Spanish government. On the flip side if you receive an inheritance from the UK and you are a Spanish resident then again you have to pay tax in Spain.

As mentioned above, if you are a British national and are resident in Spain you could be liable to UK inheritance tax as well as Spanish succession tax. In the UK they require all worldwide assets to be declared, as you will be considered “UK domiciled” by the government. It is almost impossible to be considered as anything other than UK domiciled, even if you haven’t lived in the UK for some time.

There is no double tax treaty signed between the UK and Spain when it comes to inheritance, however if tax has been paid in the UK the amount is usually deductible against the Spanish liability.

To complicate matters further, Spain have a standard set of “State Rules” which lay down the rates and allowances for succession tax as well as individual “Autonomous rules” which means things are different from one community to another. Detailed below are these state rules:
The tax rates differ depending on the value of the amount inherited. These range from 7.65% on the first €7,933, up to 34% on €797,555 and over.
Beneficiaries are graded into four different groups and the more remote the beneficiary’s relationship is to the deceased the lower the tax allowance and the higher the tax rates. These four groups are:

  • Natural and adopted children under 21
  • Natural and adopted children aged 21 and over, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses
  • in-laws and their ascendants/descendants, stepchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts
  • all others including unmarried partners

Allowances are available between husband and wife or direct line ascendants/descendants, but this is set at just short of €16.000. If an inheritor is also a direct line descendant under the age of 21, there is an additional allowance of €3,990 for each year they are under 21. The total of this additional allowance is restricted to €47,858 per child or grandchild.

For more distant relatives (e.g. cousins) the exemption is set at €7,933. There is no exemption for beneficiaries who are not related.

A main home in Spain may be virtually exempt from Spanish succession tax provided the beneficiaries are either your spouse, parents or children and they continue to own the property for ten years from the date of death.

The exemption can also apply where the beneficiary is a more distant relative over the age of 65 and they have lived with you for at least two years before death. If these conditions are met, the value of the house can be reduced by 95% in calculating the tax base liable, subject to a maximum reduction in value per inheritor of €122,606. It is important to note that this is only applies principal private residence and is owned by a Spanish resident.

Some examples of where the Autonomous rules differ from the state rules:

In Valenciana, spouses and children receive an allowance of €100,000 each. They can also benefit from a 75% reduction in the amount of succession tax payable.

In Murcia, the taxable inheritance for children under 21 is reduced by 99%, while older children and spouses get a 50% reduction.

In Andalucía, spouses and children can benefit from a 100% exemption for inheritances up to €175,000, provided they are not worth more than €402,268.

Cataluña offers a 99% allowance for spouses. Other Group I and II relatives receive a relief depending on the amount of their inheritance. Personal reductions are €100,000 for spouses and children (more for those under 21), €50,000 for other descendants, €30,000 for ascendants and €8,000 for other relatives. The 95% main home relief is up to a property value of €500,000, with the amount pro-rated among the beneficiaries (minimum €180,000 limit each). The property need only be kept five years rather than the 10 year state rule.

To summarise the key points of succession tax:

  • Tax is paid by each recipient, rather than by the estate
  • Spouses are not exempt
  • Allowances under the state rules are very low – just €15,957 for spouses, descendants over 21 and ascendants, €7,993 for other close relatives and nil for everyone else
  • Under state rules, tax is applied at progressive rates from 7.65% (for assets under €7,993) to 34% (for assets over €797,555). However, multipliers depending on the relationship between the two can increase this rate
  • If you leave assets to your spouse, who then passes them on to your children when he/she dies, succession tax will be due again on the second death
  • Succession tax also applies to pension funds
  • Tax is paid at the time of the inheritance, even if the funds are not accessed at the time. There is a six-month period to pay the tax after the death, although it is possible to apply for an extension in certain cases
  • Succession tax is governed by both state and local autonomous community rules; each community has the right to amend the state rules
  • Whether the state or the local autonomous community rules apply for each case, depends on where the beneficiary and the donor are resident and where the assets inherited/gifted are located
  • If you are UK domiciled you need to consider both the UK inheritance tax rules as well as the Spanish succession tax rules

Whilst the Spectrum IFA Group are not tax advisers, we can help to put you in touch with the right people. It is important to understand the various succession tax rules and how they apply to your situation, as well as how they affect any UK liability. You need specialist advice to understand the intricacies of the two tax regimes, and how to lower both tax liabilities and potentially save your heirs a considerable amount of tax. You can often combine your estate planning with your personal tax planning.

*Sources: Advoco, LegalforSpain, Globalpropertyguide, GovUK, AILO

Financial seminar for expats in Catalonia

By Chris Burke - Topics: Catalunya, International Bank Accounts, QROPS, Residency, Tax, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 25th February 2015

25.02.15

The Spectrum IFA Group’s Chris Burke spoke at a recent financial seminar alongside Spanish Lawyer, Nuria Clavera Plana, in Llafranc. The event was attended by 30 people and was followed by a Q&A session and a chance to meet the speakers over coffee.

Chris’s presentation covered:

  • Currency forecast, thoughts and ideas to implement for 2015.
  • UK Government Pensioner Bonds – 2.8%-4% per annum for anyone holding a UK bank account and debit card.
  • UK Pension & QROPS changes – Is your pension being managed effectively and is it in the right place?
  • Spanish Life Assurance Bonds/Investment – potentially Tax efficient, historically good returns (Prudential) and potentially succession planning friendly.

Chris ran through the concept of ‘the magic bank account’ for over 65’s in the UK, and many people were surprised to find out that you do not have to live in the UK to benefit from these – you just need a UK bank account and debit card and can achieve between 2.8% to 4% per annum with the savings also government backed. He discussed predictions and thoughts on currency, which highlighted last year’s most successful currency forecaster, stating that the Euro/Dollar will be at parity at 1-1 by the end of 2015. Still just as unnerving for those living in Spain, was the prediction that the Euro would reach 1.42 by the end of 2015 against the pound, particularly if the EU have to keep printing money to solve the crisis.

The new rules on UK pensions and QROPS were also highlighted. QROPS is a UK pension that has been moved overseas to benefit from EU rules (please note your pension should be evaluated by a qualified pension evaluator before you consider doing this) and although the new UK rules give much more flexibility, everyone acknowledged that hefty tax could have to be paid to access these. Qrops still has benefits over and above leaving your pension in the UK depending upon your situation, and from April 2015 should have nearly all of the benefits a UK pension will be entitled to, and potentially more.

Tax efficiency was perhaps the most popular subject Chris presented on, with most people interested in saving money on taxes both on their savings and with succession planning. In fact, passing on their money tax efficiently was the main interest over coffee after the presentations.

Presentation From Nuria Clavera Plana (Lawyer):

  • New income tax for Catalonia 2015 and what are the exemptions.
  • New Capital gains Tax for 2015 in Catalonia.
  • What assets need reporting.
  • Pension income from sources outside of Spain Amnesty.

Nuria as ever gave a very interesting presentation on what you now have to pay in taxes throughout Catalonia, the reasons why and how this works. By far the most popular conversation was the changes to Inheritance tax rules now in Catalonia, which in essence are the same now for Spanish Nationals and Foreigners residing here. This incorporates a big reduction in tax compared to before. It was also surprisingly good news for those leaving behind assets up to €1,000,000 with potentially limited tax to pay.

There were many questions surrounding what does and doesn’t need reporting for the Modelo 720 overseas asset declaration, ranging from classic cars to items not reported before. This topic always throws up major questions as always!

This year in Spain it is now a requirement to report any overseas pension income you are receiving up until the 30th June 2015. This generally would not have been taxed in most cases in the respective overseas countries due to the amount in question. However this should be reported in Spain and could therefore be subject to Spanish tax laws. It was discussed that this new law has been brought in mainly to find those Spanish Nationals who have been receiving pensions from working abroad previously and have not been declaring them or paying the relevant tax.

Nuria as ever gave everyone detailed analysis on these changes, so everyone left the event with a better knowledge of their own personal situation.

If you would like more information on this or any other questions you may have regarding Tax advice, please do not hesitate to contact Nuria on nuriaclavera@icab.cat or Telephone 972305454.

Chris and Nuria would like to thank all the attendees for asking such pertinent questions and joining in, making the event such a success.

Chris will also be presenting at future seminars in the coming months. Please feel free to contact him on chris.burke@spectrum-ifa.com or telephone him on 936652828 if you would like to know more about these, or wish to discuss any of the above details.

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