If you are considering a move to Spain, or have recently arrived, there are a few basic steps to follow which will help with managing and improving your finances. The list below is intended for general guidance only, but refers to some of the key points consider as part of your early financial planning.
Are you moving to Spain?
First, an update on Brexit
Whilst departure terms between the UK and EU are yet to be finalised, the status of British expatriates living in Europe has largely been agreed, in principle at least. From state pension escalation, to health care cover and rights on residency and employment, first phase negotiations concluded (eventually) with consensus on protection of citizens’ rights.
Of course, agreement still needs to be formalised and as the EU/UK progress agreement highlights, ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’. But for now, at least, it is looking like existing expatriates’ rights are likely to be recognised beyond April 2019.
Buying a property
From the initial and legally binding ‘pago de arras’, the legal process of buying a property is markedly different from UK conveyancing.
It is important to engage a knowledgeable lawyer, ideally English speaking if you do not speak Spanish. Your lawyer will liaise with and arrange your meeting with a notary, which is legal a requirement in Spain for the property buying process. Resident and Non-resident tax obligations vary and require reviewing on an individual basis.
Seek guidance on the wide range of borrowing options available, from the national banks to smaller regional lenders. An independent mortgage specialist will identify the most competitive and flexible mortgages available and ensure suitability for your specific borrowing requirements, as well as introducing you to trustworthy and reliable legal and professional services, a must in Spain when purchasing or selling property. It is important to note that banks do not make mortgage offers without the property being secured. (See below for our independent mortgage brokers, Spectrum International Mortgages Spain)
Familiarise yourself with the various current and savings accounts available, from the cuenta corriente (current account) to tax efficient ‘Cuentas de Ahorro’, or savings accounts. It is important also to note that bank managers tend to move branches frequently, so finding a bank you like is more important in the longer term than a friendly bank manager or ‘Director’.
Please note you cannot choose where to be tax resident. The law dictates when this will happen and you do not necessarily have to complete any forms to be treated as tax resident. If you meet one of these following conditions you will be a tax resident:
● If you are in Spain for more than 183 days in any calendar year
● If your “centre of interests” are considered to be in Spain eg. If your main income is in Spain, your main home is in Spain or if your spouse and children live in Spain.
● Residency commences from the first day that you declare Spain to be your permanent home.
When you move to Spain, the Spanish tax authority becomes your controlling tax authority, even if you pay tax elsewhere. The tax year is the calendar year. Worldwide income needs to be declared annually (between April and end of June) and the relevant form is called “La Renta”. (Income taxes and capital gains tax are called IRPF). UK source income from dividends and property rental, whilst taxable in the UK, should also be included in your Spanish tax return. The double tax treaty between Spain and the UK should ensure an accurate tax assessment, but it is important to check that liabilities have been calculated correctly.
Note too that tax-free investments in the UK, such as ISAs and premium bonds, do not hold the same favourable status in Spain. For permanent and long-term Spanish residents, there are tax efficient alternatives available (see Investment section below). Without exception, make full disclosure of income and assets, recognising that there is automatic exchange of tax and financial information between the two countries, under global Common Reporting Standards adopted by the EU in 2017.
The Modelo 720 or M720 is a requirement for all Spanish residents, including foreigners, to complete. It is an informative overseas asset declaration for assets of over 50,000 euros including property, banks accounts, offshore investments, shares and other assets. This declaration needs to be completed by March 31st following the first full fiscal year of residency. As this declaration can only be completed electronically we highly recommend the involvement of a qualified ‘gestor’ or tax accountant, as hefty penalties could be imposed for providing erroneous information.
Wealth tax obligations change on a regular basis and vary between autonomous regions, so obtaining the latest local rates applicable is important.
For employed individuals earning over 60,000 euros pa and having not been resident in Spain for the past 10 years before becoming tax resident, the possibility exists of being paid as a non-resident for tax purposes and up to five full tax years. The rate of income tax is 24% plus you avoid the need to declare M720. It is available to company owners as long as they (and their immediate family) do not own more than 25% of the shares. The ability to join this scheme needs to be assessed on a case by case basis.
This is a subject that causes some confusion on moving to Spain. In Spain, it is the beneficiaries that are assessed for Inheritance tax. In the UK it is the estate of the person who has died that is assessed for Inheritance tax. This means that different planning is required in Spain although it is possible to plan for both the UK and for Spain in some circumstances.
Like wealth tax, inheritance tax varies from autonomous community to autonomous community. Advice in the community where you are living is therefore very important.
Spain’s comprehensive and efficient healthcare system is considered to be at least on a par with the UK and better in many areas. It is generally accessible to expatriates but the extent of cover available to you, and how to secure access to it, depends on individual circumstances. Eligibility for a Tarjeta de Salud or holding suitable private health insurance, or a combination of the two, are essential to avoid unexpected and expensive bills for medical treatment. This especially applies to dental treatment which is typically very costly in Spain.
Relying on your bank for foreign exchange transfers is generally an expensive option. Numerous currency transfer specialists provide not only competitive terms and secure, swift transactions, but a range of other benefits including on-line facilities for regular payments, forward contracts and rate tracking alerts.
Pensions are a technically complex subject where reliable advice is essential. From understanding UK state pension entitlement, to reviewing all existing personal and/or occupational schemes, there is scope to increase the value, flexibility and security of your retirement finances. British expatriates living in Europe currently enjoy pension freedoms and transfer opportunities that are unavailable elsewhere. However, in relation to both Brexit and ongoing UK pension reform, it is unlikely this flexibility will remain beyond the short term.
Even if Brexit transitional arrangements encourage a smoother economic separation, further changes to pension regulations are already on the UK domestic agenda. Consult an authorised, qualified and experienced specialist to arrange a comprehensive review of your existing pension arrangements. Be wary of any recommendation to transfer a UK pension without receiving a detailed report which explains clearly why a transfer is in your best interests.
Wills and estate planning
Spanish forced heir-ship rules restricts the extent to which you can freely transfer wealth during your lifetime. It also, unless you have planned properly, governs how your estate is distributed upon death – most notably, prescribed heir-ship laws override individual choice when it comes to nominating beneficiaries. However, if you are a British expatriate living in Spain, EU legislation allows you to specify that your estate be administered according to the laws of your country of nationality, rather than your country of residence. Doing so provides valuable flexibility and control over the eventual distribution of your estate. Note this relates to probate law and is unconnected to inheritance tax law.
It is important to establish and maintain a valid will or testamento which fully reflects your intentions. A notary will prepare your will in the appropriate format.
Investments and savings
Recognising that UK assets are taxable in Spain, and that tax free in the UK doesn’t translate to the same in Spain, consider switching to Spanish approved tax efficient investments. Care is needed with possible tax consequences on the disposal of UK assets, so always seek professional advice before restructuring. Seguro de vida are widely regarded as the most tax efficient solution available in GBP and EUR (and other currencies), in English language and with investment flexibility to match individual objectives and risk profiles. Technically a life insurance policy, but in practice an investment vehicle and this is the most tax efficient means of investment in Spain –
Low cost, straightforward, beneficiary nomination, IHT exemptions/reliefs, capital access, income option, portability (UK return),
Even for the financially experienced it is worth seeking professional advice, if only to ensure that all available investment and tax planning opportunities are being fully utilised. Only deal with an independent, appropriately authorised firm and ideally someone living and working locally who has been recommended by other expatriates in the area.
The regulatory status of an independent broker can be checked on-line at; www.dgsfp.mineco.es/regpublicos/pui/pui.aspx, and at any initial discussion with an individual you should be informed about the advisory process, from fact finding and presenting suitable recommendations to responsibility for investment management and ongoing client servicing.
2018 Modelo 720 Reporting Time!
Just a reminder that time is running out for submitting your Modelo 720 declaration for 2018. The deadline this year is the 31st March and is fast approaching.
All those tax resident in Spain (those living in Spain for more than 183 days a year or where Spain is the main base for your business) should be aware that as a result of legislation passed on 29th October 2012, residents in Spain who have any assets outside of Spain with a value of €50.000 (or alternative currency equivalent) or more, are required to submit this declaration form to the Spanish authorities.
This declaration can be made online, through the Tax Office`s web page www.agenciatributaria.es where the Modelo 720 formcan be located (type in Modelo 720 into the search block on the top right hand side of the page). It must be filed between January 1st and March 31st of the first year of residence to avoid being investigated or fined by the Spanish authorities. I would personally recommend speaking with your accountant / Gestoria to avoid mistakes.
- Bank accounts (cash)
To warrant a declaration the total value of assets should exceed €50.000 in each or any one of the categories; e.g. if you have 3 bank accounts and totalling up all the balances it exceeds the €50.000 limit you are subject to making the Modelo 720 declaration. However, if you have a bank account at €30.000 and, say, investments valued at €30.000 then there would be no reporting requirement as they are in separate categories and each individual total value does not exceed the €50.000.
A declaration must be submitted individually, regardless of the percentage of ownership (in joint accounts). For example, if you have a joint bank account with a value exceeding €50.000, although your particular (say €25.000) share is below the threshold, each owner would still be required to submit an individual declaration based on the total value of the account.
Although this declaration of assets abroad is solely informative and no tax is charged, failure to file, late filing or false information could result in serious consequences.
For this reason, we recommend that everybody arranges to declare their assets, to avoid the imposition of fines from a minimum of €10.000 to a maximum of 150% of the value of those undeclared assets located outside Spain. Once you have made your first declaration it is not necessary to present any further declarations in subsequent years, unless any of your assets in any category increases by more than €20.000 above the initial value declared.
Modelo 720 Reporting
Modelo 720 – WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
In 2013, the Spanish Government launched an “anti-fraud” plan to prevent tax evasion. Although aimed at discovering assets bought by Spanish nationals with irregular money, it also affects members of the international community living in Spain that hold assets abroad.
It is important that you don’t ‘bury your heads in the sand’ regarding this requirement, hoping that you won’t get caught………because eventually you will.
The Modelo 720 reporting requirement is based on tax residency; if you are deemed to be a tax resident in Spain, then this requirement affects you. In general, you will be deemed tax resident if you are in living/working in Spain for more than 183 days a year, and remember that the onus is on you, the individual, to be able to prove otherwise to the authorities, should they decide to investigate. The reality is that in most cases, it would be very difficult to demonstrate this to the Spanish Tax Authorities and so most people would be deemed Spanish tax resident by them.
WHO HAS TO REPORT?
Any person, permanent establishment or company who is tax resident in Spain and is the owner, titleholder, representative, authorised person, beneficiary, or has disposal powers of assets located outside of Spain worth more than €50 000 (see assets below), must report the value of these assets. Any assets held in other currencies must have that value converted to Euros to gauge whether it exceeds the Euro limit imposed.
WHEN DO YOU REPORT?
Between 1 January and 31 March of each tax year, you must submit details of assets from the previous year. If you have previously reported your external assets on the Modelo 720, then there is no need to resubmit a report every year unless the value of any of the asset classes has increased by €20 000 or more.
WHICH ASSETS MUST BE REPORTED?
There are three main asset classes that need to be reported if the total value of each class is over the €50 000 limit:
- Bank/Building Society accounts located outside of Spain – It is important to note that if you hold several bank accounts and THE TOTAL amount held exceeds the €50 000 limit, then ALL the accounts need to be reported, regardless of whether each one is under the limit.
- Investments / Life or disability insurance policies – If you are the owner or policyholder of an investment or insurance policy then these will need to be declared if they exceed €50 000. Again, there is a requirement if you have multiple investments or policies, that if the total value exceeds the limit then they will all need reporting.If you are holding Life Insurance Bonds, then the surrender value of the policy is deemed as the value. If you hold “pure life” policies that only pay out a benefit in the event of death and have no physical surrender value these do not have to be reported.Interestingly if you are holding what we describe as Spanish compliant Life Insurance Bonds, then the onus of reporting on the Modelo falls to the institution themselves. They have their own version of the Modelo to comply with meaning they do not necessarily have to go on your individual report.
- Property – Owners or part owners of an overseas property where the value exceeds the limit must report these properties.
WHAT IF YOU DON’T REPORT IN TIME / CORRECTLY?
The Spanish Tax Authority has implemented a series of penalties for those who do not comply with this regulation. These penalties can be imposed for late filing, incomplete/inaccurate filing and even for presenting the information to them in a way not deemed acceptable; basically, it must be done online. These are considered very serious offenses and the penalties in these cases are fixed, generally to an amount of €5 000 per item or “set of data” on the same asset, with a minimum of €10 000. The amount is reduced to €100 (with a minimum of €1 500) if the information is filed late without prior notification from the government. Speaking to some accountants and Gestors, they believe and have seen fines to be around €150 if you file late without any notification, but the law states differently so in reality the exact fine is questionable.
WHAT IF YOU DON’T REPORT AT ALL?
Should the Spanish Tax Authorities discover that you have assets with a cumulative value over €50 000 in any of the above asset classes and deem that you have wilfully not disclosed this information, penalties are imposed. In some cases the fines issued are as high as 150% of the value of the undeclared assets!!!! It is also important to note that there is no statute of limitations when it comes to the Modelo 720 so there is no limit to how far back they can go…………
There have been numerous complaints about the unfairness of the Modelo 720 and the fines being imposed. The European commission has been in discussion with the Spanish Tax Authority to reduce the fines. The latest I have heard is that the 150% penalty of undisclosed assets would not stand and would be reduced to the lower fine levels, providing the assets were reported voluntarily, which just means it falls from the undisclosed category to the late reporting category and doesn’t help those caught not declaring. The Tax Authority is pushing for people to report their assets voluntarily, maybe there will be softer sanctions in the future but for now, this is how it stands.
If you want to discuss how to report the Modelo 720 please feel free to get in touch. I work closely with a qualified accountant in Madrid who can file on your behalf if there is a requirement to do so.
Modelo 720 Reporting Time!
Just a reminder that time is running out for submitting your Modelo 720 declaration.
All those tax residents in Spain, (those living in Spain for more than 183 days a year or where Spain is the main base for your business), should be aware that as a result of legislation passed on 29th October 2012 residents in Spain who have any assets outside of Spain with a value of €50.000 or more, are required to submit this declaration form to the Spanish authorities. (that’s €50.000 or alternative currency equivalent).
This declaration can be made online, through the Tax Office`s web page www.agenciatributaria.es where the Modelo 720 (Tax in Spain) can be located and completed. It must be filed between January 1, and March 31, of the first year of residence, to avoid being investigated or fined by the Spanish authorities. I would personally recommend speaking with your accountant / Gestoria to avoid mistakes.
The assets outside of Spain that are subject to this declaration form fall into 3 asset categories:
2. Bank accounts (cash)
To warrant a declaration the total value of assets should exceed € 50.000 in each or any one of the categories; e.g. if you have 3 bank accounts and totalling up all the balances it exceeds the €50.000 limit you are subject to making the Modelo 720 declaration. However, if you have a bank account at €30.000 and say, investments valued at €30.000 then there would be no reporting requirement as they are in separate categories and each individual total value does not exceed the €50.000.
A declaration must be submitted individually, regardless of the percentage of ownership (in joint accounts). For example, if you have a joint bank account with a value exceeding €50.000, although your particular (say €25,000) share is below the threshold, each owner would still be required to submit an individual declaration based on the total value of the account.
Although this declaration of assets abroad is solely informative and no tax is charged, failure to file, late filing or false information could result in serious consequences.
For this reason, we recommend that everybody arranges to declare their assets, to avoid the imposition of fines from a minimum of €10,000 to a maximum of 150% of the value of those undeclared assets located outside Spain. Once you have made your first declaration it is not necessary to present any further declarations in subsequent years, unless any of your assets in any category increases by more than €20.000 above the initial value declared.