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Tax in Spain can be a matter of opinion

By John Hayward - Topics: Pensions, Section 32 Buyout, spain, Tax
This article is published on: 17th April 2018

17.04.18

In Spain, there can be a huge difference in what autonomous regions charge for income, capital gains, wealth, and inheritance/succession taxes. Rules generally come from central government in Madrid but how that comes out in the fiscal wash in each region can vary considerably. For the purpose of future articles, my focus will be on the Valencian Community incorporating Castellón, Valencia, and Alicante.

There is also an unwritten rule which seems to be rife. The law of opinion. On a subject that you would think there should be clear instruction from the Spanish tax authorities, there is a lot of ignorance on several tax matters and so the law of opinion kicks in. This is especially true for any products which are based, or have been arranged, outside Spain. With the threat of fines for not declaring assets and paying taxes correctly, it seems at least slightly unjust that there is not clear instruction on how different assets are treated for tax.

As my colleague Chris Burke from Barcelona recently wrote, lump sums from pension funds can have special tax treatment, both in the UK and Spain. However, even though most people and their dog know that there is a 25% tax free lump sum in the UK, not everyone is aware that this lump sum is potentially taxable in Spain. Also, it is not common knowledge that there is a 40% discount on qualifying pension lump sums. It is likely that many people have overpaid taxes due to no or bad advice.

Can you tell the difference between margarine and a Section 32 Buyout?
If you can, you could be leader of the Conservative Party, according to the script of The Last Goon Show of All (Actually the comparison was between margarine and a lump on the head but the qualification would seem equally apt almost 50 years later). It is frightening what little knowledge there is with regard to pension schemes, notably with the advisers who make money for arranging them! A Section 32 Buyout plan is just one of many types of pension scheme which have emerged over the last 30 to 40 years. Few people are familiar with all the different types.

A pension fund is, in many cases, the second largest asset behind a property. People are generally familiar with the property expressions such as “doors”, “windows”, “walls”, “kitchen”, etc. They know where these things need to go and when they need repair and maintenance. When it comes to pensions, it is a different story. In a way, that is great for us because it means people need advice. The problem comes when they leave themselves open to advice which is inaccurate, if not complete garbage.

People need to check the qualifications of an adviser and their firm before exposing themselves to potential problems. I have the Chartered Insurance Institute G60 Pensions qualification. You won´t find too many advisers with this, especially not in Spain. As a company we have a team which is qualified and which keeps up to date with pension rules in the UK and Europe. All enquiries go through them before anything is arranged which should give comfort to those nervous about what will happen to their pension funds.