Tax obligations for owners of real estate in Spain

Owners of real estate in Spain must pay tax on their properties regardless of their place of residence. In practice, resident and non-resident property owners pay the same taxes in Spain, although the names and collection mechanisms of these taxes differ.

A real estate property can generate earnings, either through renting or as a result of sale. Also, under tax law, just owning a property generates a notional income that is taxable. All these incomes have to be declared in Spain, and Spain is the competent state for collecting any tax due. This is according to all the double taxation treaties signed by Spain. These treaties follow the general OECD model under which income from real estate property can be collected in the country it is located in, regardless of the country of tax residence of the taxpayer.

In addition to paying any income tax due to the national Spanish tax agency, the property owner must also pay all other taxes due to other agencies. This includes, for instance, the municipal property tax collected each year by the local council. And, when you sell your property, the capital gains tax you also have to pay to the council.

Lastly, in Catalonia and some other autonomous communities, there is a further tax on an activity widespread among foreign investors in coastal properties: the short term leasing to tourists. The tax is a small amount due per night for every person staying in the property, which must be registered for tourist use with the local council.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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New Comprehensive Advisory Service for Property Owners

Owning a real estate property is a big responsibility. To protect your rights as an owner, your property must meet all current legal and technical requirements. To give you the peace of mind that your real estate property does meet these requirements and is fully protected legally — both now and in the event of any change in the law — Tarraco Iuris law firm would like to offer you its comprehensive advisory service for property owners.

Based in Tarragona, our specialist team of lawyers and technical experts are ready to handle all your properly-related legal and administrative needs, including the handling of any mediation process and other procedures and the drafting and lodging of documents for the Spanish authorities (local councils, provincial and regional governments, the cadastral register, the Land Registry, notaries public, the courts, etc.) or any third parties (adjoining property owners, neighbour associations, the community of owners, entities involved in expropriation processes, etc.).

To legally protect your property in Spain, we offer a complete range of technical and legal services that includes:

1. Helping you obtain a NIE (foreigner ID number required for tax purposes in Spain)
2. Drafting all property-related contracts, including preliminary, option-to-buy, purchase and sale, and lease agreements
3. Verifying property charges with the Land Registry
4. Verifying property zoning with the local council
5. Verifying any debts owed by the seller to the Community of Owners
6. Verifying that all tax due on a property has been paid (municipal property tax, tax on income from real estate property, etc.) and drafting and presenting any corresponding tax declarations
7. Providing an estimate of taxes and expenses so you can budget for the cost of transferring a real estate property
8. Verifying the applicable marital or inheritance law and advising you on the legal conditions for purchasing or transferring a property
9. Drafting title deeds for executing property transactions
10. Accompanying you to sign title deeds and any other notarial instruments, acting as advisers and/or translators
11. Assisting your negotiations with the bank for using the property as loan security
12. Registering title deeds with the Land Registry
13. Informing the local council of a change of ownership for the purposes of local taxes and fees
14. For sales by non-residents, preparing and presenting declarations on tax withheld for Spanish income tax and handling the collection of any refund
15. Preparing/lodging applications for:

a. Certificate of occupancy and energy efficiency certificate
b. Building technical assessment report
c. Certificate of structural soundness and certification of construction age

16. Plans and topographical surveys
17. Undertaking boundary demarcation and mediating in conflicts with neighbours
18. Undertaking historical investigations on properties and updating the cadastral record for divided or joined plots
19. Advising you on:

a. Utility connection and the possible use of wells and springs
b. New construction, reform or landscaping projects
c. Business projects
d. Road and path refurbishment
e. Land and building assessment

Are you sure your property is fully protected legally?

Do not hesitate to contact us for further information. Please contact us for any service you require that is not listed

Tarraco Iuris global management

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Holiday homes: Practical problems through urban bureaucracy

Everyone agrees that one of the main problems of Spain is the bureaucracy. In 2012 we reported expectantly on the regulation of the market of holiday rentals in Catalonia (https://tarracoiuris-advocats.com/blog/en/?p=66) but we were already afraid of the risks caused by the proposed intervention of the municipalities.

Unfortunately, our worst predictions have now come true, as expected. Bored officials of municipalities have begun to abuse their statutorily granted powers of control, not only to charge fees that increase the cost of renting holiday villas and appartments, but also and even worse to block rentals with unnecessary  requirements which have nothing to do with the legally foreseen inspections.

According to the Decree 159/2012 of 20 November on vacation rentals and holiday homes, the holiday home rental of individuals should be encouraged through quality controls. The communities were empowered to establish a register of these accommodations and the only formal and statutory requirement to register a property in such a register was, logically, to certify its habitability in the moment when the owner wanted to offer the apartment or the house for renting.

The city officials have tried to exploit the information obtained from these communications relating to the rental activity, to examine the urban situation of the holiday homes, and now begin to threaten with penalties for possible violations of urban development. Although these violations probably existed for years without the officers had endeavored to do something about it and they have nothing to do with the activities of tourists, which the law was intended to normalize. Once again, the behavior of officials is actually stimulating the shadow economy, as has always happened in this country: they are active only when the work is easy because all the information is already on their table, but are unlikely to pursue infringement on their own initiative.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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The difference between purchase price and fiscal value when buying or selling real estate

Anyone who wants to invest in property in Spain could imagine that the price at which he acquires the property must coincide with the value declared in the official document the acquisition is drawn up with. However, throughout history, we have been faced with a variety of situations, depending on the economic environment and the changing behavior of the tax authorities.

Those who bought property before the explosion of the housing bubble in 2008 have surely heard at some point in the process of acquisition a proposal about the possibility to declare in the official title deed of sale (in the „Escritura“) a value for the property lower than the price actually paid for it. This practice was very common in order to reduce the tax for both seller and buyer: the buyer pays less for the property transfer tax (Impuesto de Transmisiones Patrimoniales), he has to pay as the purchaser, as the basis for calculating this tax is the declared price of the transmission; the seller also pays less, since the gain on the sale becomes less, and the lower the profit, the lower the income tax (Impuesto de la Renta de las Personas Físicas), he has to pay as the transferor.

Today, times have changed and, surprisingly, we find ourselves in the reverse situation. The current catastrophic situation of the property market may lead to buyers and sellers to specify a higher value than the value actually paid in order to avoid undesirable inspections by state tax authorities. Regardless of the price we pay for real estate, the reference value for the State Tax Agency is a fixed a priori value, the so-called “taxable value”. This value can be calculated for each case, based on the value assigned by the Cadastre, depending on numerous objective factors. In the Golden Years prior to 2008, some municipalities have updated the cadastral value of the property in its territory, raising it under the spectacular rise in prices in the housing market. Once the cadastral values of a community are changed, a new modification is not so simple, and, in addition, legal deadlines must be respected, which can delay the update for many years. For this reason, now we meet occasionally with cadastral values updated before the bubble burst in the housing market, and therefore, the minimum taxable values obtained from them are higher than the average market price.

If these taxable values are not considered at the moment of the formalization of the purchase contract in a public document with tax transcendence, the risk to face a tax audit is very high and it will be difficult to prove that in fact we did not have to pay more for the property which we have acquired, although the price we have indicated in the title deed was really the one we paid for.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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Acquisition of property by non-residents: important issues that must be considered

We take a lot of risks when deciding to buy a property in Spain. If
the seller is a non-resident owner, there are specific risks that are usually not taken into account by investors.

A big part of the real estate on the Spanish coast belongs to owners who do not reside in our country and it is usually a house or apartment for holiday. If we buy this real estate to owners who are not residents, we must not forget the need to
be cautious to avoid later unexpected problems with the administrations.

The most common risk is the obligation to pay the council tax on the increase in value of urban land (the so-called “plusvalía municipal”). The law provides that this tax should be paid by the seller, and so, the buyer does not usually care about this expense when calculating the total cost of the investment transaction. However, when the seller is not a resident, the law obliges to pay this council tax to the buyer as a substitute of the seller, the one who should be actually required to pay it. This exception to the rule has its own logic, as it tries to avoid that the administration has to prosecute abroad the non-resident sellers who did not pay their taxes voluntarily, because when they sell their property in Spain, they very often do not retain any other property in the country, and, therefore, they are technically insolvent. In this case, the municipality requires the payment of the tax to the party who is closer and this is the buyer.

That is why during the registration of the purchase contract we should require the seller the corresponding provision of funds (or withhold the foreseen amount of the tax from the money that is still owed ​​to the seller for the property). If this exception to the general rule is not considered and no precautions are taken, in the case that the municipality requests that we as buyers pay the tax on the increase in land value because the seller did not pay this tax freely, we will have no choice but to undertake this payment, because, before the Spanish administration, we would be the only one who is obliged to pay. Another thing is that we can claim ourselves afterwards from the seller what we have paid to the municipality, through a civil action against him.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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Planning your succession by setting up a company

One of the most important legal topics for owners of apartments or houses in Spain is how to transfer this property to their heirs with minimal tax and handling cost. An interesting option is to set up a trading company (or other type of legal entity) and transfer the property to it

The following pattern is very often repeated in many families, who spend their holidays every year in Spain: a couple buys a property by the sea to come here every summer with their children; the children grow up, create their own family and continue spending the holidays with their own children in the house of the parents. The grandparents, often pensioners, keep the property in stand and handle all related processes, while the children spend with the grandchildren their holidays there. This situation persists without any problems until the moment where the grandparents can no longer take care of the property for reasons of age. From this point on, and especially after the death of grandparents, the new co-owners have to face, if no precautions have been taken, apart from the usual problems of handling an inheritance, the problems of the management of the property, which is alternately used by the heirs. In addition, the summer residence of the family is often not used exclusively, and the time periods in which the family does not use it personally, is rentes to tourists, thus creating rental income from property.

One way to simplify the procedure of inheritance and, above all, to allow easy control of the house and the income it can generate, is to create a commercial company, which eventually becomes the owner of the property. It would be ideal to set up the company before the acquisition of the property takes place. In this case, the company would already would be the owner of the property from the beginning and the cost of the transfer of the property from the previous owners (the grandparents in the above example) to the company does not arise. But even if this is not the case, the tax costs of this transfer are lower than that of the transfer to the children through inheritance or gift. Shareholders of the company may change over time (you can include other children and even their spouses) without change of ownership, which would imply costs and taxes on the transfer of property.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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Under the new Entrepreneurs’ Law, a residence permit can be obtained by purchasing a property in Spain

In enabling this, the Spanish government is attempting to reinvigorate the property market by attracting foreigners from outside the European Union with the granting of a residence permit for investing in Spain, which brings the added benefit of being able to move virtually freely around various member states under the Schengen Agreement.  

Here, too, there is a danger that an investor will view the purchase of a property as an opportunity to do business in Europe.  This can mean that they fail to check sufficiently thoroughly as to whether the purchase of the property is safe and reputable, as they want to take advantage of the opportunity to gain legal residency in Spain.  The risk is the same as for the tourist who wants to enjoy their holiday rather than attending meetings with lawyers.  In this case, too, the investment is a means, not an end, for just as the tourist sees the acquisition of a property as a means that secures them their holiday in Spain, the entrepreneur sees their opportunity to obtain a residence permit by purchasing a property, which then enables them to move freely around the Schengen area.  Both view getting adequate protection for their purchase as unnecessary.  If any problems subsequently arise, they find themselves compelled to find a lawyer to solve the problems arising from their failure to seek independent, professional advice.  However, by then it is often too late, and if there is a solution, it will involve much higher costs than if they had sought advice at the right time.  Well-advised investors can avoid making such mistakes.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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Purchasing property in Spain as an investor, not as a tourist

Each year, many of the millions of tourists who spend their holiday in Spain decide to buy a property in their destination country.  However, when investing their savings in Spain, they often act whilst still in a holiday mood, and make major decisions without due care and attention.

In almost any language, the term ‘tourist’ leaves a slight aftertaste in the mouth.  Airlines offer their cheapest tickets under the heading ‘tourist class’, while in every country that survives on tourism – and Spain is no exception – tourists are seen as easy prey who are only in town for a short period of time and can easily be taken for a ride.  This image of the typical tourist, whom it is easy to hoodwink and escape unpunished, is largely down to their poor language skills and lack of knowledge of the local customs, but also because tourists are on holiday, of course, and want to enjoy their short time away from home and are therefore relaxed and less vigilant.  As a result, they do not act with the same amount of care as they might in a similar situation at home.

Purchasing a property always involves a large outlay.  In many cases, sums are invested which represent many years of saving.  Such a decision should be given the appropriate degree of protection and made with as much information as possible on the potential legal and financial risks.  Sadly, as lawyers, every day we see how foreigners are conned when purchasing a property and lose their money as a result of failing to seek advice.  Often, people think they don’t need any advice, but then comes a rude awakening.  The cost of an independent consultation is minimal compared to the often hidden dangers when signing a contract of sale for a property; and such advice can only be independent if it has no connection with any other professionals involved in the sales contract.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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New campaign of the Tax Agency to demand the payment of income tax to non-residents

Even if they are fiscally non-resident, owners of real estate in Spain must file a separate income tax return each year and pay the so-called income tax for non-residents (IRNR) for revenues earned from the property .

The Spanish state tax authorities have not been very demanding until now regarding the payment of income tax to fiscally non-resident property owners. Many homeowners are not aware of the existence of this tax liability and can not understand why they have to file a tax return and pay this tax in Spain, despite the fact that they are not getting any income. They come to Spain just to spend their holidays: they do not work, they do not receive interest income from cash deposits in the bank, they do not rent their property. However, the mere possession of a property in Spain, as in other European countries, is considered by the law as income, even if the property is not rented. State tax rules require that the owner gets benefit of his own real estate anyway, even though these objects are not leased. The only exceptions are the cases in which the property is one’s own domicile or if the property is devoted to economic activity. Both cases can never happen with non-residents.

There is another tax, the municipal tax on property ownership, the so-called IBI (Spanish Impuesto Sobre Bienes Inmuebles), the payment of which the local municipality requires to property owners each year, and which is calculated and declared by the administration itself. In contrast, in the case of the state income tax for non-residents – IRNR-, the tax inspection is not mandated to prepare tax returns for the non-residents, but it is the taxpayer himself who is required to provide an annual tax return, and calculate and pay the property taxes on its own initiative.

This month, many homeowners who spend their holidays in their own apartments or private homes in Spain, received a letter from the Spanish tax authorities, reminding of the existence of the tax on the income of non-residents and the obligationy of paying it. Earlier, the state tax agency was very generous regarding this tax. Now, however, given that the economic situation is so bad, it appears that IRS has become stricter, requiring submission of tax returns and payment of this tax by all non-residents who own property in Spain.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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Building Energy Efficiency Certificate: a new requirement for the sale of real estate

The Spanish Royal Decree 235/2013, of 5 April, has just come into force. It approves the basic procedure for the certification of energy efficiency of buildings. Under this new regulation, from June 1st 2013 on, you cannot validly formalize contracts for the sale or lease of property without the submission of such certification.

Real estate selling management has become a very difficult task in the last years, but not only because of the crisis: the continued imposition of new legal requirements has also hindered this sale management, with the excuse to increase the guarantees for the buyer. For example: recently, we have found that it has become impossible to record a property purchase contract in the Registry of Deeds if the transfer of ownership has not been previously communicated to the municipality concerned, so that the tax popularly known as “plusvalia” could be calculated and paid. Previously we had also found that, in the case of sale of dwelling, it has become necessary to prove its habitability by filing a document that, in many cases, costs a lot to get (or at least, a long time). And in most cases, in which such statements only come to ratify the existing factual situation, its demand has only served to slow processes and increase the costs and the bureaucracy around the sale of a property, which are already excessive.

The last obstacle to be overcome by sellers of property is the obligation to provide buyers or tenants the BEEC energy certificate confirming the energy efficiency of the house. This document will describe how the house effectively consumes electricity and will include objective information on the minimum energy requirements so that future owners or tenants of the building (or a part of it) have the opportunity to compare and evaluate its performance with other similar proposals.

The purpose of this regulation, allowing consumers to compare the energy efficiency of buildings, is to promote energy saving investments and also more energy efficient buildings in the housing market. In addition, this guideline helps to report information about carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the residential sector, which will facilitate the adoption of measures to reduce emissions and improve the energy rating of buildings. Laudable goal, of course, but in a very long term, if there is something new to be built in this country. Nowadays, what we have is a huge offer of buildings that do not find a buyer and selling them has become with the new directive even more difficult.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

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