Tax headaches from receiving a foreign pension

Many Europeans spend much of their holidays in Spain throughout their working life. Therefore, it’s understandable that once retired they want to have holidays all year round by becoming residents in Spain. What obligations do these retirees have with the Spanish tax authorities?

If you spend more than 183 days in Spain, you are considered a resident for tax purposes. In this case, you must declare all your income to the Spanish tax authorities, both income generated in Spain and any coming from abroad. However, even though the Spanish tax agency must be informed of all your income, this does not mean that you have to pay tax in Spain on all your earnings.

The international agreements between Spain and other countries to avoid double taxation aim to make sure that the tax you pay is legitimate and fair, and you can deduct tax paid abroad previously from tax owed in Spain.

Retirement pensions receive a special treatment that has caused much controversy in recent years because the double taxation rules were not given the same interpretation in different countries. For instance, public pensions can only be taxed in the country in which they are generated. But in recent years, public pensions have come to be interpreted to be only pensions received by retired civil servants.

Another problem is caused by pensions paid as a lump sum without any kind of withholding, typical in Germany. In this case, when the paying country wants to collect the tax it is legally owed, the lump sum may have already been taxed in Spain, without there having been any deduction of the foreign tax due because it had yet to be paid.

Given such complexities, you should always seek the advice of a tax specialist for clearing up any doubt surrounding your situation to avoid unpleasant surprises from the tax authorities in Spain or your home country.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Your legal adviser in Spain

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German
Read this article in French

Read this article in Spanish

Spanish residents required to declare foreign assets

For some time now, residents in Spain have been required by law to declare the assets they hold abroad to the Spanish Treasury. This includes everything from real estate and bank accounts to shares and insurance held or managed outside of Spain.

This declaration must be made online with an electronic signature. You have from 1 January to 31 March to make a declaration for the previous year. In the case of bank accounts, this declaration must include:

  • Full name of the bank or credit entity
  • Full details of your accounts
  • Dates accounts opened or closed, or, if applicable, dates the authorisation that gives rise to your obligation to declare was granted or revoked
  • Account balances as of 31 December and the average balance for the last quarter of the year

You do not have to make a declaration when the total of the account balances does not exceed €50,000 on 31 December. And you only need to make a declaration in following years when the total balance of all your accounts (as of 31 December and the average for the last quarter) goes up by over €20,000 compared to the balance reported in a previous declaration.
Similar rules apply for securities, stock-market shares, investment fund shares, life and disability insurance, and life and term annuities.

What is the purpose of this declaration? It allows the Spanish Treasury to check if the annual income and property tax declarations that you must file as a resident before 30 June take into account foreign assets and income. Because, as a resident in Spain, you must declare your income worldwide.

This obligation to declare foreign assets came about when the tax authorities of EU countries started working more closely together and assisting each other, as we have mentioned in other blog articles.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Your legal adviser in Spain

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German
Read this article in French

Read this article in Spanish

Remote working from Spain

Remote working is not a passing fad caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a way of working that has so many advantages that it will become entrenched in society. I have clients who visit Spain on a regular basis for holidays or to enjoy their retirement. Now more and more of them are considering living here permanently, working and enjoying life by the beach at same time.

Over a year ago, before we’d even had a hint of the coming pandemic and the social changes it would bring, we published an article on our blog on the possibilities and legal risks of remote working. In this article, we concentrate more on the international aspects of this work situation. We’re specifically going to look at the legal problem arising when someone works remotely in one country, Spain, for example, when the recipient benefiting from their services is located in another country. Germany, for instance. This is an increasingly common scenario. There are even local councils and companies in Spanish tourist areas promoting the idea of “holidays all year round”, where the worker is offered the opportunity to enjoy their holiday paradise while meeting their work obligations during part of the day.

But when we provide our services remotely as an employee or a self-employed person and our habitual residence is in one country while the client or employer we are providing our services to is in another, what labour legislation and social security system are applicable? To answer these questions, which always depend on the timeframe, several agreements have been reached in the European Economic Area that essentially require workers to be able to demonstrate via an internationally valid document which national social security system is responsible for their situation and the payment of their contributions. When in this scenario, we must take into account the applicable situation and get expert advice to make sure that we are meeting our tax, labour and social security obligations at all times required by the legislation of the country in question. Cases can vary a lot, and you always need professional advice to make sure you are abiding by the law.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Your legal adviser in Spain

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German
Read this article in French

Read this article in Spanish

Tarracoiuris makes it easier to get legal advice remotely

We’ve always been swift to adopt new technology so you can get legal advice regardless of your location. We now have a new tool that will make it even easier for you to get personalised legal advice without having to install any specific application.

We are proud to have clients on every continent. For many years now, we have invested in the most versatile communication channels available so you can easily contact us from anywhere across the globe on a daily basis. As well as being able to talk directly to us with all the guarantees of privacy and confidentiality, you can share with us any document type via a 100% private and secure cloud storage system.

One obstacle we found when communicating via channels such as Skype, Hangouts and Meet was that our clients had to know our account for each application and must have previously installed the application in question in the device they wanted to use to speak to us. For instance, if they usually contacted us from their office but urgently needed to speak to us from somewhere else, if they didn’t have the application with which they usually contacted us installed on the device they had with them (computer, tablet or mobile phone), it made it harder for them to speak with us.

We have overcome these problems with our new tool. We now have a virtual conference room that you access just by clicking on the link that we send you by the means that best suits you. You don’t have to install any application on your device.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Your legal adviser in Spain

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German
Read this article in French

Read this article in Spanish

Professional services for pensioners residing abroad

When you stop working, it’s time to enjoy your pension. But what happens to your pension if you decide to retire abroad? To receive a pension in Spain as a foreign resident, you need to take into account a range of matters that can turn out to be quite complex.

Spanish pension laws are extremely complex, although this legislation is not applicable to Spanish residents receiving a foreign pension. In this case, you are covered by bilateral social security agreements. In Spain, the Social Security (“Seguridad Social”) takes care of social welfare matters.

One typical situation is migrating when you’re already receiving a pension in your home country. In this case, you need to know what to do to make sure you keep receiving your pension abroad. To start with, you need to submit a number of documents to the social welfare authority in your home country.

You may also need to demonstrate that you are still alive and entitled to receive the pension. Any hitch regarding this matter can result in a stoppage of the payments and can cause serious problems for you as an overseas pensioner.

Another complex situation entails when you have worked most of your life in your home country but now work abroad and plan to stay and live in this foreign country during your retirement. In this case, you need to calculate the most beneficial option according to the applicable international agreements for the periods worked in the two countries.

This situation can vary greatly and can give rise to very complex scenarios because of differences between the legislations of the different countries regarding the minimum retirement age, the minimum amount of years worked required, requirements regarding non-contributory pensions, etc. Ideally, you need to get professional advice when making decisions about such important matters regarding your working life.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German
Read this article in French

Read this article in Spanish

Doing business abroad via a representative

When we have interests in a foreign country we aren’t residing in, we usually manage them by distance. To do this, we normally grant power of attorney to someone we trust. Given the important legal implications in giving someone power of attorney, the process is subject to strict formalities.

These formalities are even stricter if the document empowering our representative is to be used for managing business interests in a country different from where it is issued. At our law firm, we come across cases like these every day. For example, an Englishman wanting to purchase a property in Spain and have a Spanish legal professional represent him in the sale. Or a Russian on holiday in Spain who realises she needs to take care of something at a Swiss bank and wants to give someone in that country power of attorney for representing her at the Swiss bank. Or a German resident in Spain who needs to settle an inheritance in Germany and wants someone he trusts to handle it for him. In situations like these, the document granting the power of attorney to our representative, which will be issued in one country and used in another, must be legalised.

Documents granting powers of attorney that can be used internationally must be officially authorised to be valid. This means that an authenticating official (normally a notary public or a public servant) must certify the document. This authenticating official attests that the person signing the document is who they say they are and is of sound mind (or at least states they are). This certification converts the power of attorney into a notarial instrument. However, for this document to be recognised in other countries, the person who officially certifies it must be recognised by another authority in the same country that is in turn recognised by the authorities of the country in which the document is going to be used. For example, a power of attorney granted before a Spanish notary public to be used in Germany must be recognised as an authentic notarial instrument by the German authorities. In most European countries, this international recognition of the local official is done via an Apostille stamp. In the above example, the power of attorney granted by the Spanish notary must bear an Apostille stamp from the Spanish Association of Notaries Public, which is the body recognised by the German authorities for authorising the signature of a Spanish notary public.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in French
Read this article in Spanish
Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German

Legal restrictions affecting the purchase of inherited real estate

Buying a property is always a risky proposition. Especially when the seller inherited the property. This entails additional risks for the buyer, depending on the relationship the seller had with the former owner.

In a previous post, we spoke about the risks of buying real estate inherited by an immediate family member. These risks have to do with tax as the inheritor is entitled to fiscal benefits that place restrictions on the sale of the property. If these restrictions are not met, the tax office will make any claim against the current owner of the property.

In this post, we look at another type of risk that arises from a slightly different situation — when the seller acquires the property by inheritance from someone who is not an immediate family member. The most typical example is a single person or widow without children who, via a will or by law, ends up leaving their estate to a non-immediate family member (under Spanish law: a sibling, nephew/niece, cousin, etc.) or even someone with no family ties.

When the seller registers the inherited real estate in the land registry, a restriction is placed on their power to sell the property for a given period. This restriction exists so that if an heir with a preferential right to inherit appears (e.g., a child that had not previously been acknowledged), their rights are protected.

This restriction, which is often not taken into account, can lead to surprises as the banks may decline financing the property purchase in such cases. As always, we recommend seeking the assistance of a lawyer when you purchase a property to obtain the proper legal advice.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in French
Read this article in Spanish
Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German

European tax offices strengthen their ties

Over the years, we have observed from our law firm how the Spanish Tax Office has improved its channels of cooperation with other European tax offices to the point that they are now sharing all types of information on taxpayers.
 
Until now, this cooperation was limited to chasing real estate assets located in Spain owned by taxpayers of other countries who had outstanding tax bills with their home tax office. The Spanish Tax Office collected the debt that a taxpayer had abroad by claiming against real property owned in Spain, regardless of whether the person was a resident.
 
Now the cooperation is even stronger. Administration and inspection proceedings are triggered via the data provided by foreign tax offices. Recently we’ve seen the German and British tax offices inform their Spanish counterpart of known income of nationals of these countries who apparently reside or have their domicile in Spain. Based on this information, the Spanish tax agency sends a claim demanding payment of the undeclared tax and the corresponding penalties, which can reach 50% of the sum owed plus interest on the debt from the deadline for paying the tax. If you have received one of these claim letters in recent weeks, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your tax advisor.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in French
Read this article in Spanish
Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German

Why you should make a will where you invest in property

From the moment you register your property in a state’s land registry to protect your rights as a property owner, you are subject to that state’s regulations. If the state that rules on your inheritance is not the same as the one governing your property, you can help your heirs by making a will in the state where the property is located.

When you buy a house, you want your property rights to be protected by the law of the land. This is why you register your title to the property in the corresponding land and property registers. In exchange for this protection, you pay taxes. After your death, your heirs will want the same protection, but their title to the property will not be a property deed. It will be an acceptance of inheritance document. This is a document issued by the authorities of a country that may be different from where your property is located.

The differing legal approaches in different countries create the biggest headaches in international inheritances. Who is the heir? What percentage do they inherit? Who has a right to inherit? Such questions can only be resolved by the competent public authorities. As a rule, these are the authorities of your country of residence or nationality. When you have foreign investments, the documents issued by the authorities in your home country have to be interpreted by the authorities in the country where you have assets. This creates additional problems that can be tricky to resolve. You can resolve these problems by making a valid will in the country where your property is located. By doing so, you stop foreign authorities from getting involved in the processing of your estate.

As always, we recommend that our foreign clients, from as soon as they own property in Spain, make a Spanish will to govern their Spanish inheritances as they see fit. Thus, limiting the involvement of non-Spanish authorities in the processing of their estates.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in French
Read this article in Spanish
Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German

Working in Spain for non-resident employers

Providing services remotely is, thanks to today’s technology, increasingly common. You can live in one country and provide services to a person or company based in another. However, this scenario can be confusing with regard to taxation and social security.

Today’s technology allows you to provide someone with services without ever having to physically meet them. For instance, communications, consultancy work and the transfer of knowledge are all services that can be provided remotely via the Internet, with no physical or geographical barriers. If you are a Spanish resident, which, as a rule, means that you live here for more than 183 days a year, you are subject to Spanish labour, tax and social security regulations with regard to the services you provide.
But there are grey areas in the Spanish legislation when it comes to remote working. It is straightforward if you are self-employed. In this case, you are simply registered and treated as self-employed by social security and the tax office. You have the same obligations as any self-employed resident.
However, you may not technically be self-employed if:

  • You only provide services for one person or company.
  • The receiver of your services trained you or provided you with or paid for the tools required to carry out the work commissioned.
  • You carry out the work according to the instructions of the service receiver, and the resulting products are sold on by them.

If these cases, the service receiver is actually your employer, and they are required to register you with the social security as an employee and meet their tax and employer obligations in Spain. It doesn’t matter if the company or person receiving your services does not have a permanent premises in Spain. Their obligations are clear, and you can report them for not meeting them.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer

Read this article in French
Read this article in Spanish
Read this article in Russian
Read this article in German