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 because of sale. Also, under tax law, just owning a property generates a notional income that is taxable. All these incomes must 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 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 should 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