European court rules Spain must soften penalties on Spanish residents who fail to declare assets held abroad

In a recent decision, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the fines imposed on Spanish residents for not declaring assets held abroad were “disproportionate”. As a result, last February, the Spanish parliament approved new, less discriminatory penalties.

Last year on this blog, we wrote about the obligation of Spanish tax residents to declare in Spain the assets they held abroad when the total value of these assets exceeded €50,000. This declaration had to be updated for changes in value of over €20,000.

Not filing this declaration meant facing fines of up to 150% of the undeclared assets, really amounting to a confiscation. And if you filed the declaration but made a mistake on it, you could be fined up to €5,000 for every error or omitted detail.

This regulation was imposed at a time of deep financial crisis when the government feared the freezing of bank accounts and offshore tax evasion. But these penalties have not held up to EU scrutiny for being clearly discriminatory against overseas investors. The new regulation adopted owing to the decision of the Luxembourg court brings the penalties in line with general tax regulations, without any discrimination for these assets being held abroad.

The time limits for these offences have also been brought into line with general tax regulations. Previously, there was no time limit on facing prosecution for offshore tax evasion.

Carlos Prieto Cid – Your legal adviser in Spain

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