Sunday, January 24, 2010

Avoiding income tax in Spain - part 3

Keeping the tax man's hands off your money is a preoccupation almost as old as money itself (I am sure taxes were proposed soon after money's invention). I have written before about avoiding income tax in Spain both in general terms - part 1- and by going offshore - part 2. Today I want to touch upon two important and substantial tax savings available to us foreign residents of Spain. They are both entirely above board and sound very enticing but are not quite as attractive as they seem when you dig a little deeper.

Tax saving no 1: Application to be taxed as a non-resident ("Beckham's Law")

As I am sure all you well-informed readers know, a Spanish resident tax payer has to declare all their worldwide income. But there is an exception for foreigners newly tax resident in Spain: they can apply to be treated as non-residents for tax purposes i.e. only have to declare Spanish income and once more at the low rate of 24% (the top rate for residents is 43%). This is what David Beckham did when playing for Madrid, hence the nickname for the law. If your application is successful then you can take advantage of this attractive option for 5 years. There are conditions (see this good explanation here) but it is great on the face of it; certainly foreign footballers have benefited greatly.

Reservations: Two really. One is that you have to read the small print in the conditions which will make a lot of people ineligible, particularly the stipulation that you have to have moved to Spain to begin an employment contract with a Spanish entity and perform most of your duties in Spain. Secondly non-residents don't get the tax allowances and exemptions that residents get so although the rate is lower you may lose out in total because of the lost allowances (depends how much you earn and what sort of allowances you are entitled to).

Tax saving no 2. : €60.000 overseas earnings tax free

Another eye-catching tax allowance which applies if you are resident in Spain but go abroad to work e.g. doing contracts back in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. The problem here is very fundamental: you need to have paid the tax in the country where you worked so it isn't tax free as such although could be very useful if you often work in a country with low income taxes.

Conclusion: depending on your circumstances there are often allowances and benefits available so it's worth getting a tax adviser to look at your Spanish tax position when your tax situation changes. On that self-serving note I will leave you with a link to Advoco's tax services page:

Non resident tax payers might also be interested in a recent article of mine called "Making sense of Spanish tax form 210"

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