Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spanish gift tax - a nasty surprise

No one likes taxes but some hurt more than others. One of the most unpleasant has got to be gift tax which strikes me as particularly unfair. If you have built up assets over the years it is normally because you have paid for them out of income that has been taxed once already. Why then should you have to pay again when you give those assets to your nearest and dearest?

I suppose the answer is because (1) the government finds the money handy to spend on vital projects likes billion pound computer systems that never go live (2) if you could give things away without a tax it would undermine inheritance tax takings and (3) the state doesn't want wealth to flow unhindered through the generations as that might entrench class structures.

Mmm. But it's not for humble accountants to moan about the Whys of a tax but merely to advise on the Whats, Whens and most pertinently How Muches of them. Here in Spain the tax seems particularly harsh and all encompassing. We have just put a guide on the website call, er, Spanish Gift Tax. It's got all the facts and the all important rates which are quite murderous in some circumstances. Give a €1m house to a mate and it may cost them around €530.000 in tax (they pay not you). The taxes apply to Spanish assets even if you or the recipient of your generosity is not a Spanish resident. There are a few Spanish gift tax avoidance strategies, like setting up a company to own assets like houses, but these need careful thought and structuring to make effective. If this is an issue which is or might at some stage effect you then take a look at the guide as a starting point but also take advice.

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