Thursday, August 19, 2010

Spanish tax strategies for married couples

A little while allow the firm's website published a guide to the calculation of tax for married couples (Spanish Taxation of Married Couples) and it has prompted quite a lot of couples - or at least the half of the couple who do the tax stuff - to send in their queries.

Apart from the mechanics of the calculations, there have been a few proposals for cutting the overall tax bill by some restructuring of the couple's fiscal affairs. Often the question is "I've had this idea for reducing our tax bill; will it work?". People can get quite creative. I just wanted to comment on a couple of ideas:

Income sharing - often a retired or semi-retired couple will have a very uneven skew of income with one spouse earning almost everything. If some of the income could be shifted to the other spouse then that could save tax either by using up more of their personal allowances or shifting some of the couple's income out of higher rate tax. Obviously some sources of income are very specific to the person - like a pension or salary - but some deposit accounts and investments could be put in both names to divide the resulting income up between spouses.
Similarly couples where one spouse owns a business may be able to legitimately transfer some income to the other either by employing them in some capacity or, in the case of a limited company, paying a dividend to them.

A very specific idea I came across was the proposal to form a Spanish business partnership - Sociedad Civil (description of legal form here) - to take the place of a simple autonomo set-up. The husband was self-employed and earning a high and regular income; the wife earned nothing. The idea was that if they formed a partnership then they could say the partnership earned the money and then divide the proceeds between them as income. This could work, with two provisos:

- the partnership will cost more than a single autonomo to run thus taking away some of the tax savings from increased use of allowances and less higher rate tax. Primarily this is because both husband and wife will have to sign up for autonomo social security ( see Autonomo Guide) and also because there is more reporting to do. While a Sociedad Civil only has to submit one IVA declaration, each of the partners has to do quarterly income tax returns.

- the partnership has to be legitimate or at least not demonstrably illegitimate. For example if a lawyer sets up a partnership to practice law with his wife, who is not a lawyer, then that would clearly not be acceptable. If, on the other hand, the couple is doing an activity which both could plausibly be contributing to then setting up a Sociedad Civil is a perfectly acceptable route to follow. But the tax savings would have to be considerable to make it worthwhile which is probably why it is still quite rare.
New guide on our website - Spanish non resident taxes

1 comment:

  1. Interesting....:)
    would certainly gonna help


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