Thursday, September 30, 2010

10 reasons you've got to love the internet

It's funny how it was only after the Dot Com bubble that the internet really took off for ordinary people. Lots of crumby online businesses came and went (bankrupt) and we were mainly left with Amazon, eBay and online travel booking. A lot of the good stuff has only really become ingrained since broadband became ubiquitous in the last 5 years. I couldn't believe it when I read YouTube was only 5 years old the other day; it seems to have been around forever. That site is one of my top ten reasons why the net is now ingrained into my life and doing without a connection would be unthinkable, like losing water or electricity. Here's my list (in no particular order) of 10 reasons the internet has made life better:

1. TV on demand
A really recent one this because it was unthinkable just a couple of years ago when there wasn't enough bandwidth to contemplate everybody streaming TV shows over the internet, but now with 4OD, iPlayer and countless others, it is routine to get almost any viewing you want, when you want. Now that these services are being improved and built into TV sets (Virgin already do it) you can never complain again that "there's nothing on". Annoyingly much of the UK material is not streamable in Spain.

2. Settling arguments
There used to be a time when petty arguments over silly things could fester unresolved indefinitely but now the ultimate resolver of disputes is on hand to hand out judgement. I once had a passionate dispute with someone who was convinced that 9/11 occurred in the 90s and it was only when I brought up (several) news reports that they backed down. I have lost plent of arguments in a similar way.

3. Travel
When did you last go to a travel agents? How about checking in online? How much do you think flights would cost today if the internet hadn't happened.

4. Business
The 1980s and Mrs Thatcher did a great deal for small business and entrepreneurs. The internet has done a lot more.

5. Music
The reason I love YouTube so much is purely for music. Think of any song by any artist in any era and it will be there. You can save your favourites and use it like a radio. There's also a ton of music you can download legally and freely. It used to be to discover new music you had to listen to the radio; now you can browse countless sites and see your favourites as well as hear them. And you can listen to any radio station you want.

6. Shopping
My sister has just published a book. It is fantastic and full of recipes for the sort of (mainly) British favourites that I used to enjoy as a kid. I thought I would buy several copies to give away. Problem - the list price is 20£ (it's a big glossy hardback) and the discounted price on Amazon around 13£ I think. But a quick search using Google's Shopping results section and a 7.99£ offer inlcuding delivery popped up. I bought three and they threw in a free book because of a special offer. The book is called Ramblers Rewards and the cheap bookseller TheBookPeople.

7. Blogging
Writing and reading other non-professional opinions is one of the ways the internet has made life more democratic.

8. Reviews
You never have to take a chance on anything these days, be it book, film, product, holiday destination etc. They are all exhaustively reviewed online.

9. Facebook
Say what you like about social networking but it is amazingly easy to keep in touch and make new connections using sites like Facebook.

10. Information for life
Well, of course, I couldn't go without mentioning sites like our's which provide the information you need for doing anything from paying your taxes to fixing your computer to diagnosing that funny pain you've been feeling in your big toe.

That's my list but I am sure everyone will have their own particular ways that the internet works for them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Talking rubbish

There are a few things about living in Spain that turn me from a mild mannered accountant into the most Meldrew-ish of Grumpy Old Man in a flash. Usually the bugbears relate to breath-takingly bad customer service (e.g. see Will Spanish Business Ever Get the Internet?) or something car-related (does anybody use indicators any more?). Recently though I think it is rubbish that has wound me up the most. Specifically the laziness of people when it comes to its disposal.

It seems that Spain had no equivalent of the Keep Britain Tidy campaign that I remember from my childhood. Chucking takeaway cartons onto the street, leaving bags and cans on the beach and throwing rubbish out of the car, seem to be perfectly accepted disposal techniques.

But what really winds me up is the people who either make no attempt to recycle or leave their rubbish on the road next to, rather than in, the bins. If you have some papers or plastic bottles is it too much to ask to throw them in the right container which is right next to the green bin?

What I find especially infuriating is the people who have gathered up their recycling (say bottles) in a bag and who, because the particular rubbish stop they have parked at does not have the right container, leave it by the side of the bins. It's like they are say "look I've done my bit collecting the stuff but do you really expect me to go to any trouble finding the right container".

And what of people who leave cardboard boxes beside the blue paper bins rather than crushing them and actually putting them in the bin. Are they that busy or feeble that they can't finish the job. I DON’T BELIEVE IT!

I really must take a lie down and stop getting so worked up.

Recent articles on the Advoco website:

Contracting in Spain

Monday, September 20, 2010

How to save money on your Spanish non resident tax declaration

The downside to owning a place like this ...

Judging by the increased demand we have recently experienced for our Spanish Tax Form 210 service, holiday home owners are starting to think about their tax returns. There's plenty of time as the declarations for 2009 are not due until the end of the year. For those Spanish property owners who don't anything about their tax obligations, I have pasted in an extract from the Spanish tax office website describing what has to be declared for non residents who DON'T rent out their properties.

For those that do understand that there is income tax to pay and wish to ensure they are on the right side of the law, how can the declaration be made as cheaply as possible? Well unfortunately there is no way (that I know of at least) of reducing the tax burden itself because it is based on a fixed percentage of the property's rateable value (see details below) without allowances or deductions. However if you have or intend to get a tax adviser to make the declaration for you there could be savings to be made.

Many people who do pay the tax use a paying agent to do the paperwork but that can prove costly if you haven't shopped around for a low fee option. This may be the case if you are using the lawyer who handled the original property purchase. How much should you pay? Advoco charges 30€ (upwards) and some other services are being advertised for not much more.

Or why not do it yourself? It sounds a bit radical but it is not so hard particularly after the first year invested in getting yourself organised. There is info on our site (Spanish non resident tax) and others including the government's - see below. If you have any questions posting a question on one of the Spanish forums will usually yield an answer.

Extract from the Agencia Tributaria website explaining the non resident tax charge:

The amount to declare will be that resulting from applying the following percentages to the assessed value of the property as shown on the Property Tax bill (IBI):

· In general, 2%.

· In the case of properties where the assessed value has been revised or modified since 1 January 1994, the percentage will be 1.1%.

This yield is calculated once per year, on 31 December.

If you have not been the owner of the property during the whole year, or if it has been rented for any period, only the proportional part of this amount is declared.

· Tax Return Form: 210, using the general section 210-A and entering 02 as income type.

· When to file the tax return: During the whole natural year after the date of accrual.

· Where to file the return: With the Branch of the Tax Agency or Administration belonging to the Tax Agency responsible for the area where the property is located.

· Tax rate: 24%.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Telefonica to call time on "All You Can Eat" internet access

It seems like the telephone companies are starting to regret the way that internet access has always been charged. Since dial-up faded away and broadband came in, it has been charged at a flat rate by the Internet Service Providers regardless of how long the user is online or, more importantly, how much data they download; the "all you can eat" buffet model.

It does seem kind of ridiculous now that heavy users, streaming movies and downloading music and games 24/7, pay the same as the occasional user who is just sending a few emails. Particularly given that the latter may be adversely affected by the former i.e. light users subsidize heavy users but everyone suffers equally when the network runs slow at peak hours. From my experience this is early evenings with my Telefonica connection when I imagine a lot of kids are downloading stuff after school and people are illegally putting movies in their memory sticks for the night's viewing.

Telefonica's CEO Julio Linares has called the current situation "unsustainable" quoting figures that 5% of mobile internet users produce 75% of the traffic -

Telefonica wants to charge more to customers who connect more

It will be difficult to change the status quo however sensible some kind of metered charging appears to be in theory. People have got used to paying a flat rate and will not take kindly to feeling like they have to watch every minute they are online or, more likely, pay for every Byte they download.

It might be OK if the majority of light users got a big benefit from the new regime i.e. monthly bills halved (Telefonica's ADSL charges are very high when compared to the UK) but I suspect they won't. If they can get away with it the ISPs will be looking to increase overall revenues and only they will benefit (both from lower usage of their networks and increased charges from heavy users while light users pay about the same). We'll see but enjoy the free, all you can eat option while you can.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New corporation tax rate in Gibraltar

With talk of austerity and budget deficits in most parts of the world, it is refreshing to be able to report on some good tax news. Being based on the Costa del Sol, my firm of accountants and tax advisers naturally has a lot of clients with interests in Gibraltar so we have to keep an eye on what is happening on the Rock. This Summer a new Income Tax Act has come into force.

The Act is available for download on the Gibraltar government website

For companies the news is pretty good, because the long-heralded reduction in corporation tax has come into force and at an even lower rate - 10% - than had been anticipated. The basis of taxation has also changed from prior year assessment to self-assessment and payment after the company's year end. Gibraltar companies are expected to file accounts and estimates of their liability to tax within 6 months of their year end and pay the tax at the same time.

Most importantly for companies who are not run in Gibraltar or active there, the scope of corporation tax is only on profits "accrued in and derived from" Gibraltar itself. So if the company is based on the territory or makes money there, only those profits are subject to the new corporation tax regime. In addition interest, royalties and capital gains are not taxed.

Gibraltar used to be a popular place for foreigners resident in Spain to set up companies because of the existence of "non resident" companies which did not pay any tax at all. These have been abolished and all Gib companies are subject to the new regime wherever they are managed from or where they generate their income. But provided the company has no Gib activities ( or these are incidental - less than 22 days a year) or locally generated income, the profits of Gib companies can still escape tax. For individuals with international activities and income that can be booked through companies based anywhere, the low tax rate and the exemption of non-Gibraltar income make the Rock look an attractive option.

In Spain and need tax advice for a company or business (or thinking of setting one up)? Check out our website which has a lot of useful articles like Contracting in Spain and Autonomo Guide (self employment in Spain)
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