Sunday, September 18, 2011

Zapatero's parting shot at the rich

At the end of last month I posted about the possibility of Spain's socialist government reintroducing the wealth tax ("Spain targets the rich"). At the time the move was just "under discussion" and some press reports categorically stated that it wouldn't happen. But unfortunately those reports were wrong and it is on the way back, with big implications for property owners.
The Zapatero government announced the return of the wealth tax on Friday. It's a tax on assets including property, investments, cash, cars etc completely separate and on top of income tax. Fortunately the government has reintroduced the extra tax with a big threshold (700,000€) that make it payable mainly by the very rich only. In addition there is a 300,000€ allowance versus your own home. The rate will be 0,2-0,25%.

As my original post showed the main losers could be foreigners who own holiday homes in Spain. They already pay, or should do, non residents income tax (see our article Spanish taxes for non residents) and this could double or treble that liability. When the wealth tax previously was levied in Spain (2007) non residents could not claim exemptions or allowances and paid quite heavily. We will have to wait for the details this time.

The policy looks similar to Gordon Brown's 50% tax rate. There is an election due this November and the Zapatero government may simply be playing a political game. They know that the opposition PP will hate this tax and indeed some regions governed by the PP have said that they will not collect the tax. But like Brown, Zapatero will know that sympathy for the rich is in short supply and that PP's opposition to the tax will simply make them look like a party for the wealthy.

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