I find people are not always aware of what they can and can’t claim back as expenses in Spain, mainly as there is no easy to understand list explaining this to you. Try asking your accountant and even they might not give you exactly what you need to understand, so, I will try to explain as clearly as possible. The following is what you can claim for, in all times, as long as you have a receipt with your name on and the payment details, using a card/account in your name (adding your NIE/TIE to the receipt is even better, thus providing you with a VAT invoice, or factura simplificada as its known):
Lunch – inside Spain you can spend €26.67 (How did they get to that amount?) and outside Spain €48.08. For a work trip away, you have an allowance of €53.34 for food, and outside of Spain €91.35. This does not include accommodation, which seems to be not capped (I would be careful here obviously).
For freelancers who work from home, Spain’s tax authority specifies certain partial deductions, such as supply expenses (water, electricity, gas, telephone, internet). The deduction is 30% of the expenses in proportion to the square meters of area at home you use, so for example an office. Not many people are aware this also includes for any home you own, on the mortgage interest part of the payment. So, if the space you work from home is 15% of the surface area, you can deduct that proportion. However, you must register your home address as your centre of economic activity when registering as an autónomo. As an autónomo, if you also partially use a vehicle for business, 50% of expenditures on it are deductible for income tax and VAT.
Car hire/leasing is covered, and generally a better way to go than purchasing a car in many cases.
Other things included as deductibles are charity donations (a specific amount) and varied work expenses, so paper, mobile phones and the contract, printers and their costs, client entertaining, travel expenses outside of food/beverage and work events. Usually, a good accountant will send you anything they aren’t sure about before they declare your expenses, so you can confirm what they are and you can then see if they are covered.
The following are importantly NOT covered and cannot be claimed as an expense:
Purchasing of a car (even if solely for work)
If you are earning more than the annual Spanish minimum wage as a self-employed worker or as an autónomo, you will have to pay social security contributions. If you are eligible and don’t pay social security, you won’t get any benefits. These contributions entitle you to health care and, after you’ve paid into the scheme for 15 years, a state pension. You can pay more than the basic amount to get a higher pension or make additional contributions to be covered for accidents or sickness at work.
The current monthly cost to be an autonomo is €289, whilst for many people the first year starts at €60 per month. For months 13–18, you’re eligible for a 50% discount, and from months 18-24, a 30% reduction and after 24 months it reverts to the standard rate. There are also reductions up to 50% if you are on maternity leave. The amount will differ depending on your age (over 50 it is slightly more) and you will need to make these payments even if you don’t earn anything.
Is it better to be self employed or run a Spanish company?
Setting up a Spanish company costs initially around €2,000 and has a monthly running cost of around €400 per individual approximately. There are also annual reporting costs and declarations, and it costs a similar amount to close a Spanish company down as to open it, so make sure you have thought this through before proceeding. In essence, if you believe your annual income will be above €80,000 then it would be worth looking into this structure. It is a lot more complicated, expensive and administrative. It might be best to run your business for a few years as an autonomo, see where you are and then look into setting up a company. It is also time consuming to close a Spanish company down.