Being tax resident in Spain is not your choice once you have made the initial decision to move to Spain.
Generally, once you have spent 183 days (not necessarily consecutive) in Spain, you are deemed to be tax resident and have to declare income and assets to the Spanish tax office. The tax year in Spain runs from 1st January to 31st December. Unlike the UK, which works on a part tax year basis when someone leaves the UK, in Spain you are either tax resident for the whole year or you are not.
As soon as you know that you will be taking the step to eventually become tax resident in Spain, it is extremely important to make certain that you have arranged your investments and property(ies) in a way that isn´t going to open you up to unnecessary Spanish taxes.
A lot of people will be looking to become resident in Spain before Brexit on 31st December 2020, in case the process becomes more complicated after. However, for those who are worried that applying for a residence card will automatically make them tax resident, let me dispel this fear. It does not. Therefore, you have the opportunity to apply for a residence card whilst taking action to protect your assets free from Spanish tax for 2020, becoming tax resident in Spain in 2021.
UK Property & Tax in Spain
As a tax resident in Spain, a person has to declare all of their overseas assets (over certain levels) as well as the income from these assets. Anything sold, such as a property or investments (ISAs, shares, bonds, etc.), and even a lump sum from a pension which would be tax free in the UK, will be taxable in Spain and this is where there is a potential tax nightmare.
Our advice is usually to sell before becoming tax resident in Spain, if selling is feasible and practical. If you are eligible to take a tax free lump sum, do so before becoming tax resident in Spain. ISAs are also taxable in Spain and although there are ways to legally avoid taxes whilst holding this type of investment, things can become very complicated.
Let me make this clearer with examples of someone who has a UK property and sells it after becoming tax resident in Spain.
Example 1 – Property Purchase 1986
– You move to Spain and become a permanent resident, and thus a tax resident, in Spain.
– You own a property in the UK which has been your primary residence since you bought it in 1986.
– As you have now moved to Spain, it is now a secondary property.
– You bought it for £48,000. You are selling it for £600,000. As this is no longer your primary residence, Spanish capital gains tax is due on the sale.
– Even with indexation (which only applies to pre-1994 purchases), the tax bill is over €50,000.
Example 2 – Property Purchase 2004
- You bought a property in the UK in 2004 for £150,000 and are selling it now for £250,000.
- The Spanish capital gains tax on the sale would be over €20,000.
- Unlike the UK, there are no capital gains tax allowances in Spain.
The same principle applies to shares, investment bonds, and ISAs.
You have to pay Spanish capital gains tax on the difference between what you paid for them and what you sell them for, again with some indexation for pre-1994 purchases.
Plan early: Before you move to Spain to help avoid Spanish Tax
You need to draw a line under your asset values now so that you can take advantage of the more beneficial capital gains and property tax rules in the UK and start afresh in Spain without the fear of unavoidable Spanish taxes in the future.