In our post of last March on Inheritance and Donation Tax, we discussed about the fact that European non-resident citizens in Spain were experiencing discrimination against resident citizens, because, under the same circumstances, they had to pay more taxes than resident taxpayers.
This unequal treatment happened when the deceased or beneficiaries were non-resident in Spain and they paid taxes in conformance with a State regulation which was more detrimental than the regional one, which was only applied to resident citizens.
This discrimination was confirmed by the European Court of Justice ruling dated 03rd of September 2014, which resolved this issue and established that Spain was infringing the free movement of capital within the EU, because of this separate treatment between resident and non-resident citizens.
On the 1st of January 2015, in order to comply with the aforementioned judgment, the amendment of the State Inheritance Tax regulation has entered into force in Spain. A special scheme has been introduced in regards of the Inheritance Tax, so that non-resident citizens in Spain who are European residents may apply the regional regulation as residents already do, equating their situation.
This new regulation establishes that in the event that the deceased is a European non-resident in Spain, the European non-resident beneficiaries may apply the regional regulation where the most valuable assets are located in Spain. If the beneficiaries are resident in Spain, the regional regulations where they reside shall be applicable.
If the deceased has been a resident in a Spanish region and the beneficiaries are non-resident in Spain, the non-resident beneficiaries shall pay inheritance tax in conformance with the regional regulations where the deceased resided.
At this point, it is worth mentioning that the collection of the Inheritance and Donation Tax in Spain is assigned to regional governments, so that they are free to set forth their own regulations.
The effect of this assignment is that the amount to be paid for this tax by Spanish residents may significantly vary depending on the region where they live. In fact, a fiscal “war” has arisen between regional governments as regards of this tax, because some people have decided to establish their residence in regions with a more favourable tax scheme in order to pay fewer taxes for inheritance and donations, particularly those with more valuable estates.
The most recent and famous case in Andalusia was that of the late Duchess of Alba, who was sentimentally related to Andalusia but not fiscally, because her residence for tax purposes was in Madrid. The main benefit of this fact is that her beneficiaries have had a tax saving of more than 90 million Euros in the Inheritance Tax.
Since non-resident citizens will also enjoy the same Inheritance Tax regulation than resident citizens and considering that the regulation to be applied is that of the region where the most valuable assets are located, this unequal treatment between regions will also affect them.
However, imagine that you are a non-resident in Spain, do not have any property, but you have some money in a bank entity in Spain. In this case, which regulation shall be applicable for your beneficiaries? It seems that the applicable regulation shall be that of the region where the bank registered office is located. Thus, it is not the same a bank entity with registered office in Madrid, Barcelona or Seville, for instance. It has been said “it seems” above, because a definitive answer has not been obtained when contacting the Tax Administration Office in respect of this issue.
In short, these are good news for European foreign citizens and their beneficiaries, and welcome to the regional regulatory “chaos” in respect of Inheritance and Donation Tax.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors, Málaga.