SPANISH PUBLIC TAX ADMINISTRATION REVIEWS PROPERTY TRANSFER VALUES
In the last few years, property market prices have dropped in Spain and the cases in which the National or Regional Tax Administration has reviewed declared values for property transfers have increased, whether for conveyance, inheritance or gifts; that is, you may sell your property for a certain and determined price, but the Regional or National Tax Administration may review that value after the sale and for tax purposes; then, it may consider that the real value of this sold property is higher than the one declared on the deed of sale, and therefore, the buyer shall pay the Transfer tax (ITP) on property transfer on the basis of the new value, which has been reviewed by the Regional Tax Administration, although the buyer had bought it for a lower price. In addition, the seller may have to declare capital gains higher than those actually obtained as a result of the review carried out by the National Tax Administration.
The abovementioned situation is legal and possible pursuant to Article 57 of Spanish general taxation law, in which it is provided that the Public Administration may check the property values by using different means.
Regarding urban properties, the Regional Tax Administraions and the Andalusian Regional Government are often supported on the grounds of an Order that is yearly approved to calculate the taxable minimum value of urban properties in this regard. As a result of this, it is possible to calculate this taxable minimum value from applying a rate provided by this Order to the details contained in the real estate tax IBI receipt (council tax). Then, you can know in advance whether the Tax Administration may claim more taxes or not when transferring your property.
Regarding rural real estate or properties with special characteristics, the matter becomes increasingly complicated, since Public Administrations may not always proceed by applying the aforementioned values and sometimes they are supported on the grounds of an expert report drawn up by technical personnel of the Tax Administration, which justifies the proven value of this rural or special property; for example, currently it is very common that the reviewed value for this type of properties is determined according to the estimated average values of construction, which are yearly publish by the Professional Association of Architects of Malaga. These values are indexed in a table containing the construction value per built square metre pursuant to the construction type and its features.
In the last year, as a result of this significant increase of value reviews by the Andalusian Tax Administration and, to a lesser degree, the National Government, our law firm always carries out an estimation of the taxable minimum value for tax purposes when advising our clients about property conveyance issues. Thus, they are warned of the possibility that their property value may be reviewed and the possible extra cost which may arise from this review. This is aimed at preparing our clients for this unpleasant surprise.
In general terms, the Andalusian Regional Tax Administration currently collects every single Euro from value reviews of property conveyances, so that if the taxable minimum value is higher than the conveyance actual value, it is quite normal that the Regional Government notifies you after a few months claiming the payment of the ITP tax on property transfer, stamp duty tax or gift and inheritance tax for the excess value reviewed.
The National Tax Administration, which is the competent body for capital gains collection of property sales, is not as determined as the Regional Tax Administration is when reviewing values. However, in those cases that the seller is not a tax resident and no capital gains has been obtained for the sale, when the 3 % withheld by the buyer is requested to be returned, the National Tax Administration does not hesitate to review the taxable minimum value of that property, so that the 3 % withheld is not returned in full to the seller. Furthermore, as a result of the reviewed taxable value, the seller may also have to pay the Tax Administration for capital gains, although no real gains had been obtained from the sale.
Obviously, there are grounds to challenge the property revaluations before the Public Tax Administration; however, in order to know if it is worthy to challenge it, it is important to examine and analyze each particular case in detail and determine if the reviewed value is properly justified before going ahead with the recourse.
Finally, it is also worth mentioning the possibility to file with the Tax Administration, prior to the property transfer, a binding report to obtain from the Tax Office the taxable value of this property. In some cases, it may be advisable to request this report, which commits the Tax Administration to respect it, although the value on this report will also oblige us for tax purposes.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)