Archive for nerja
It is clear that the healthcare crisis caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had a huge impact on all areas of our daily lives. The state of alarm decreed by the Spanish government, as well as many other governments in foreign countries, has caused movement restrictions and limitations, the closure of the airspace, the paralysis of the business fabric and government agencies, etc. People's everyday lives have been severely affected from a social and economic standpoint.
With this article, we would like to respond, as much as possible, to the doubts and uncertainties of foreign clients buying homes in Spain, as well as their sellers. We are referring to sales between individuals that were already underway with signed contracts but which were 'surprised' by the COVID-19 crisis and the measures adopted by the Spanish government decreeing the state of alarm.
At the end of the article, we will comment briefly on the legal situation of sales of new homes or off-plan sales from developers.
What does Spanish law say on the fulfilment of purchase contracts?
The first thing that must be said emphatically is that, under Spanish law, the clauses agreed in a contract have the force of law and, therefore, the parties are required to fulfil them. In other words, the impossibility of fulfilling what has been agreed in a contract is an exception and is interpreted very restrictively.
The Spanish Supreme Court, when dealing with potential breaches of contract and to avoid the loss of the money paid, has established that the party in breach has to evidence and argue the reasons behind said breach, as well as prove that it did everything possible to perform the contract.
However, even after establishing the impossibility of complying with the contract, if it is possible to amend or adapt it so it can be fulfilled, the parties must seek to modify the contract in that way, to solve the problem arising from the situation caused by the state of alarm and the COVID-19 Corona crisis. In other words, when faced with the potential avoidance of the contract by one of the parties, they must always attempt to reach an agreement to fulfil it.
Which property sales could be affected by the state of alarm?
In my opinion, the conveyance contracts that may be affected are those that required either of the parties to fulfil a requirement or condition agreed in the contract before the execution of the public deed of sale and that condition is affected by these months of paralysis.
Due to the paralysation of activities and movement limitations, it is very possible that some of the requirements established in a conveyance contract cannot be fulfilled, as the estimated time to process or manage these were calculated based on a normal situation, which has not existed since 13 March. As an example, we can mention the following:
Purchase contracts in the state of alarm:
- For the conveyance contract to establish the condition of being granted a building permit or the record for legalisation of a home, such as DAFO in rural homes in Andalusia. As city halls are paralysed or working at minimum levels, it is very possible for these applications not to be processed until the state of alarm is brought to an end.
- For the condition to be obtaining a Spanish mortgage. If the appraiser cannot travel to visit the property or the bank's risk department is not operating, this process will be paralysed, making the average resolution time much longer than initially expected.
- For the date of signing the conveyance contract and recording it as a public deed to coincide with the period of the state of alarm and/or the restrictions on commercial flights, making it impossible for either of the parties to attend the notary office.
- The impossibility to obtain an NIE (foreigner's identification number.), which is necessary to sign a conveyance contract before a notary and pay the corresponding taxes. The processing of these documents is currently suspended. The national police stations in Malaga that we asked don't know when they'll be able to open to accept new NIE applications.
- Either of the parties being admitted into hospital or in quarantine.
What should the seller and buyer do in this situation?
Well, the first thing is to see if the private contract contains any clause that governs these situations since, as I've mentioned, the sales or purchase contract has the force of law and binds the parties. However, in conveyance processes where the deed cannot be signed for reasons arising from the coronavirus crisis, what both parties should do would be to amend the contract and extend it, to give time to the party that needs it in order to complete the sale. In most situations, it is only a matter of time for that circumstance or condition that is currently impossible to fulfil to be fulfilled later on.
Likewise, in the event of inflexibility and the refusal of either of the parties to grant such an extension to the conveyance contract, in most cases there would be no legal grounds to terminate the contract and/or claim damages. As mentioned above, the parties must always attempt to reach an agreement to comply with the contract.
Is it possible for the buyer to terminate the contract due to the COVID-19 crisis?
Withdrawing from a conveyance contract due to a sudden drop in house prices and in the face of an economic crisis is a complex issue. In this case, we are referring to the buyer having to accredit meeting one of the requirements established in case law for terminating purchase contracts, this being that there has been an extraordinary change in the circumstances leading to the execution of said contract.
In other words, the buyer would have to evidence that the current economic crisis, resulting in a deep and prolonged economic recession, could be openly considered an economic phenomenon able to generate a severe disruption or change in the circumstances leading to the execution of said contract.
In Spain, the courts have been rejecting the possibility to terminate a sales or purchase contract based on this circumstance. However, this possibility should not be ruled out and individual factors should be analysed, such as whether the home will be a primary home or a holiday home, if the buyer was in need of mortgage financing, if the financial situation of the buyer has changed significantly, etc.
What is the buyer's situation in the sales process?
With this question, what we want to address is the situation of a buyer who made a decision to purchase a home at a specific price a few months ago, based on an economic situation that is in no way similar to the current one.
Let's imagine Dutch, Belgian, English, Swedish or other foreign people who wanted to invest in property in Malaga or the Costa del Sol, either to obtain a profit or to let it. Clearly, the sales price they agreed was based on the value of that property under the earlier economic situation. For instance, let's imagine a home in the historic centre of Málaga or Nerja, highly sought-after areas with tourist attractions before COVID-19, with great possibilities for letting in the tourist market, which is currently suspended.
Well, as a buyer, in the event that continuing with the purchase of the property would lead to incurring significant levels of debt, the first thing to do would be to analyse two things:
- The amount of money paid to the seller (usually 10% of the purchase price). Whether the buyer is willing to lose that money, essentially due to thinking that it is better to lose the money and not buy the property.
- The content of the purchase contract clauses agreed in terms of what happens when the buyer breaches the purchase contract. This is an important issue because a breach of contract could lead to different legal situations. The usual process is to execute an earnest money contract, which entails losing the money paid to the seller, leading to the termination of the contract, this being the clause that our firm usually agrees in conveyance contracts. However, if this is not properly drafted in the contract, it is possible for the seller to be entitled to require the buyer to comply with the purchase contract and sign the public deed, even if the buyer agreed to lose the earlier money paid. Obviously, this claim from the buyer would have to be addressed in judicial proceedings, which would take years before the parties get a resolution and usually sellers settle for keeping the money paid as a deposit.
What is the seller's situation in the selling process?
For sellers, they are most likely the most interested in completing the sale of the home as, certainly, the price set in the sales / purchase contract signed before COVID-19 will be higher than what they can obtain in the short or medium term. Without a doubt, the current situation will lead to a general drop in house prices, even though no one knows how long this will last.
That said, it is possible for sellers who already have a signed contract and who see that buyers are hesitating to complete the conveyance to be interested in making it easier for buyers to complete the purchase. In other words, in this context, negotiating a lower price so that the seller can sell doesn't seem far-fetched. In the end, the price drop would depend on whether it is very important for the seller to sell right now or they can wait, or whether the money already paid by the buyer is enough compensation for the seller to agree to keep that amount as a penalty instead of negotiating.
What is the situation when purchasing new builds or off-plan homes?
In sales of this type, in terms of the performance of the contract by the buyer, the situation is the same as explained above, in terms of both compliance with the contract and its termination clauses. In my opinion, the buyer's potential doubts would be determined by the progress of the works and the expected completion date of the development, also thinking about the financial solvency of the developer.
If the buyer signed the sales contract over one year ago, when the market was experiencing a good time and prices were rising, it is very likely for the price agreed at that time to be lower than what they could find at the beginning of this year, for instance. On the other hand, if the works are close to completion, there would be little doubt as to whether the developer will complete them, as they would be almost completely sold and few buyers would be thinking about terminating the purchase contract, since they would have already made significant payments on account for their homes. In this case, the scenario for the buyer is safe.
In the case of developments where construction has not yet started but which were already being marketed, with expected completion likely coming in a year or two, the scenario is different. In this case, buyers who are in doubt and recently signed the private contract must assess the price of the property and its completion date, as well as find out the number of homes with signed contracts sold by the developer, in order to make a decision. However, if the private contract has not yet been signed and only a reservation had been agreed with the developer, they can withdraw from it and recover the amount paid. They can also wait longer, as developers are likely to lower prices, depending on how long the crisis lasts.
In terms of the solvency of developers, due to the obligation to guarantee all the amounts paid during construction once the private contract has been signed, the buyer would have complete legal certainty in the event that the developer is unable to complete construction. This situation is in no way similar to the 2008 crisis, where many buyers lost their payments on account.
Individual review situation purchase contracts
However, these sales processes starting prior to the COVID-19 crisis can lead to complex situations that should be analysed individually and always with the advice of a lawyer. This is not the time to make decisions without the appropriate legal knowledge, taking into account that a private conveyance contract has already been singed. Rushing is never a good idea.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors, (Málaga, Andalusia)
Due to the actual crisis that has been declared in the whole world by the World Health Organization because of the Coronavirus (also known as Covid-19), almost every country has put into force different measures.
*This document has been written according to the law and Decrees in force until 4th April 2020.
In Spain, the 14th March 2020, the government declared the “state of alarm” (regulated in Art. 116.1 of the Spanish constitution and the organic law 4/1981), for 15 days, (until the 29th March), through the Real Decree 463/2020, closing museums, monuments, restaurants and almost every business open to the public. Nevertheless, concerning the increase of the infections, the state of alarm has been extended for another 15 days until the 12th April 2020, after the approval of the Parliament ( Congreso de los Diputados, Decree 11/2020), and pending for another extension until the 26th April.
The main goal of these decrees is to prohibit free movement of people in order to prevent further increase of infection among the Spanish population. Nevertheless, all these measures have economical, fiscal and, of course, social consequences.
Extension of the payment dates for self-employed and small entrepreneurs (PYME) (Deferral and split payments).
- Self-employed and small entrepreneurs with a turnover of less than € 6.010.121,04, are allowed to defer payment of the tax debt (less than 30,000 euros) without the need to provide a guarantee for a 6-month term. The first three of these months will not accrue default interest, with the consequent. Said deferral only refers to settlements or self-assessments that had to be presented or entered from March 13th to May 20th of 2020 (article 14 Decree 7/2020).
- A postponement of tax debts that previously could not be postponed is now allowed (article 65 LGT):
- Those that the person is required to make payments on account for (art. 65.2 b), such as the quarterly model 111 or the 3% model Modell 211.
- Those derived from taxes that must be passed on by law having been collected (art. 65.2 f), such as model 303 of VAT
- Fractional payments of Corporation Tax. (art. 65.2 g), such as IS model 202
Suspension of legal terms not concluded before March 14 (Decree 8/2020 and 11/2020)
Article 33 of Royal Decree-Law 8/2020 and its clarification with Decree 11/2020 applies to all taxpayers, extending the deadlines not concluded before March 14, 2020, until April 30 2020 for:
- The payments of tax debt for liquidations in the voluntary period and those that, in the executive period, have been notified of the enforcement order. For example: if you have been notified of a settlement for the payment of a tax debt on March 12 you would have to pay it no later than April 20 (according to the General Tax Law in its article 65.2), however, with this decree the payment can be postponed until April 30.
- Deadlines and fractions of deferrals already granted (prior to March 14, 2020 without prejudice to the deadlines reflected in art. 14 of the previous Decree 7/2020), as well as the deadlines on auctions and adjudication of goods made by the Treasury state.
- Deadline to meet the state agency requirements, embargo proceedings, requests for information or to make allegations in tax procedures (regarding nullity, rectification of errors, requesting returns).
- If there was doubt as to whether or not these tax procedures initiated by the corresponding autonomous and local Administration, the new Decree 11/2020, in its article 53, establishes that the suspension of the aforementioned period also applies to local and autonomous administration (in the art.33 of decree 8/2020).
- Deadlines to meet requirements and requests of the cadastre.
- No proceedings to execute the guarantees already seized which fall on real estate in the administrative procedures of constraint
What happens with the procedures communicated as of March 14?
For all the aforementioned procedures communicated as of that date, they are extended until May 20 of 2020 (unless the one granted by another tax rule is higher).
For example: if a settlement for the payment of a tax debt was notified on March 19, in normal cases you would have to pay it no later than May 5, however, with this decree, payment can be deferred until May 20.
However, in any of the above assumptions, if the taxpayer complied with the requirement, paid the tax debt or presented allegations despite the deferment granted, they will be understood to have been carried out for all purposes, procedure completed.
What happens with self-assessments such as the payment of Property Transfer Tax in the sale of a home?
When a person buys a home in Andalusia, they have 30 days to pay the Property Transfer Tax, which is currently 8% of the purchase price. The payment of the same is done through a self-assessment. In other words, the buyer or his/her representative prepares this tax model and presents it voluntarily for payment within that period.
The decree regarding the state of Alarm does not include self-assessments as deferrable, according to Royal Decree 465/2020, of 17 March, amending Royal Decree 463/2020 of 14 March, declaring a state of alarm, so for example, neither the quarterly settlements of VAT nor personal income tax (models 130 and 303) are postponed and maintains their deadline for April 20 for the third quarter.
What happens during the state of alarm with the legal term of actions that tax authorities can exercise against someone and the deadlines for filing appeals?
Royal Decree 11/2020 establishes that the period from March 14 to April 30, will not count for the purposes of prescription in the actions that the tax administration may exercise against the administered.
Let's take an example, if the administration had a maximum period until March 19 to demand payment of a tax, and it has not been demanded by March 13 the administration automatically has until April 30 to request payment.
There would neither be a deadline for the expiration of the procedures initiated by the administration.
On the other hand, the deadlines for the filing of administrative economic appeals against tax acts or in the economic-administrative procedures not notified before March 14, 2020, do not start until after April 30, 2020.
What happens with the income declaration from rentals or the annual IRNR declaration for non-residents?
These deadlines do not vary, meaning that all non-residents in Spain receiving an income from rentals of a property here in Spain must declare said profit quarterly within the corresponding period.
Author: Guillermo Arenere Ruiz, lawyer at C&D Solicitors, Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)
With this article, I am detracting from the usual ones of a more legal nature, aimed at foreigners, resident or non-resident, who own a home in Malaga. In this post, I attempt to analyse the situation of wastewater purification in terms of the most significant tourist municipalities in Costa del Sol, as well as the financial and environmental consequences that lack of purification entails for municipalities like Nerja and Coín. I also focus on properties on rural land and the purification required for homes wishing to obtain a DAFO.
Introduction wastewater purification
With environmental sustainability or the environmental impact of our lifestyles being such an important issue in our times, I would like to speak my mind about the great problem of faecal water purification in the province of Malaga in general, even through it is sadly extensible to most regions in Spain, in population centres both large and small. However, Malaga, as a top tourist destination and due to its population density, especially along the coastline, should have an infrastructure that mitigates the environmental impact caused by all of us who live on the shore.
Many of our clients, both resident and non-resident, who are thinking about purchasing a home in Andalusia and that we provide advice to, are attracted by the Mediterranean Sea that bathes our shores but on which we indiscriminately dump millions of litres of unpurified wastewater. A recent article in La Opinión de Málaga on 5 January stated that Malaga dumps 123 million cubic metres of wastewater into the sea every year, a real atrocity.
National problem, million-euro fine
On 15 February, El País national newspaper published an article informing that, until that date, Spain had paid about 32.70 million euros in fines due to not complying with the wastewater treatment directive in municipalities with over 15,000 inhabitants. This has been the highest fine paid by Spain to the EU in history.
This breach of the directive led to a conviction from the European Court of Justice and the resulting fine being imposed by the European Commission. This fine continues to grow for as long as those 17 municipalities fail to treat their wastewater, an obligation that came into force in 2001, which means almost 19 years have passed since that directive was enacted.
Nerja, beautiful beaches with faecal waters
One of the many municipalities that have been fined and do not have a sewage treatment plant is Nerja. It is striking that this municipality, which such beauty and such great beaches and cliffs, in 2020, is still dumping the sewage it generates directly into the ocean, through a collector located 1,200 metres from the coast.
Nerja has spent over 20 years on the project for its sewage treatment plant and even though it seems that this year may finally mark the end of the works, according to an article in Diario Sur on 6 January (fingers crossed), this does not detract from the sloppiness and lack of interest of the local and regional government have displayed about this project.
The situation is so obvious from an environmental standpoint that, following several complaints, the prosecutor's office brought judicial proceedings against senior officials of the Nerja City Council for the illegal dumping of this untreated wastewater. One of the toxicology reports certified that all samples taken from five beaches in Nerja contained faecal organisms according to their tests.
Construction of the Nerja treatment plant was declared to be of public interest by the Government in 1996 but, 23 years later, it has not yet been completed. If you visited Nerja and the surrounding areas in 1996, you could see the large number of works that did get started and completed because there were many years with large capital movements but the faecal water purification plant was not so lucky. Other municipalities on the eastern coast, such as Torrox, Vélez Málaga and Rincón de la Victoria, do have a sewage treatment plant in operation.
Mouth of the Guadalhorce, a natural site with a “faecal” river
Another area that also presents a high degree of pollution due to illegal dumping is the mouth of the Guadalhorce river in the city of Malaga. This enclave is the last unspoiled beach in the city of Malaga and is home to a very significant ecosystem of flora and fauna, with a network of trails to move through it. However, in this river, municipalities as large as Alhaurín el Grande and Coín dump their untreated faecal waters, which also led to a fine being paid by the government of Spain.
The city of Malaga has reinvented itself as a multicultural European city, currently highly appreciated by foreign tourists due to its many urban development projects, mostly in real estate. But Malaga is unable to commit to a project in the mouth of the Guadalhorce, which could affect this unique space –as it is the last unspoiled one– to preserve its environmental value.
It is non-profit associations that are reforesting and trying to preserve this space altruistically, as our firm was able to witness during the conference we held with some of them last November.
The municipality of Coín, a peculiar case
For the town of Coín to be able to connect to the treatment plant in the lower Guadalhorce, it is necessary to build the 3 kilometres of collectors that were destroyed by the torrential rains in autumn 2018 but the Andalusia Council, along with the contracting company, continue to fight to decide who will pay for these repairs. Coín is also immersed in legal proceedings due to its failure to treat its wastewater. While the administrations argue, this collector continues broken and the faecal water from Coín is dumped directly into the Guadalhorce river.
Isolated homes and their regularisation through DAFO, a bad focus of faecal waters
Even though compared to large population centres, the impact of these homes is lower, it should be noted that there are many isolated homes existing in Malaga. In La Axarquía, municipalities such as Alcaucín, Viñuela, Competa, Periana and Torrox have thousands of rural homes, as well as towns in the Guadalhorce valley, such as Coín, Alhaurín el Grande and Alhaurín de la Torre. Likewise, municipalities such as Mijas or Ronda also have many houses on non-urban land.
Among the positive aspects of the DAFO these homes are required to have an individual and autonomous treatment system. It should be noted that this procedure is important for foreigners who buy and sell homes in the province.
What is the problem?
I see that one of the negative aspects is the requirement from the Andalusia Council for properties subject to DAFO to have a watertight septic tank, forbidding septic tanks with a biological filter. This guideline is a serious mistake and its effect is contrary to what is intended, which is to prevent these homes from polluting the land on which they are located.
Properties with a watertight tank habitually require (monthly or more frequently, depending on their use) a tanker to visit the property and empty the contents of the tank, which are then transferred to an authorised waste facility.
What is the alternative?
Allowing the use of septic tanks with a biological filter as a treatment system, as it would not be necessary to empty the tank and water would come out clean and purified. It may be necessary to request authorisation for the discharge point of this clean, filtered water, which could even be used for irrigation but, with this treatment system, a company would only need to clean the tanks once a year, which represents significant savings for owners.
What is happening?
The problem that we find with watertight septic tanks is the economic cost of each emptying, which leads many homeowners to resort to other illegal methods, to avoid inconveniences and economic costs. In many cases, they choose to install a watertight septic tank and, once the technician certifies it, a small hole is drilled at the bottom, through which faecal water is poured into groundwater, thereby dispending with the need to have a truck empty it and making it very difficult for this to be sanctioned.
It is appalling that, in some cities, it has been accepted or assumed that owners will not empty their watertight septic tanks and will drill a small hole in them. I would even dare to say that owners are given such a “solution” to prevent the inconvenience of emptying, as the DAFO only requires having a technician certify the installation of the watertight septic tank and, if a hole is drilled later, no one will notice.
However, with thousands of homes in the countryside, thinking that a truck would need to go empty the septic tank in each of them on a frequent basis, requires being naive or means that the Andalusia Council cares little about these discharges (I lean more towards the latter). I am also not very sure of where these trucks discharge the faecal waters they do collect.
Do not pollute the environment if you process the DAFO for your property
To prevent the situation above, which is absolutely filthy, in some of the DAFO we have processed, we have found this problem and, to prevent faecal waters from being discharged directly into the ground, we have advised owners that, once the watertight tank is installed and certified to process the DAFO, they install one with a biological filter next to it. This way, at least, the water they dump will be clean and not pollute the ground, while the owner will avoid all the financial cost and disruption entailed by emptying the tank periodically.
At least, with the second option, despite not being accepted officially by the Junta of Andalusian and many municipalities, faecal discharge is prevented, which is the main goal when it comes to the environment.
As you probably understand, this issue goes a long way but I believe that, with these few brushstrokes, you can see the general lack of environmental awareness in the administration as well as among many citizens. This is the sad reality.
Tourism in Malaga and the entire Mediterranean area is also not viewed with a perspective for the future, as we live in the short term and do not care for essential things for investors and tourists to continue to come to Malaga, as well as foreigners wishing to purchase a home to enjoy a high quality of life or just spend their holidays in Span.
Meanwhile, those of us who reside and live here most of the time are unaware of the large amount of pollution we generate and the damage we cause to the sea, rivers and streams (which are increasingly polluted). I do not see many complaints or movements among citizens protesting this situation.
Some of the damage is already irreparable but there is some that can be fixed.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)
On 9 April, the Andalusia Council approved, through a Decree Law, an amendment of the tax on inheritance and gifts, which, in particular, entails great tax savings in terms of the tax on gifts. This legislative amendment introduced a bonus of 99% of the tax liability due in inheritance and gift tax, that is to say only 1% of what was previously paid would be due.
Needless to say, the Tax on inheritance and gifts is devolved to the different Autonomous Communities that make up Spain so this bonus is the one in force in Andalusia. But, depending on the location of the property or residence of the recipient (for movable assets) –the person receiving the asset–, legislation will be different on the matter of inheritance and gifts.
Example: A father gifts his son 200,000 euros
With the previous legislation, the tax liability on this gift would have been 31,621.21 euros, which meant that the son would have had to pay 31,621.21 euros in taxes after receiving this money from this father. With the new regulation, this tax liability of 31,621.21 euros can benefit from a bonus of 99%, which means that, now, the son would pay a tax of 316.21 euros. Without a doubt, it represents huge tax savings. When money or other moveable property is donated, the applicable regulation for this purpose will be that of the residence of the recipient.
Who can benefit from this bonus on the gift tax?
Those people included in groups I and II established in the regulation governing this tax can benefit. This means that the recipient must be the spouse, child, grandchild or parent of the grantor; the person who gives away the asset.
What other requirements need to be met for gifts in Andalusia?
Besides being included in groups I and II mentioned above, it will be necessary for the donation to be made effective in a Public Deed before a Notary and, if money is gifted, its source must be justified. In case of donating a property, this Deed will be used to inscribe the property in the new name of the new owner in the Land Registry.
What happens with the Capital Gain Tax and Plusvalia?
From the perspective of the tax on gifts, there is no problem with a parent donating a property in Andalusia for the child to apply the 99% bonus and pay a very small amount for the tax on gifts. The problem in the case of properties affects the grantor because, even if the property is gifted, the Tax Agency equates that transfer to the sale of the property –for the Treasury, there is no difference between donating and selling–. For this reason, the grantor must pay Capital Gains Tax calculated on the difference between the original value paid in the purchase of the property and the value of the property when gifted.
It is important to note that if the grantor is a tax resident in Spain, over the age of 65 and gifting their habitual residence, no capital gains tax would be paid for gifting or selling the property.
Lastly, as the city where the property is located also interprets a gift as a sale, it will ask for its piece of the pie in the form of capital gains tax – Plusvalia in Spanish-. This local tax is calculated according to the number of years that the grantor has owned the property, with a maximum of 20 years, and is paid on the increase in value experienced by the plot/land of the property.
What if I value the property at a low price to pay less tax?
You may be tempted to set a very low value for the property gifted and thus pay less Capital Gains tax when it is gifted. This is perfectly understandable but it is very important for this value not to be below the minimum taxable value, which is the taxable value that the Treasury deems properties in Spain to have. That is to say, the value of the property being gifted should not fall below the minimum taxable value to prevent an inspection by the Tax Agency. The minimum tax value in urban properties is based on the cadastre value of the property multiplied by a factor that varies from town to town.
Does this bonus apply to everyone, regardless of whether they are resident in Spain?
As explained in several previous articles, the most recent from March, different judgments have ruled that both residents of the European Union and residents of third countries must be treated the same as residents in Spain for the purposes of the Tax on Inheritance and Gifts. Based on this, anyone who meets the requirements explained in this article can benefit from the 99% bonus in Inheritance and Gift Tax introduced in Andalusia or any other regulation of the relevant Autonomous Community.
Example of a property being gifted
Let's imagine a Swedish homeowner who bought a property in Almuñécar (Granada) for 200,000 euros and decides to gift it to his son who lives in China, with the current minimum taxable value being 300,000 euros. Since the home is in Andalusia, the son-recipient can benefit from the 99% bonus in the tax due and would only have to pay 554.68 euros for the tax on gifts, of the total tax amount of 55,466.81 euros.
Since the father-grantor obtained capital gains of 100,000 euros from the gift, he will have to pay capital gains tax on this 100,000-euro “profit”, which currently stands at 19% of net profit (after certain possible deductions). However, as the owner is 64 years old, resident in Spain and is gifting his habitual residence, we recommend that he waits until he turns 65 to avoid paying capital gains tax. The son will surely understand the reasons.
What happens to taxes where the recipient resides?
Before accepting a gift, it is important for the recipient to get information, from his or her country of residence, regarding which tax will have to be paid on this, if any. Lastly, it should be said that this amendment of the Tax on Gifts in Andalusia means that the construct of gifts may be attractive in situations where a couple wants one of the spouses to own 100% of the property –only for married couples under separation of assets– or if they want to leave the property to their children or grandchildren during their lifetimes. Previously, from the standpoint of tax savings in Andalusia, the only options were to terminate co-ownership or sell the property but now, with this new amendment, in many cases it will be better to gift it as more taxes will be saved on the transfer of the property.
Read more about the subject of selling your house in Andalusia in the video below:
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)
THE CURRENT SITUATION OF INHERITANCE TAX
On 1 January 2018, a new reform of Inheritance Tax entered into force in Andalusia, the main change of which was to raise the tax-exempt amount to one million euros. This new reform changes the reform introduced a year ago, which we explained in our post of November 2016.
Which heirs would be exempt from Inheritance Tax?
Heirs that meet each one of the following requirements would be exempt:
- For the heir to be included in groups I and II as established in the regulation governing this tax, the heir needs to be the spouse, child, grandchild or parent of the deceased
- For the value of the estate to be inherited per heir does not exceed one million euros
- For the pre-existing assets of the heir to be less than one million euros
- For the heir to be a citizen of a Member State of the European Union or, if they are citizen from outside the European Union, both the deceased and the heir must reside in Andalusia
What happens with other family members who inherit?
All other heirs, such as siblings, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts and cousins of the deceased are included in groups III and IV of the Inheritance Tax and will continue to pay the same amounts.
In other words, these heirs will pay inheritance tax from the first euro they inherit except for heirs in group III, who are able to deduct an amount of 7,993.46 euros. This means, for example, that if John leaves his nephew his Nerja property valued at 240,000 euros as inheritance, his nephew will have to pay about 63,000 euros in Inheritance Tax.
What happens if you inherit from your best friend?
You would be included in group IV of this regulation. This means that if John, instead of leaving the 240,000-euro property to his nephew leaves it to his best friend, he or she will have to pay about 80,000 euros in Inheritance Tax.
How are property values calculated for Inheritance Tax for non-married longest living?
Every year, the Regional Government of Andalusia publishes a regulation that establishes certain coefficients to update the values of urban properties located in Andalusia. These coefficients are applied to the cadastral value of the property; this you can find in your Property Tax receipts. The result of applying these coefficients to the cadastral value is what we call the minimum taxable value.
The regulation explained above deals with the minimum taxable value of urban property but, in the case of rural property, this isn´t applicable. Therefore it is necessary to obtain a valuation from the technicians of the Regional Government of Andalusia to calculate the minimum taxable value. However, the Regional Government of Andalusia in the province of Malaga uses the coefficients published every year by the College of Architects of Malaga to calculate the value of rural properties.
Regarding the means used by the administration to calculate the minimum taxable value of properties in Andalusia –as well as other Autonomous Communities–, there is much controversy in general and there is the possibility to challenge those values in the event that the person liable to pay the tax deems them excessive or not adjusted to reality. This topic is complex enough to be covered in a whole new article.
NON-MARRIED LONGEST LIVING OR UNREGISTERED COUPLES IN ANDALUSIA
Who are we talking about?
In the event that a couple is not married –either in their country of origin or in Spain–, if one of them dies and leaves the other member of the couple as an heir, for the purposes of Inheritance Tax this person would be considered to be in group IV. In other words, in this case the partner is considered to be just a friend putting the person in the group with the highest rate of Inheritance Tax.
What happens to common-law partners registerd in Andalucia?
In Andalusia, couples registered in the Registry of Common-Law Partners of Andalusia are equivalent to married couples for the purposes of Inheritance Tax, for which reason they would benefit from the deductions for spouses explained above.
What happens to common-law partners registered in another Member State of the European Union?
In this case, the Regional Government of Andalusia does not recognise such registration for the purpose of Inheritance Tax, for which reason those couples would pay tax as though they had received inheritance from a friend, leaving them in the group taxed at the highest rate.
If John leaves his partner Mark 50% of the property they both purchased in Almuñecar in 2005 and if the fiscal value of that 50% is 120,000 euros, Mark, the heir, would have to pay about 30,000 euros in Inheritance Tax for inheriting 50% of that property.
If John and Mark had been married or registered in the registry of common-law partners of Andalusia, Mark would not pay a single euro for inheriting 50% of the property from John.
What should be done in this case?
If you have property in Spain with your partner and you would like him or her to inherit your part and you are unmarried, we advise that you get married (either in Spain or in your country of origin) so that you can benefit from Inheritance Tax reductions. Those who don´t want to get married, can register themselves in the Registry of Common-Law Partners of Andalusia (Registro de Pareja de Hecho) and then the status would be equivalent to that of a married couple.
Property owners who are not citizens of a Member State of the European Union
In this case, heirs may not benefit from reductions for spouses, children, grandchildren and parents of the deceased, so they would pay Inheritance Tax in the event that they inherit. They can only avoid this if both the deceased and the heir are resident in Andalusia.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)
Lately, in the purchase of rural homes, one of the most important points discussed between buyers and sellers is the procedure “Asimilado Fuera de Ordenación”, –DAFO or SAFO–. What it is, what its consequences are, who does it, who assumes the cost, etc.
Basic rules to buy in the countryside in Andalusia
Before talking about this procedure, and based on my experience with clients looking for a home in the countryside, it is necessary to mention that, in non-development land in Andalusia –rural land–, it is not possible:
- To build homes, unless the intention is to engage in agricultural or livestock-farming activities in a professional capacity on the parcel.
- Existing buildings may not be expanded and/or remodelled, both inside and outside. People have to purchase what is already built and no changes are legally allowed.
- It is permitted to build with the intention to operate rural accommodation or a bed & breakfast, but it is necessary to carry out a preliminary operational project – called in Proyecto de Actuación -, that the Government of Andalusia must approve. This procedure can take over 6 months and it is difficult to obtain a positive response from the Regional Government.
It is necessary to take into account that most homes currently sold in the Andalusian countryside are illegal or irregular, i.e. if the authorities had done their work, they should not have allowed construction and, therefore, they should not exist.
The case is that, for most buildings, it is not possible to start any penalty procedures against buildings built without a licence or with an illegal licence on non-development land due to the time elapsed.
This means that legal responsibility is time-barred since over six years have elapsed since the end of construction. When we refer to non-development land with any special protection, the period of six years does not apply.
What buildings can and cannot be constructed in the countryside
In non-development land, a construction licence cannot be granted to remodel or rebuild. For instance, in the event of a fire when the home would be completely destroyed, it´s not allowed be rebuilt.
It is possible to grant a licence for small repairs or modifications necessary for the habitability and safety of the home, such as, for instance, replacing part of the roof or a wall that has been damaged or has collapsed.
Why was DAFO/SAFO created?
Because of the above, the Government of Andalusia approved regulations in 2012 with the idea to regularise, not legalise, thousands of homes built on non-development land –rural land–, in breach of urban-planning regulations. Since 2012, City Councils have started to create internal regulations to govern this procedure.
Speaking colloquially, with the resolution of Assimilated out of Ordination – Asimilado Fuera de Ordenación -, the goal is to have a record with a specific date of what has been built on that property –both inside and outside each building–, how many years have elapsed since construction and to certify that the home can continue to exist without penalties in the future, even though it will not be possible to expand it and/or remodel it or to build new structures.
This is not a legalisation because the home is left outside urban regulations –as it was built illegally– but it is a regularisation as the City Council itself certifies this legal situation and confirms in writing that it will not be possible for this home to be subject to a penalty due to the time elapsed.
The legal situation of a home in non-development land does not change after receiving the resolution of DAFO/SAFO from City Hall, i.e. the home will continue to be illegal as it was built on land where construction is not allowed but, since the time limit established by law to issue a penalty for this infringement has elapsed, this procedure against the owner cannot be started due to this situation. With or without a DAFO certificate, the legal situation remains the same.
In this procedure, it is necessary to have a project by an architect, to pay a fee on the value of the building on the date it was built, which may range from 2.5% to 4.5% depending on the City Council where the property is located, and the City Council will also verify the water and electricity supply as well as the need for a septic tank so that the home can comply with regulations.
It will actually be the architect paid by the owner who will inform, in his or her project, everything necessary for the home to be eligible for a DAFO certificate. Once the project has been submitted, the architect from the City Council will visit the property to inspect it and verify whether it complies with the requirements for a DAFO certificate.
Once this procedure is completed, which may take between 4 and 6 months, the City Council will issue a resolution certifying Assimilated out of Ordination – Asimilado Fuera de Ordenación -, from Regulation for that home and all structures built on the plot.
Is DAFO mandatory for the sale of a home?
To buy or sell a property, holding a DAFO/SAFO certificate is not a legal requirement. That being said: is obtaining a DAFO/SAFO certificate for a property good or bad?
In favour of the DAFO certificate, we can mention that buyers will have the certainty that what has been built already cannot be subject to a penalty and/or demolished because it is accredited in writing that legal responsibility is time-barred, with the certificate from the City Council granting the DAFO certificate. Likewise, it will provide certainty that the City Council will not require you to obtain a DAFO/SAFO certificate for the home in the future, as the procedure was already completed at the time of purchase.
It should be taken into account that, currently, nearly no City Council offers any information in writing regarding a property built on non-development land unless it holds a DAFO certificate or processes it.
This means that, if you go to get something in writing, they tell you that you certainly can but you first need to process the DAFO certificate for your home. This means that, if you do not want to obtain a DAFO certificate for any reason, it will be very difficult for buyers or their lawyers to obtain information in writing about the property.
The downside of having the DAFO is that, if there are any structures or remodelling –inside or outside– completed within the last six years or if the land on which the property is located is subject to any type of protection (and it can´t be proven that the buildings are old enough), applying for this procedure can only cause problems to the owner as the City Council will be required to initiate penalty procedures.
Likewise, if the new owner is thinking about remodelling after buying the home –ignoring the advice of a good lawyer–, the City Council will already be perfectly aware of what had been built before and it will be easier for them to prove that the structure has been remodelled or some variation has taken place.
It is also necessary to take into account that it may be possible for a property to obtain a DAFO certificate in 2016 and remodelling or expansion of that home to take place in 2017. What I mean with this is that complete certainty in this sense can never be achieved.
Current status of the DAFO certificate
It is true that the processing of this certificate is starting to become common at City Councils because they have also realised that it´s tax payment is an important source of income.
Many City Councils have an unwritten rule to start an application automatically when they receive or someone requests any type of information and/or documentation about a property on rural land, so we can say the owner would be obliged to make the DAFO.
In the situation mentioned above, many buyers want to prevent having to pay for the cost of the procedure themselves, which has resulted in an increasing number of buyers requiring the seller to process it and pay for it.
It is also true that, in some sale transactions where a DAFO certificate is not desired, a reduction in the sale price is usually agreed with the seller and the new owner will decide whether to apply for it in the future.
Is possible to get a mortgage in a property with DAFO?
Another issue that some clients ask about, is whether it is possible to grant a mortgage for a property with a DAFO certificate.
On this matter, the reality of the property market goes beyond the legal limitations in force since 2009 as, even though it is not theoretically possible to grant a mortgage for buildings or structures exempt from regulations, the reality is that there are banking entities that do grant mortgages for properties out of ordination or assimilated out of ordination, i.e. rural properties.
In my opinion, if there is money to be made, banks will not stop granting mortgages for properties of this type -with or without DAFO- regardless of what the Decree of 2009 says. Obviously, mortgages approved for these properties usually offer a lower loan amount and not all banks offer mortgages on rural land.
Buying and selling homes in rural land
When buying and selling homes in non-development land, for them to be able to be included in the property market, with or without a DAFO certificate, there are no limitations or restrictions. This means that most of these properties are registered in the Property Registry and in the Cadastre and have already been sold or bought on different occasions even though few yet hold a DAFO certificate.
Currently, there continues to be an important portfolio of potential buyers interested in properties in the countryside.
The important thing, when someone is looking to buy a property on rural land, is for buyers to know what they are buying, be aware of the legal limitations of properties on rural land, and receive specific legal information about the property, with or without a DAFO certificate. This will enable them to make a decision with full awareness of the legal status of the property.
A lawyer to buy a property?
Lastly, it's not that we're trying to promote our services –well, maybe a little–, but in the purchase of a home, especially for homes like these, having a lawyer is never a bad idea as his or her fee will cost very little in comparison to the purchase price and can save you from many headaches or costly problems in the future.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)
A few weeks ago, a seller was bitterly complaining to me about what they had paid for capital gains tax on the sale of their home in Capistrano, Nerja to a Swedish couple, even though no profit had actually been made.
I then remembered an article we published in June 2014 on this matter, where we spread the news about new case law defending the position of taxpayers who had sold a property at a loss and, furthermore, were forced by the city council to pay capital gains tax, even though no profit had been made from the sale of that property.
Many sales take place at a loss and there are many more to come as, in general, current prices are still below those in effect a few years ago.
In the two and a half years since the publication of that article, the position of taxpayers to be able to claim back what they had paid in municipal capital gains tax for the sale of their homes without having made any profit has improved and the government will probably be forced to amend the Law in order to prevent councils from continuing to demand payment in these situations.
First of all, if they want to cancel the capital gains tax bill received from the council, they must know that they need to pay it first and then file a claim, and they will then have no option but to resort to the courts to claim a refund.
However, according to a judgment of the Higher Court of Justice of the Community of Valencia in late 2016, it is not necessary to obtain an expert appraisal to prove the value of the property, as it is understood that the amounts shown in the purchase and sale deeds clearly determine the actual value of the property and, therefore, show whether a profit was made.
So far, taxpayers wishing to file a claim through the courts needed an appraisal to prove that the actual value of the property transfer was lower than the purchase price. However, through this judgment, the amount shown in the purchase and sale deeds can be enough to accredit the values of the property when, through examining the deeds, one can easily see that there has been no increase in the value of the land.
The strongest argument in favour of taxpayers is that the Constitutional Court, in its recent judgment of 16th February, established that making citizens pay taxes for non-existing enrichment in the sale of their homes contradicts the principle of financial capacity set down in art. 31.1 of the Spanish Constitution. The Constitutional Court clarified that capital gains taxes are legal but it is unconstitutional to pay this tax when no actual gains have been made in the sale of the property.
The Constitutional Court also clarified that legislators will be the ones who will have to amend the legal framework of this tax in order to prevent taxation in these situations where no capital gains are made from the sale of a property.
Until the Law is amended, we assume that councils will continue to demand payment of capital gains taxes even when properties are sold at a loss but, after the pronouncement of the Constitutional Court and with the arguments set down in the other judgments mentioned, taxpayers will be able to claim back what they have unduly paid to the council in these circumstances. However, it is true that, for smaller amounts of capital gains tax, it may not be interesting to file a claim, taking into account the costs involved in hiring a solicitor and a barrister.
Many cities in this area: Nerja, Frigiliana, Torrox, Vélez Málaga, etc., issue bills for capital gains tax once the sale is recorded in a Public Deed, for which reason, in order to obtain a cancellation of this bill from the council, it would be necessary to challenge it before the deadline established by law.
If the claim is not filed before the deadline and, therefore, the administrative action becomes unappealable, it will become more difficult to file a successful claim.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)
The first reform affected the acquisition of a person's usual residence by heirs and a series of reductions were approved, ranging from 100% to 95% when the value of the home exceeds €242,000. The reduction in inheritance tax in this sense is very significant.
However, it should be noted that only in estates inherited from parents by children (whether biological or adopted), spouses, relatives in the ascending line and persons related collaterally (siblings, cousins or grandparents) over the age of 65 can an heir in Andalusia opt for the reduction for the acquisition of the usual residence. Likewise, the following requirements must be met:
- Having lived with the deceased person in the usual residence during the two years preceding death.
- Maintaining ownership of this residence for 3 years.
Furthermore, the Regional Government of Andalusia has announced that it would complete a second reform of Inheritance Tax, which will enter into force on 1 January 2017.
In this case, the minimum exempt from Inheritance Tax in Andalusia will be of €250,000 per heir. I.e. heirs inheriting assets valued at an amount equal to or smaller than €250,000 will not have to pay Inheritance Tax in Andalusia.
As explained in a previous article, this exemption only applies to descendants or adopted children of the deceased person, as well as their relatives in the ascending line or adoptive parents and spouses, provided the pre-existing assets of the heir are equal to or less than €402,678.11.
Lastly, another substantial change should be noted as, for estates with a value of between €250,000 and €350,000, a minimum value of €200,000 is established. I.e. if the inheritance received by a child or widowed spouse is valued at more than €250,000, the first €200,000 would be exempt from inheritance tax and only the remaining amount would be paid, provided that the total value of the estate does not exceed €350,000. If this amount is exceeded, inheritance tax would be payable on the entire value of the estate, without the possibility to apply any exemption.
Lastly, I would like to remind you that the best way to plan your inheritance begins with your will, for which reason it is always best to go to an appropriate professional who can examine your situation and give you personal advice.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors, Malaga, Andalusia.
In our last article in May, related to floor clauses, we explained that judicial proceedings before the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) are currently taking place.
The purpose of these proceedings is to decide whether Spanish banking entities have to return all the money unduly charged through floor clauses or, on the contrary, they only have to return the amounts unduly charged after 9 May 2013.
The preliminary opinion of the advocate general taking part in these proceedings establishes that banks should only have to return the amounts unduly charged after 9 May 2013.
The Judgement in these proceedings is expected for late this year and, even though the opinion of the advocate general is not binding, it is usual for the Court's Judgement to follow the same reasoning.
Regardless of the surprise that this opinion has caused among many lawyers and judges, we must remember that Spanish banks will have to return the amounts unduly charged after 9 May 2013 through floor clauses, and this will not change, regardless of the Judgment of the CJEU, as these proceedings will only decide whether banks will have to return the amounts unduly charged before 9 May 2013 or only those amounts unduly charged after this date.
It is very important for everyone affected by floor clauses in a mortgage to file a judicial claim to recover the amount the bank has charged unduly, as well as to prevent the bank from continuing to charge them more money than the agreed interest rate for their remaining mortgage periods. The success rate in these proceedings is quite high and banks would be ordered to cover court costs caused by these proceedings.
Currently many banks are trying to prevent customers from initiating judicial proceedings by offering false solutions such as agreeing on a fixed interest rate for mortgages. Don't sign or agree to anything without talking to a specialised lawyer as most of these solutions only seek to keep the bank from having to pay you everything it owes you and make you waive your right to file a judicial claim.
Thanks to our agreement with the Gallego & Rivas law firm, which specialises in banking law, we can study your case at no cost, completing an initial assessment of your documentation and giving you an estimate of the total amount of money you could claim, as well as the money you would save in the future by eliminating the floor clause from your mortgage. This is all with no commitment to hire our legal services.
If you are interested in getting this consultation free of charge, the way to proceed is to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, giving us your contact details and sending us a copy of your Mortgage Deed as well as the latest invoice for your mortgage loans. We will be happy to help you and clarify your legal status.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (Lawyers)