INHERITANCE TAX IN SPAIN AND NON RESIDENT TAXPAYERS: problems and prospects for the future
Currently, non-resident taxpayers face two major problems in respect to the payment of Inheritance Tax in Spain:
1. Discrimination: non-residents pay much more taxes than residents.
2. Double taxation: this tax is payable in two different countries for the same inherited property.
In Spain, taxes are paid for inheritance between non-residents—even though they are immediate family members, spouses, parents, children…, upon application of the government regulations, that is, a progressive scale of taxes based on the transferred property value.
However, regarding inheritance between residents—immediate family members—taxes are much lower or even not paid, as a result of the application of regional government regulations which provide very important tax exemptions.
In respect to inheritance between family members who are not immediate (siblings, uncles, nephews, etc…) and between non-family members, very high taxes shall be paid by both residents and non-residents. In this respect, there is no discrimination.
Upon consideration of this discriminatory unfair condition, it is necessary to inform that the European Commission is putting pressure on Spain to avoid this discrimination, as it is contrary to the free movement of persons and capital, one of the basic principles of the EU single market. This fact may provide a significant reduction of the inheritance tax for non-residents, at least for EU residents, because, otherwise, periodic penalty payments may be imposed to Spain.
There are some examples which can guide you to understand this issue over the figures.
Significant cases of double taxation are also occurring. For example, non-resident heirs are bound to pay a high inheritance tax in Spain for inherited property in Spain (money or real estate) and they shall also pay inheritance tax on the same inherited property in the country where they reside, without deduction of the taxes paid in Spain.
The problem is that Spain only has a convention for the avoidance of double taxation with France, Greece and Sweden for inheritance purposes. Double taxation conventions with United Kingdom, Germany, etc… only refer to income tax and property tax, so that double taxation conditions may occur in relation to inheritance tax.
Accordingly, the UE presented last year a global package regarding inheritance tax system just to avoid these two problems of discrimination and double taxation mentioned above.
At this stage and regarding that these serious problems seem to be at least in the process of being resolved in the medium term, C&D Solicitors would like to make the following recommendations:
1. If anybody loses a relative before regulations are modified and is bound to the payment of a high and discriminatory inheritance tax, a procedure could be initiated requesting the refund of the excessive tax which has been paid.
2. It is not appropriate at this moment to hurry and carry out certain actions in order to avoid or reduce inheritance tax in the future—gift inter vivos, contribution to companies, etc. These transactions may involve significant tax consequences to be analysed and as result of them you may pay now higher taxes than taxes to be saved in the future.
C&D Solicitors would rather advise you to make a will for your properties in Spain. This would be an early solution to the above mentioned problems.
“It is an unfortunate fact of life that eventually we all die. It is also unfortunate that no one can predict when that will be. It is because of these two certainties that you are never too young to make a Spanish Will.”
Author: Francisco Delgado Montilla, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)