SPANISH INHERITANCE TAX: POSSIBLE CONDEMNATION AND CHANGES
Last 27th of March 2012, the European Commission pursued an action against Spain for the breach of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Agreement on the European Economic Area, as a result of the discrimination in respect of the Spanish inheritance and gift tax, since non-residents pay more taxes than residents under the same personal conditions.
Spanish inheritance tax is managed by Spanish autonomous regions, so there are significant differences from one region to another in respect of this taxation. Each regional administration has regulated this tax in a different way. However, if the taxpayer is a non-resident, the Central State Tax Administration Office is the competent body to collect this tax payment instead of the regional government tax office. Regional government regulations are much more favourable for taxpayers than central government tax rules, since regional administrations have established tax exemptions and reductions for the inheritance and gift tax.
However, these discriminatory situations between residents and non-residents in Spain also arise between residents of the different autonomous region. In fact, last 8th of May 2013, a court order from the Spanish Supreme Court established the illegality of the inheritance regulations of the Valencian autonomous region, because these regulations allow heirs residing in this region to benefit from tax reductions against those residing in other Spanish regions who do not enjoy from this benefit.
It is expected that in the future the Spanish Constitutional Court itself rules in this respect. Furthermore, upon consideration of this inequality legal situation, it is likely that the inheritance tax may be reformed in the medium and long term in order to balance differences among the different Spanish autonomous regions.
Regarding the action against Spain, last 8th of January the hearing for this proceedings was held before the Court of Justice of the European Union. It is very likely that a judgment may be pronounced in a few months in regards of this case. If this court order condemns Spain because of this discrimination, it may give rise to a right for reimbursement of undue taxes paid to all those non-residents in Spain who paid in the last 4 years the Spanish inheritance and gift tax, provided that this payment had been higher than the tax payment corresponding to residents belonging to this Spanish region under the same circumstances.
Taxpayers may claim within 4 years. This period starts to run from the date of tax payment. For this reason, in the event of a possible ruling condemning Spain in this regard in the following months, it is very important that all those non-residents in Spain, who paid inheritance and gift tax in the last 4 years, check if their payment was higher than the one made by a resident in the same Spanish region. If that were the case, they should claim for the refunding before the end of this 4 years period. Once this period expires, they will not be entitled to it. The submission of this tax refund claim shall stop the 4 years expiry date while it is decided if Spain is condemned for this issue.
Our law firm is at your disposal to assist you in this matter. We would offer you our service on the basis of a “no win-no fee agreement” for the submission of the aforementioned tax refund claim before the Tax Authorities, that is, you would pay nothing to us if the public administration declines this first claim.
Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (Lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)