Tag: nerja

TAX CONSEQUENCES OF BREXIT FOR BRITISH PROPERTY OWNERS IN SPAIN

TAX CONSEQUENCES OF BREXIT FOR BRITISH PEOPLE IN SPAIN
Due to the Brexit there are many tax consequences for British citizens in Spain

We are near the end of the transition period established within the BREXIT for British citizens resident in Spain, which ends on 31 December 2020. There are many tax consequences for British citizens in Spain but for now we are only going to focus on British citizens with assets in Spain. For example pensioners or owners of a second home. From the perspective of trade or the movement of British citizens in Spain for work reasons, the tax and bureaucratic consequences of Brexit are higher, even though we will not cover that in this article. However, we will also briefly address the process to obtain Spanish residency. This because during the past few months we have witnessed many police stations becoming overwhelmed and unable to meet the many requests for appointments for British citizens and their family members to obtain a residence permit in Spain. This procedure was approved as part of the transition period set to end on the 31st of December 2020.

Over the last few weeks of 2020, it has been impossible for many British citizens to make an appointment at the police station in the province where they live and this also applies to the province of Malaga in Andalusia. This has led many British citizens resident in Spain or about to move to Spain starting 2021 without a residence permit.

 

What will be the situation of British citizens resident in Spain after BREXIT?

Well, these British citizens will have to apply for a residence permit after the final Brexit on the 1st of January 2021, just like any other citizen from a third country outside the European Union. We recommend that first of all these citizens register with their city hall as soon as possible and also request a S1 form from the United Kingdom to prove that their healthcare costs in Spain will be covered by the United Kingdom. After this, the easiest thing to do is to contact a law firm or administration company that can advise you and help you with the process, as it will be complicated to do it on your own. It is very important not to delay and do this as soon as possible, even though it is true that there is currently a lot of uncertainty about the procedure in question, as the negotiations with the European Union remain open.

 

How will the status of British citizens change after 1 January?

British citizens will be able to travel to Spain and stay for up to 90 days within a 6-month period, consecutive or not, without having to obtain a visa. They could even be required to prove their financial capacity to cover their stay in Spain, as is the case with travellers from countries outside the European Union. If they wish to stay longer, it is very likely that they will have to apply for a visa or work permit, even though this has not been defined yet since the negotiations remain open.

 

What will happen with the British driving licence?

From 1 January 2021, the general regulations will apply and British driving licence will be valid to drive in Spain for six months counted from the owner’s entry in Spain or from the date that legal residence is obtained. They will need to exchange their British driving licence for a Spanish one to continue driving in Spain after those six months.

 

How will Inheritance Tax change after Brexit on the 1st of January 2021?

As we explained in detail in an earlier article about inheritance tax, fortunately, from 1 January 2019, citizens not resident in the European Union are able to obtain the same tax benefits and bonuses for Inheritance Tax as European citizens. Therefore, the application of Inheritance Tax and its consequences would not change for British citizens.

 

Potential future Inheritance Tax when buying a home in Spain

When considering the purchase of a home in Spain, as the regulations applicable to this tax depend on the autonomous community where the property is located, a very important matter is to consider which autonomous communities have a higher and a lower inheritance tax, before making such investment(s). For instance, British nationals are the main buyers of homes in Spain. Alicante (Valencian Community) and Malaga (Andalusia) are the two main locations for foreigners to buy a home in Spain but. However, when it comes to Inheritance Tax, there are big differences between one community and the other. The Valencian Community has the third highest Inheritance Tax in Spain, while Andalusia has the third lowest, according to the General Economists Council of Spain, in their taxation study for 2020. This means that, when thinking about that tax, Malaga has a much cheaper rate of Inheritance Tax than Alicante.

 

What happens to taxes on profits obtained from renting out my home in Spain?

If you bought a home in Malaga as an investment, for instance, and you use it for holiday rentals as a citizen of the European Union, the profit obtained from such rental would be taxed at 19% through their IRNR income tax for non-fiscal residents with a house in Spain. Many expenses can be deducted: mortgage interest, repair and maintenance costs for the property, electricity, insurance, etc. However, once you are considered a citizen not resident in the European Union, it will be taxed at 24% and no deduction for property expenses may be applied.

 

Estate Tax or Wealth Tax on my properties located in Spain

Estate Tax or Wealth tax also apply to assets and rights that non-residents have in Spain. As this tax has a minimum personal exemption threshold of 700,000 euros over the minimal fiscal value, all non-residents -in the EU or outside it- with assets of a lower value would pay nothing. The main difference in terms of EU and non-EU citizens lies in the fact that EU citizens can apply the regulations of the autonomous community where most of their assets are located. However, non-EU citizens would have to follow national regulations instead of those of the autonomous community where the assets are located. If we compare the tax rates in Andalusia to the national ones in terms of estate tax, the national rate of estate tax is somewhat lower. Therefore, applying national regulations does not always entail a greater tax liability.

The actual impact of that tax is non-existent for most non-residents due to the minimum fiscal value of 700,000 euros applied per person. This is why it is recommended that, if you are thinking about luxurious purchasing a property in for example Marbella on the Costa del Sol, it might be interesting to put the property in more than one name to profit from this exemption. Still, estate tax could have a high impact for those with high-value assets in Spain or considering the purchase of luxury properties.

 

How will Brexit affect the sale of my home in Spain?

The tax rate on capital gains obtained from selling the property would go from 19% to 24%. The withholding (down payment) of the Capital Gain Tax that a buyer must apply to a non-resident seller to pay the amount at the Tax Agency in Spain will continue to be 3% of the purchase price. This percentage is the same for EU citizens and non-EU citizens.

 

Will Brexit affect the ITP transfer tax on the purchase of a home in Spain?

No, it will not. The property ITP transfer tax paid in Spain for the purchase of second-hand homes do not vary for EU citizens and non-EU citizens, for which reason, from 1 January 2021, it would not lead to greater expenses for British people. The same counts for the 21% VAT tax and documented legal acts (AJD tax) paid for new off-plan properties. The ITP tax depends on the autonomic region. For instance, in Andalucia a house buyer pays 8% ITP transfer tax over the purchase price up to € 400.000, until € 700.000 it´s 9% and after this the ITP will be 10%. To calculate the ITP tax on more expensive houses for a married couple it´s important to take into account if the couple is married in community or separation of goods.

 

Is the double-taxation agreement in force between Spain and the United Kingdom important?

Yes it is. The main purpose of this double-taxation agreement is for a British national living in Spain or a Spanish national living in the United Kingdom to be able to work and invest in those countries without having to pay twice for the same thing. This agreement will remain in force and is unaffected by the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. This agreement, which came into force on 12 June 2014, contains special clauses that exempt certain public pensions paid by the British government from taxation in Spain, as they can only be taxed in the United Kingdom. Likewise, this agreement protects residents national of either country from being taxed twice on income from capital gains and dividends. Income tax for non-residents, company tax, personal income tax and estate tax are covered by this agreement, for which reason these aspects should not be taxed twice in both countries.

 

Potential changes in the future for British house owners

Over the next few weeks, there will surely be changes affecting British nationals as it is very likely for the negotiations to change certain important aspects. However, on the date this article is posted (22 December 2020), little is known. We advise that, if you have any doubts, you contact and obtain legal or tax advice from a lawyer or company specialising in non-resident house owners.

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors, Málaga

malaga, costa del sol, sewage, properties

MALAGA AND COSTA DEL SOL: GREAT TOURIST AREA, WORRYING WASTEWATER PURIFICATION

malaga, costa del sol, sewage, properties
The wastewater purification in Malaga, financial and environmental consequences

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.

Conclusion

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)

 

 

Köpa hus i Malaga

MORTGAGES IN SPAIN TO BUY PROPERTY

Mortgages in Spain to buy property
Mortgages in Spain to buy property

Fixed rate, variable rate interest & Euribor

If you want to buy a property with a Spanish mortgage you should know that the standard in Spain is the variable interest. The Euro Interbank Offered Rate, also called Euribor, is the reference rate for variable-rate mortgages and is currently at very low levels. Most mortgages in Spain are established according to the Euribor plus the interest rate offered by the bank.

Some banks offer fixed-rate mortgages but the number of fixed-rate mortgages obtained in Spain is very low compared to that of variable-rate mortgages.


A mortgage in Spain or another country?

If you are non-tax resident in Spain and you are thinking of getting a mortgage to buy a home in Spain, it is very likely that a bank in your tax-residence country can offer you a better interest rate than a Spanish bank. Therefore, you should try to find out which banks in your country give mortgages in Spain.


Ways to reduce the interest rate 

In Spanish mortgages with variable-interest usually offer a series of extra products are offered that may reduce the interest rate of your mortgage loan. Each of these financial products / conditions can reduce the interest rate between 0,25% – 0,50%, with a maximum of non residents of 0,75% en 1,00%.

Some of these products / conditions are:

  • Setting up a direct credit of your salary or pension
  • Keeping a minimum monthly balance in the account linked to the mortgage
  • Signing up online banking or a virtual mailbox
  • Direct debits of service companies (water, electricity, taxes, etc.)
  • Having a debit/credit card
  • Having a pension plan with a minimal yearly contribution
  • Taking a life insurance and a house insurance / contents insurance


Starting the procedure with the bank

If you already know the bank where you want to apply for your mortgage, we suggest that you apply for the financial approval of the mortgage.

At this stage you will provide the bank with a complete list of your income and loans as well as your employment status and the amount of the mortgage loan you need. The bank will enter all these details into the system and tell you if they would approve the mortgage at your income level.

Through this, you can save time and money since you can find out, right from the start, that the bank will not give you a mortgage and it will not be necessary for you to provide all the financial documentation at the beginning. Besides from this it´s not necessary yet to pay the taxation of the property by the bank. This documentation for the bank, by the way, needs to  include an extract (´nota simple´) of the Land Book Registry, the Registro de la Propiedad, of the property you are interested in buying. If the bank analyses your financial details and cannot grant you a mortgage, you always have the possibility to go to a different bank.


Extra costs of the Spanish mortgage

Updated information due to the sentence of the Supreme Court in October 2018 as well as the change in the Spanish law based on which the banks pay most of the initial costs of the mortgage. 

  • Legal expenses:

These are usually between 3% – 4% of the amount of the mortgage, but are since October 2018 paid for by the banks (and they can be claimed back for mortgages signed since October 2014). They refer to taxes, the notary´s invoice (the Mortgage Deeds are different from the Title Deeds and so they are charged separately), the invoice from the Land Book Registry and processing fees. These expenses are the same regardless of whether the mortgage is obtained from a Spanish or a foreign bank.

  • Solicitor fees:

Even though you can negotiate your mortgage directly with the bank, it is advisable for your solicitor to help you with this process as you will obtain professional advice. Besides of this his work with the bank will be more efficient because he knows the different conditions of the banks, the can check the Spanish general Terms & Conditions and he can negotiate on your behalf.

  • Extra bank expenses:

Opening fee (usually 0,5% – 1% of the mortgage), obliged home insurance (contents insurance) and life insurance for each mortgage account holder.

On this point, I would like to make a special mention about the life insurance policy that most banks usually require to obtain. This insurance policy is obtained for the mortgaged amount and guarantees that the bank can collect the amount due to the bank from the insurance company in the event that the account holders die.

Life insurance is an interesting product for mortgage holders but it may involve a high premium, especially if the insured people are elderly or have any health problems. This is because, in these cases, the premium will be higher as the risk that the mortgage holders die increases. It´s important to know that after the first year you can switch from insurance company to one that offers you better conditions on your life insurance.

It is also common for some banks to require you to pay a single premium for this life insurance policy, i.e., when the mortgage is granted, the bank already charges you for the total insurance premium for the entire mortgage period.

It is important for you to have a summary chart of ALL mortgage costs, so you can know the net amount of the mortgage (after deducting expenses) you will have available to pay for the property.


Legally binding mortgage offer

Once the bank confirms that your mortgage is approved, the legal document that guarantees this is the binding offer (´oferta vinculante´). This bank document functions as a contract and binds the bank to giving you the mortgage under the terms established in the document. The binding offer is usually valid for one month but it may not be valid for less than ten days.


Recommendations when buying a property with a mortgage 

Since the final approval of the mortgage by the bank will take 2 or 3 weeks. Therefore it´s wise to start the mortgage procedure as soon as possible, even if you haven´t selected a definitive property yet.

Have you already decided on the property you want to buy, but you do not yet know if you are going to obtain a mortgage? In this case you could try to negotiate with the seller that the reservation document and/or private purchase contract are ´subject to mortgage´. This clause avoids that you would lose your reservation fees and/or down payment if no bank in the end doesn´t grants you a mortgage loan. However, most (Spanish) sellers do not like to sign contracts that are subject to the mortgage so the best thing is to have everything prepared with the bank so that it takes as little as possible to receive a reply.

Also please keep in mind that not all banks are willing to grant mortgages for house in the countryside, or only for a limited percentage.


Saving money by subrogation of a mortgage

If you are a home owner with a Spanish mortgage than -after one year- you have the right to subrogate your mortgage to another band with a lower interest rate of better conditions. In this case the new bank will pay the rest of the loan plus the transfer commission (if this exists) to your current bank and you will pay your mortgage from that moment to the new bank according to the new conditions.

The subrogation cost is very low compared to the cost of signing a new mortgage. Therefore, if the interest rate that the bank offers you is lower, it is very likely for subrogation to be beneficial to you.

 

Read the extended information about this subject in our pdf-file: Mortgages in Spain to buy property for buying a house in Spain. For general information about buying a house in Andalusia you can also watch this video:

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, lawyer at C&D Solicitors Torrox (Málaga, Andalusia)

plusvalia selling property

RECLAMATION PLUSVALIA TAX FROM SALE PROPERTY AT A LOSS

plusvalia selling property
plusvalía, property, nerja

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)

 

ARVSSKATT I ANDALUSIEN: FÖRÄNDRINGAR I SIKTE

INHERITANCE TAX IN ANDALUSIA: CHANGES AHEAD

inheritance tax paid by the heirs
inheritance tax paid by the heirs

On 1 August, the Regional Government of Andalusia approved the first of two reforms of inheritance tax in Andalusia. This reform and the upcoming one aim to improve taxation for heirs.

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:

  1. Having lived with the deceased person in the usual residence during the two years preceding death.
  2. 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.

 

 

lawyer english speaking in andalusia

FREE CHECK SPANISH MORTGAGE WITH FLOOR CLAUSES

floor clause mortgage spain

CLOSER TO A DEFINITIVE SOLUTION FOR THOSE AFFECTED

The first thing I would like to do is inform you that C&D Solicitors has signed a collaboration agreement with the Sevillian law firm Gallego & Rivas, which specialises in financial and banking law.

On the basis of this agreement, Gallego & Rivas have offered to study the documentation of homeowners who may be affected by a “floor clause” (cláusula suelo) in their mortgages, free of charge. At the end of this article, we will explain how those affected can get access to this service.

First of all: What is a “floor clause”? A mortgage is said to have a “floor clause” when, in a variable-interest mortgages, there is a clause in the Deed of the Mortgage Loan establishing that the interest for this mortgage cannot be lower than a certain threshold.

In other words, in this case, the mortgage cannot benefit from a low interest rate and from the successive drops that may occur, as the minimum interest rate is “shielded” and any interest rate set below the one established in the “floor clause” cannot be applied. For several years, the Euribor rate has been very low and these clauses have represented considerable losses for many customers.

For the last few years, there have been many legal proceedings in Spain brought by people affected by “floor clauses” in their mortgages. In fact, almost five years ago, we published our first article about this matter, echoing the first judgments. We should keep in mind that mortgages with “floor clauses” were common until 2009 or 2010.

Most judgments have sided with the complainants. Likewise, the Supreme Court pronounced itself in May 2010, declaring these clauses null.

So far, the legal arguments are clear so people with a “floor clause” in their mortgages have a very good chance of obtaining a favourable ruling. Such ruling would order the bank to eliminate the “floor clause” of the mortgage, as well as to return the money that customers have overpaid in their mortgages, in addition to the legal costs of the proceedings.

In its judgment of May 2013, the Supreme Court, in its legal reasoning, only ordered the banks to return the money unduly charged to customers from 9 May 2013 and not since the clause started to be applied to the customer. I.e. what was unduly charged before that date was not eligible for a refund.

The Supreme Court appealed to the economic turmoil that it could represent for banks to return the total amounts unduly charged to customers before 9 May 2013 as, considering that there are thousands of mortgages affected by a “floor clause”, banks would be forced to refund billions of euros to their customers.

Due to the controversial nature of this legal reasoning, a Commercial Court in Granada raised a prejudicial question to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) so that it would pronounce itself on whether banks should refund the amounts overcharged to their customers from moment that the “floor clause” in their mortgages was applied instead of from 9 May 2013.

On 26 April, the CJEU held the public hearing on these proceedings and, on 12 July, the advocate general of the CJEU will present his findings. At the end of the year, we will know whether Spanish banks will have to return everything unduly charged or just the amount overcharged after 9 May 2013.

It seems that there are good chances that the CJEU considers that everything unduly charged to every customer with a “floor clause” must be refunded. The decision is transcendental since –according to some sources– we are talking about 7 thousands millions of euros.

These 7 thousands millions of euros would be added, to the 5 billion euros that banks are estimated to be required to refund to customers, for everything unduly charged from 2013 to the present day.

Regardless of the date set by the CJEU, “floor clauses” are abusive and those affected have the right to file a complaint to get their money back. This is why we have signed an agreement with the law firm Gallego & Rivas, which has offered to study the documentation of homeowners who may be affected by a “floor clause” (cláusula suelo) in their mortgages and provide them with a short report on their situation.

The study of this documentation would be free of charge and legal advice would also be provided to recover the money lost and the cost of the proceedings. Customers can then decide whether they want to initiate legal proceedings.

Later, according to the number of persons interested in taking legal action against their banking institution, we could set up a day at our office in Torrox-Costa (Malaga) so that those affected by a floor clause in their Mortgage Deeds can get first-hand contact with Gallego & Rivas.

Ultimately, the affected person will get a specialist lawyer to study his case at no cost and advise him of the potential actions he may take to recover the money, as well as the cost of the proceedings.

If you are interested in getting this consultation free of charge, the way to proceed is to contact us at info@cdsolicitors.com, 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)

Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Nerja/Andalucia)

 

INHERITANCE TAX IN SPAIN: WE ARE ALREADY EUROPEAN!

INHERITANCE TAX IN SPAIN: WE ARE ALREADY EUROPEAN!

Inheritance tax in Spain
Inheritance tax in Spain

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 (lawyer)

Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

RELEVANT RULING FOR HOMEBUYERS OF NON-COMPLETED PROPERTIES WITHOUT BANK GUARANTEES

RELEVANT RULING FOR HOMEBUYERS OF NON-COMPLETED PROPERTIES WITHOUT BANK GUARANTEES

Ruling for non-completed Spanish properties without bank guarantees
Ruling for non-completed Spanish properties without bank guarantees

In the last few years, it has become quite common the significant number of homebuyers who have purchased off-plan properties and paid large sums of money on account for their future homes, however, the developer has never completed nor handed them over. Consequently, the advanced money has been lost in many cases, because the developer may have gone bankrupt and lost all assets to refund these amounts to them.

Spanish Government passed in 1968 the Law 57/1968 dated 27th of July on the receipt of sums paid in advance prior to the construction and sale of homes. This was aimed at stopping several cases of homebuyers who lost their money paid for properties which never were built.

Spanish Law 57/1968 is still in force and solicitors, who are specialised in this issue, know the regulations for homebuyers’ protection in respect of sums paid in advance to developers for off-plan or under construction properties prior to their completion. However, the most relevant point at this moment is the judgment argumentation set out for the court proceedings where 46 homebuyers without bank guarantees securing advanced payments, made a legal claim jointly and severally to the bank and the developer demanding the total amounts paid, because the construction works were never completed. The judgment was pronounced by a court of first instance of Albacete on the 08/06/2012 and was confirmed by the Provincial Court on the 11th of February of this year.

The aforementioned judgment ordered the bank to refund all amounts of money paid by the homebuyers, considering that it was jointly and severally liable together with the developer, pursuant to the interpretation of Articles 1 and 2 of the abovementioned Law of 1968, Article 4 of the Spanish Ministerial Order of 1968 and the First Additional Provision of the Law 38/1999 on building regulations.

Although the bank was not a party on the sale agreement and did not either issue bank guarantees for homebuyers’ payments on account, the main line of argument of this judgment to consider the bank to be jointly and severally liable is that this bank knew about these payments in the developer’s account and was aware that these amounts were paid for the purchase of homes in a property development. As a result of that, the bank did not comply with the obligations provided by Law 57/1968 and committed a banking malpractice, pursuant to the interpretation of Article 1.2 of this Law, as the developer should have been required to open a special account where depositing its funds apart from any other amounts aimed at the construction of the properties. In addition, the bank should have not permitted these deposits in ordinary accounts, and particularly when this bank was the only financial entity financing the development and profited from this real estate business.

This judgment entails a court action to recover the money for those homebuyers without bank guarantee securing the amounts paid on account to developers, because, if appropriate, they could bring an action for joint and several liability against the bank where the developer’s loan was granted, where the payments were deposited and where the developer operated. Thus, homebuyers will have better chances to recover the sums paid, considering that there are already many judgments where developers has been condemned to pay, but court orders cannot be enforced because of their insolvency, while banks are always solvent.

 

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

THE “SUMMER HOLIDAY RENTALS” ISSUE

THE “SUMMER HOLIDAY RENTALS” ISSUE

Spain, summer, holiday, rentals, tax, law
New rules Spanish holiday rentals tax

On the 5th of June 2013, Spanish Law 4/2013 dated 4th of June was published in the Spanish Official Gazette B.O.E. This recent Law states the procedures to relax and promote the rental housing market. By means of this Law, the Spanish Government tries to regulate summer holiday rentals, which are not controlled by the Spanish Tax Administration Office.

These regulations aim at two basic objectives: on the one hand, to change people’s habit in respect of meeting their housing needs—up to now, people were inclined to purchase their usual home and obtain a mortgage. Now, it is a question to be more inclined to live in a rental home. And on the other hand, these regulations aim at combating underground economy of summer holiday rentals.

Nevertheless, these regulations leave summer holiday rentals without legal protection, because they provide that “rentals intended for non-residential use” are not regulated by the Urban Rental Law (Spanish acronym LAU), but by the regulations of Regional Governments according to their own criteria.

Particularly, Andalusian legislation on this respect is very strict and tough if compared with other Spanish regions. For example, owners with less than three rental properties in the same building or residential complex are not included within Andalusian regulations. As a result of that conditioning, a high percentage of owners are prevented from renting their second homes. This is aimed at combating “encroachment” upon the tourist professional field and unfair competition for traditional tour operators.

Alternatively, the new Law imposes strict and controlling measures for this type of summer rentals—the Spanish Tax Administration Office obliges electric companies to submit annually a report including household consumption. This is intended to gather the necessary data to detect those housing rentals that are not declared.

The new Law literally provides the following: “… it is not included within the scope of this law: … the temporary assignment for use of the entire furnished and equipped home to be immediately occupied, marketed and promoted through tourist offer channels for economic purposes, when this property is subject to a specific regime as a result of its sectorial regulations.    

Upon consideration of this statement, these regulations may be discussed and interpreted in respect of renting a home for holidays from a private landlord. We consider that this rental is possible, but it is necessary to tell the difference between two types of scenarios: on the one hand, the rental per days with a tourist purpose; and on the other hand, the seasonal rental.

In the former case, it implies a regular commercial use of the rental by a professional, offering other additional services apart from the accommodation. In fact, this kind of tourist apartment rentals was also excluded from Spanish Urban Rental Law (LAU) up to now. They were regulated by the legislation of the competent public bodies.

In the later scenario, we are not dealing with a tourist business activity, but a temporary assignment without additional obligation. Accordingly, this new Law does not seem to affect people under these conditions. In case it does, it may certainly imply a clear restriction of owners’ rights. They may be able to rent their homes per season, whether for a long term or a short term, including per days. In addition, these housing rentals are regulated under the protection of Spanish Urban Rental Law of 1994 (LAU).

 

 

Author: Francisco Delgado Montilla, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

 

PREFERRED SHARES: THE GREAT SCANDAL

PREFERRED SHARES: THE GREAT SCANDAL

Preferred shares of Spanish banks
Preferred shares of Spanish banks

By the end of 2008, Spanish saving banks and banks already had clear reports stating that current high interest rates may drop and the property bubble was about to burst. In addition, they also knew that the lucrative business of saving banks in the construction sector by means of credits for developers and mortgages for individuals, was about to go to ruin.

Regarding that their core business in the housing sector was about to finish and that saving banks could not issue shares as banks could, they “invented” the sale of a product to obtain funds known as participaciones preferentes (preferred shares). This financial term may be defined as debt securities issuances for an undetermined period of time, in which saving banks pay returns depending on their profits. But they may not even pay anything at all—although this product offered up to 7% returns—, because the payment of these returns depended on the financial entity profits. Thus, as a result of the housing sector slump and saving banks loss, there was no profit. Furthermore, these preferred shares have no voting rights and are not guaranteed by the Deposit Guarantee Fund—which covers people’s savings up to 100,000 Euros—and has no maturity, that is, they are perpetual.

Most of the investors who purchased these preferred shares were retail clients of these financial entities. Most of them thought that this product was similar to fixed income deposits. In most cases, these clients did not have any knowledge about financial risks neither any intention to risk their savings—their money was invested in fixed term deposits and one day they received a telephone call from the bank convincing them of the “advantages” of purchasing preferred shares; however, most of the disadvantages were not explained to them, because the bank employees did not probably even know what they were offering. They just followed the financial entity instructions.

Result: 300,000 people affected by the purchase of these preferred shares which may amount to 30,000 million Euros, although this sum may be higher.

Financial entities are allowed to sell this type of products if they carry out the following: study of the investor’s profile and performance of the private investor test for suitability. In most cases, it is obvious that financial entities should have not sold the aforementioned preferred shares to most of their retail clients, because they did not match the suitable profile to purchase this type of products and had limited savings to be invested only in conservative products, such as fixed income deposits.

Holders of the aforementioned preferred shares have the following options:

A) Secondary market offering, although they may be sold at a loss considering current circumstances.

B) Conversion into shares of the entity—this is the solution offered by saving banks. However, this exchange is also at a loss, as Bankia has already done two weeks ago—in this case, its clients have lost up to 70% of their investment when the preferred shares were converted.

C) Going to the arbitration offered by the Government—we sincerely have misgivings about its results and clients may also have to assume significant losses.

D) Going to court through civil proceedings to claim for the invalidity of the contract which served as a basis for purchasing preferred shares.  This is the most recommended procedure for all people affected, as court orders which have been already known are pronounced in favour of these people. Although this action may imply a longer procedure to recover the invested money, the result is much more advantageous.

We finally recommend you to consult an expert before taking any decision if you are a person affected by this matter, so that all possible options are explored particularly.

 

Author: Gustavo Calero Monereo, C&D Solicitors (lawyers)
Torrox-Costa (Malaga/Costa del Sol/Andalucia)

 

 

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