Exchange Of Information And Living In Spain


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Automatic exchange of information is almost here. What does it mean expatriates in Spain?

Automatic exchange of information is almost here. What does it mean for you, as an expatriate living in Spain?

This loss of financial privacy affects us all. If we live in one country and have assets in another, our information will be shared between countries. Tax authorities will be able to track our wealth like never before.

If you are a Spanish tax resident and have, for example, investments in the Isle of Man, or bank accounts in Switzerland, or pension funds in the UK, the Spanish tax authorities will receive information about these assets. This will include your name, address, tax identification number (where applicable) and the account and income details.

Almost a hundred countries have committed to automatic exchange of information so far. They will follow the Common Reporting Standard developed by the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Information will be shared annually between governments, and this will happen automatically, for everyone who owns assets outside their country of residence – so not only where tax evasion is suspected.

The information to be exchanged includes account balances, interest, dividends and sales proceeds from financial assets. This covers entities like trusts as well as individuals.

Reporting financial institutions include banks, certain collective investment vehicles, certain insurance companies, custodians and guardians. They will determine your residence, collect data on your assets and income, and forward it to the Spanish tax authorities.

The ‘early adopters’ group, which includes Spain along with the rest of the EU, will start sharing information in 2017. However they start collecting data next year. Other countries will join the following year. The list includes so called ‘tax havens’ like Switzerland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Cayman Islands, Monaco and Singapore.

In Europe, the Common Reporting Standard will be implemented through the Administrative Cooperation Directive. This provides for automatic exchange of information on interest, dividends, other investment income, sales proceeds from financial assets, income from employment, directors’ fees, life insurance, pensions and property.

Once the Spanish tax authorities receive this data, they will be able to compare it to your annual income and wealth tax returns.

They can also compare it to your Form 720, to see if you failed to declare any overseas assets.

It is essential you understand which assets and income need to be declared in Spain. As a tax resident you are liable to Spanish tax on your worldwide income, gains and wealth. This includes most income which is also taxed elsewhere (eg UK rental income) and UK private pensions. You often meet British expatriates who believe they can pay UK tax on their private pensions even though they are Spanish residents. This is incorrect. If the Spanish authorities become aware of undeclared pensions it could have serious consequences.

We still have the right to structure our assets in the most tax efficient way, but you have to be careful to only use arrangements which are compliant in Spain. There are arrangements which can be very effective, but take specialist advice to make sure you get it right. Blevins Franks has decades of experience advising British expatriates and in-depth knowledge of Spanish taxation and tax planning opportunities.


3 April 2015

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.