Understanding embargoes in Spain

Spanish Law Wed, 8 Jan 2014

The use of the word ‘embargo’ in Spain is a lot more widespread than it is in many other countries. Whereas it’s often associated with a ban on trade between different countries, in Spain it can refer to an action taken against your property or Spanish bank account.

If you have an embargo on your Spanish bank account, then what it means in practice is that your account will be frozen without your permission. Again, a concept that is unusual for those coming from many other countries. Who would do such a thing?

Why you might have an embargo

An embargo might be placed on your Spanish bank account when you have an outstanding debt. It could be a missed mortgage repayment, a loan you’ve defaulted on, non-resident taxes or IBI property tax in Spain that remain unpaid. 

It comes either in the form of a court order or from a government public administration office in Spain, such as the tax office (Agencia Tributaria). A private individual or a company can take an outstanding debt to court. Whilst a decision is made about how the debt will be settled, the judge will freeze your account. In the case of a Spanish government department, there is no need to go to court. Your account can be frozen and you may not even realise that you owe any money!

The debt might be settled by money being taken out of your bank account in Spain directly. If there is insufficient money there to cover the debt, then assets can be seized, including property, pensions or even jewellery.

What you can do

It sounds harsh, and it is. Even more so when you consider that if your account is frozen your bills in Spain will not be paid. This can lead to services being disconnected with all the additional costs and inconvenience that can cause.

If you should be in the unhappy situation of your account being embargoed your first action is to identify why. On the embargo itself there should be a reference number and an indication of which department has placed the embargo.

You should then contact this department to find out what the embargo is for. You will then have opportunity to agree a method of clearing the debt enabling your account to function once again as normally.  

Of course, if you make it your business to ensure that your bills are paid and taxes are up-to-date in the first place then it is much less likely that this will happen to you.


It should be mentioned that if your penion or salary has been paid into the account that has been frozen. The first 640 euros is untouchable and the remaining balance , lets say it is 640 euros for example . only 30% will be embargoed

Hi, I only have 600 euros in the bank from my husbands pension ,and my account has been frozen we have no money now for food petrol etc we have an illegal home with no services ,shared electric and we buy water in by the tanker been in the house for 12 years ,I think they have found a way to collect money by changing their goal post ,I don't get post so did not recieve any mail or warnings so they freeze all your money Shirley mills .

It is likely that your account has been frozen because the banks are asking for documentation and if you cannot present it they freeze your bank account. What is important in these cases is that you talk to your bank and ask them what has happened. 

I have experienced this and they took all my salary from the account I spoke to the bank and said that they must give me money to live and the bank advised no they have no control over the embargo the account is frozen and nothing they an do. they can only take a percentage from your actual salary which the company stops and pays them direct, 640.00 is untouchable this is true and a percentage paid but if then you money goes into the bank they can take that too!!!!

Hi, a quick question. .it seems my account has been embargoed with limited funds in Ithat I can't access I.e. 30 € and my employer says that he has to pay into my account and can't pay me cash, is this correct?

Hi Mark, I'm afraid it's not possible for you to be paid in cash and they will continue to take money out of your account until the debt is paid. Depending on what the debt is for there might be alternatives that could be explored on your behalf. 

I have an embargo on my account which has more money than the embargo is for the tributaria has on the case 1 can I appeal the case 2 can I agree to pay the outstanding by installments rather than them take the lump sum from the account hat can I do

Dear Stephen

Normally, once an embargo has been placed on the account, it will be lifted once the funds have been deducted from the account and paid to the Tax Office. However, if the sum to be paid to the Tax Office is higher than the funds in the account then the Embargo stays in place until all funds are paid. To make any stage payments you would need to contact the Tax Office and negotiate and arrangement. 

We have ambargo how do we no if its our house or our bank im worried as we wont be able to make our house payments ours is council tax if I go and talk to them will they except instalments we have 3 kids so im concerned about not been able to pay other bills would our bank loan us to clear the debt and if they except instalments how soon will we be able to use our account

Firstly you need to establish what the embargo is for and how much the total debt is. It could be a mortgage, tax payment or traffic fine. 

Usually by the time it gets to an embargo on an account it is difficult to get a stage payment plan in place as the debt will be taken from the account before any payment plans are in place. 

A bank loan would normally involve some expense using a notary and it might also be difficult to get credit for this. You would need to discuss it with the bank. 

If it is council tax that wasn't paid on time if you complete the payment then the embargo will be cleared. 

Sometimes, provided there is money in the account to do it, it is better to allow them to take it off from there rather than trying to paying the original bill in the first place that caused the problem. 

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