Your responsibility - paying non-resident taxes in Spain

Taxes Wed, 23 Oct 2013
Your responsibility - paying non-resident taxes in Spain

If you own a property in Spain you should be ready for the unexpected. Not everything will run logically or operate in the way that you are used to. If your connection with Spain is more than a few years old, you will know exactly what I mean.

For example, take a neighbour of ours. Our houses are next to each other, yet our house number is 848 and his is 685. Why? We’ve often speculated that it was something to do with having a different plot number or being originally part of a different street. Who knows, and by and large it hasn’t been a problem. Except when it came to his Spanish council tax.

For years he had paid nothing. Hadn’t it occurred to him that something was wrong? After all, paying some form of council tax is normal procedure in every country. You can’t plead national ignorance for this one. He had chosen not to see that amongst the bills for utilities and community fees there should also be at least something resembling council tax in Spain.  

The wrong address

This is where the irregular house numbering comes in. One day, the post man delivered a letter for council tax to our neighbour. He was doubly confused because he hadn’t seen one of these before and  although the house number was correct it was a different street name on the envelope. Further investigation revealed that for some reason, this was the address that the town hall tax collecting agency (SUMA in this area)  had been using all those years.

If you are familiar with the way SUMA works here then you will see what’s coming next. As he followed up the letter with SUMA he was astounded to discover that they were going to charge him for four years’ back tax plus the current year. Our neighbour was not best pleased. Seeing that they had never addressed the envelope correctly or ensured it arrived at the right address, how was he to know?

Your responsibility

He didn’t have a leg to stand on. When it comes to paying your taxes, the onus is on you to keep up-to-date and to find out what you must pay. In this case it was the Spanish council tax or IBI that he had defaulted on, had he been a non-resident then, no doubt, he would have been in arrears for his non-resident income tax too.

Omitting to pay non-resident income tax is more understandable. It is an unusual tax that many Spanish property owners find confusing. It is in addition to the normal council tax and it is your responsibility to make your declaration before the 31st December each year. If you don’t, then just like our neighbour, you can expect to have a little mountain of debt waiting for you when the time does come to pay.

Irregularities abound in Spain. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have to play by the rules. Rules there are, just don’t expect anyone to tell you about them.       

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