Postal dilemmas for non-resident Spanish property ownersTaxes Wed, 30 Oct 2013
It’s around 12.00 o’clock on a weekday. The sound of a scooter punctures the peace and quiet that usually characterises our little calle. It happens every day around this time and is followed by the appearance of our young post woman on her bright yellow scooter.
She doesn’t usually have much to bring us and thankfully nothing like the horrendous pile of junk mail we used to receive in the UK. Even so, we always expectantly watch her progress between the houses in the hope she might have something good to deliver.
Generally speaking, we have found the postal service in Spain to be much better than we expected. So much so that we no longer keep the PO box (apartado de correos) that we opened when we first arrived here. By and large the post sent from the UK does get to us, with the exception of those mysteriously lost birthday and mother’s day cards.
The reliability of the postal service in Spain is helped by the fact that there is usually one of us at home to receive it. If you are a non-resident Spanish property owner, then it’s a totally different matter.
The non-resident postal dilemma
As a non-resident you are not going to be there to receive the post for the majority of the year. Irrespective of this, the Spanish Tax Authority sends letters alerting non-residents of outstanding tax in just the same way as they would a resident. It goes to an address in Spain.
The yellow scooter will bring your official letter, be unable to find a signature for it and return it to where it came from. But don’t worry, you can still expect to be informed about your tax debts in the BOE.
The wonders of the BOE
The BOE (Boletín Official del Estado) is perhaps the best system possible for ensuring that notifications do not actually notify anyone. It is a very long list of names of people who have transgressed. Perhaps they haven’t paid a traffic fine or they have missed a social security payment. Or, perhaps they are a non-resident living abroad who is being notified that they owe the Spanish Tax Authority money.
For the non-resident, non-Spanish speaker it is an almost impossible expectation that they would trawl through the BOE list on a daily basis just in case they received a mention.
And yet, this is the evidence that the Spanish Tax Authority will use that you have been informed. Having not responded, your Spanish bank account is then under threat of being embargoed with all the associated inconvenience.
So, what’s the solution?
You can ask a neighbour to pick up your mail and sign for any deliveries. Alternatively, you can employ a fiscal representative in Spain. A fiscal representative should prevent any issues from arising in the first place. However, if something should go awry they are in a position to receive notification from the Spanish Tax Authority and can help you.
We are still waiting for the day when important, official letters for non-residents will be routinely sent to your UK home address. In the meantime, a fiscal representative in Spain can save you having to make that daily trawl through the BOE.