A fifth of Spain’s new freelancers are foreigners

Almost a quarter of a million expats accounted for 20 per cent of the newly registered 'autonomo' self-employed workers in Spain in the last 12 months, some 6.2 per cent more than in the year before.

A fifth of Spain's new freelancers are foreigners
234,566 non-Spaniards overcame Spain's red tape to register as newly self-employed in the last year. Photo: Flickr/Ken Teegardin

A report from the National Federation of Self-Employed Workers’ Associations (ATA) released on Tuesday showed that 234,566 non-Spaniards registered as self-employed in the year leading up to May 2014, a rise of 13,631.

Over half (56.5 per cent) of those who registered did so to work in sales or the hotel industry.

“It’s not just the Chinese who are starting companies in Spain, “said ATA head of immigration Guillermo Guerrero.

”Other nationalities are also deciding to go into business for themselves because of the difficulties of finding a job,” he added.

The number of Bulgarians registering rose by 12.1 per cent, Moroccans by 11.8 per cent and Italians by 11.7 per cent, according to Spanish daily 20 Minutos.

Only workers from Argentina registered in lower numbers than the preceding year with a fall of 3.5 per cent.

“It’s important to keep supporting the self-employment of foreigners who already represent 20 per cent of new registrations, through training, provision of information and administrative flexibility, areas where ATA has much to offer,” said Guerrero.

Spain has sometimes enjoyed a less-than-stellar reputation among expat entrepreneurs because of the rigid bureaucracy, red tape and high costs associated with starting new businesses or going freelance there. 

Read The Local's Guide to Going Self-Employed in Spain

New tax breaks intended to make it easier for self-starters have been announced by the government in their most recent round of fiscal reform.

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Why does my salary vary between months in Spain if I’m a contract employee?

If you’re employed by a company in Spain, you may have noticed that what you get paid each month is sometimes higher and other times lower. Here's why this happens and how you can understand it better.

Why does my salary vary between months in Spain if I'm a contract employee?

Many asalariados (salaried employees) across Spain will have noticed that their wages at the beginning of 2022 may have been lower than that net salary they received at the end of 2021.

This is in fact usually not down to error, but comes as a result of your company withholding a higher amount of personal income tax (IRPF) at the start of the year, resulting in you getting paid less.

Companies in Spain are obliged to withhold a certain percentage of your salary called IRPF (Impuesto sobre la Renta de las Personas Físicas).

This, in turn, gets passed on to Spain’s Hacienda tax agency. Your gross salary and personal circumstances mean that the income tax withheld will vary.

Your employer will calculate the amount of your gross salary you must pay to the Treasury as personal income tax and will deduct it from your payroll month by month. This can be done between the 12 or 14 salary payments per year.

Alternatively, a lower percentage of tax may be applied in the first months of the year, which is then adjusted by raising it in the final few months of the year, or vice versa, which is why fluctuations can occur.

You should keep in mind that if at the beginning of the year you received a raise, had a baby or opened a pension plan, it may mean that the tax withheld from your company will go up or down. Having a new baby for example gives you a reduction.  

What if I believe there is an error in my IRPF calculations?

If you still believe there is an error, this can be rectified whilst filing your annual income tax return – la declaración de la renta – which you should each year between April and June.

READ ALSO – La Renta: The important income tax deadlines in Spain in 2022

If you receive an annual gross salary of less than €22,000, you are not required to fill out an annual tax declaration, but may want to do so if you believe that your employer has been deducting too much tax. If the error is found in your favour, Spain’s tax agency will return your overpaid tax.

How can I find out how much tax will be deducted in advance?

If you want to be prepared and find out exactly how much tax your company will deduct from your salary each month, you can fill out this tax calculator for 2022 found on the Hacienda website. This will let you know exactly how much IRPF should be deducted from your wage, depending on your personal circumstances. 

Your employer may also ask you to fill out the form Modelo 145 to help them work out how much tax you should pay.

The form will ask you for your current personal situation such as marital status, if you have children or other dependents. Depending on the outcome of this, you may get further discounts on the amount of tax that is withheld.