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GIBRALTAR RELATIONS

TAX

Spain ramps up war on Gibraltar’s ‘tax cheats’

Spain's finance minister Cristóbal Montoro said on Tuesday the country planned to investigate Gibraltar residents who own properties in Spain, part of an overall crack down on alleged tax evasion in the UK territory.

Spain ramps up war on Gibraltar's 'tax cheats'
"On the Rock there are more than 6,000 citizens who used our public services, but are registered as living in Gibraltar," Spain's finance minister Cristóbal Montoro said. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou

Montoro made the comments during a brief attack on the economic policies of the UK territory which is home to 30,000 people.

Describing Gibraltar's business operating environment as "opaque", he said the territory was a "magnet" for businesses with "doubtful" operations.

Gibraltar's economic structure was costing Spain €1 billion ($1.3 million) a year in lost tax revenues, said Montoro, repeating a tax office estimate which Gibraltar authorities have dismissed as fanciful.  

Spain's finance minister also stressed that UK figures showed 21,670 companies operated out of the territory but only 11 percent of those paid tax. Many of those businesses have "one of no" employees, he added. 

Montoro went on to say Spain planned to investigate Gibraltar residents who owned properties in Spain.

"On the Rock there are more than 6,000 citizens who used our public services, but are registered as living in Gibraltar," Montoro said.

Spanish authorities were also carrying out checks on cars with Gibraltar number plates which belong to people living in Spain, he said.

Montoro's comments come in the wake of a report from  European Union's anti-fraud office Olaf which claimed the EU lost €700 million in tax revenues from 2009 to 2013 as a result of tobacco smuggling through Gibraltar.

Olaf's 400-page report is the result of investigations into a complaint concerning increased smuggling of cigarettes across the frontier between Gibraltar and Spain in the period 2009-2013, an OLAF spokesperson told The Local recently.

Spanish media outlets have said Gibraltar's cigarette imports tripled from 2006 to 2011, with 110 million packets coming into the territory in 2012 alone.

Much of this tobacco is thought to be smuggled into Spain.

There are also indications organized crime is involved in the trade, Olaf told The Local, calling for Spain and Gibraltar to tackle the problem.

Spanish authorities responded to the report — which was not made public — by saying they would investigate suspected illegal activity in the tiny UK territory.

Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo responded by saying Gibraltar was already clamping down on the illegal trade, and stressed it was willing to work with Spain to deal with the problem. 

In a statement, he quoted a UK government statement which stressed the presence of organized criminal gangs in Spain, which was "a huge concern for law-abiding citizens on both sides of the border".

Relations between London and Madrid became particularly strained last year after Gibraltar dropped 70 concrete blocks into the sea in July, in what its government said was an attempt to create an artificial reef.

The move had the effect of also blocking Spanish fishing boats from operating close to the airport runway, and Madrid responded by introducing stringent border checks.

Spain has repeatedly criticized Gibraltar for failing to clamp down on its imports, and many in Spain see the UK territory with 30,000 residents as a haven for smugglers and tax evaders.  

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TAX

The taxes in your region of Spain you probably didn’t know existed 

Madrid has just announced it wants to be the first region to scrap regional taxes, but what are these tariffs that apply to specific autonomous communities? And where in Spain do taxpayers pay the most?  

The taxes in your region of Spain you probably didn't know existed 
Which autonomous community in Spain has the most regional taxes? Photo: Javier Carro/Wikipedia

Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, with the exception of the Basque Country and Navarre, all have their own taxes which are applicable to people and companies in their territory. 

Known as impuestos propios (own taxes), these tariffs are applied by regional governments to address matters pertaining to their community which they’re looking to solve. 

On September 1st, Madrid’s regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso made headlines by announcing she intended to scrap the remaining impuestos propios in the region (tax on slot and arcade machines in bars and restaurants and a tax on the storage of waste), amounting to €3.4 million annually for Madrid taxpayers.

This only accounts for 0.02 percent of taxes paid by the region’s 6.6 million inhabitants, but Ayuso’s announcement had made people across Spain more aware of the existence of these little-known regional taxes in their part of Spain.

Madrid’s leader has argued that some regional taxes are now becoming redundant or obsolete as other tariffs are introduced by Spain’s central government on a national level.

madrid scraps regional taxes impuestos propios

Ayuso has said her government will refuse to adapt its tax system to decisions made by Spain’s central government, especially when it comes to its very low taxes on inheritance and assets. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

Spain’s 17 regions are responsible for applying their own autonomous taxes, which depending on what they are, can make life more or less expensive for the average person in Spain depending on their location. 

Regional governments are also responsible for setting tax levels on inheritance and assets, which can vary enormously between territories.

EXPLAINED: How choosing the right region in Spain can save you thousands in inheritance tax

So which region of Spain has the most regional taxes? And what are the impuestos propios that you have to pay in your part of the country?

Catalonia

Catalonia has the most regional taxes of all of Spain’s 17 regions, with 13 impuestos propios adding €137.3 million to public coffers in 2020. 

The latest to be added is the tax on C02 emissions for vehicles, along with other tariffs on large commercial establishments, empty homes, tax on tourism stays, sugary drinks, a tax on luxury goods and several other environmental levies relating to water, waste and emissions. 

Andalucia

Spain’s largest region has the second highest number of regional taxes in the country with eight impuestos, although some of these are currently not applied. 

Taxes on unused land, credit agency customers, single-use plastic bags and a number of other environmental taxes added €145 million in tax revenue to Andalusian authorities in 2020. 

Murcia 

Murcia has six regional taxes in place in 2021: three environmental ones, one on bingo prizes, another on economic activities and a water treatment tax, all of which accounted for €55.9 million in taxes in 2020.

Galicia 

The northwestern region has six autonomous taxes which added €80 million to public coffers last year, including a fee on derelict or abandoned homes and a number of environmental taxes relating to mining, pollution, wind energy and water treatment.

Asturias 

Galicia’s northern neighbour also has six regional tariffs which added €118 million paid to Asturias’s tax office in 2020. They include a tax on bingo prizes, water treatment, unused rural land, large shopping centres, economic activities as well as environmental levies. 

Economists in Asturias are calling for regional authorities to lower levies for inheritance and asset taxes as well as regional taxes, suggesting higher-than-average tariffs are dissuading investors.

Canary Islands 

The Atlantic archipelago has five individual taxes, three of which belong to the Canaries’ unique IGIC tax regime (no VAT): General Indirect Tax, AIEM consumer tax and registration tax. The other regional levies are on tobacco, waste spills and petrol-based products.

Aragón 

Aragón in northeast Spain has five regional taxes, all of them environmental. In 2020 Aragonese authorities collected around €100 million from taxes on water pollution, atmospheric damage, environmental impact of large shopping malls, electricity installation and transport as well as on the use of stored reservoir water.

Extremadura

The western region also has five regional taxes which added €115 million to public coffers last year. Active tariffs in Extremadura are on landfill processes, water treatment and hunting.

Valencia region 

The eastern region has four regional taxes in total: a tax on empty homes for those with more than ten properties, tax on waste processes, activities that have an impact on the environment and water treatment. 

The Valencia region’s tax head Vicent Soler has referred to Ayuso’s words as a “smokescreen” that accounts for an insignificant amount for Madrid taxpayers and that slashing regional taxes “will mean those who need it most get fewer services”. 

The Balearic Islands 

The Balearic Islands also have four regional taxes, of which only two are currently applied: the tax on tourist stays (€36.8 million collected in 2020), which is based on overnight holiday stays on the islands, and the wastewater treatment fee (€78 million collected in 2020).

La Rioja

Spain’s famed wine-producing region has four regional taxes, with which in 2020 it added €12 million to its public coffers. These are a tax on cell towers that have a negative visual impact,  water treatment, waste management and a levy on economic activities.

Cantabria

Cantabrian authorities collected €27 million in 2020 from their regional taxes on water treatment, waste deposit in landfills and a levy on economic activities. 

Castilla-La Mancha

In the central Spanish region there are regional taxes on wind energy and economic activities that have an environmental impact.

Castilla y León

Authorities in Castilla y León have said they don’t plan to follow in Madrid’s footsteps and eliminate its own current environmental taxes, which are mainly paid by electricity companies.

Castilla y León currently receives almost €63 million with its tax on the environmental impact caused by certain uses of stored reservoir water, a tax on wind farms and another on high voltage electric power transmission facilities, as well as a further €7.6 million from landfill waste management taxes.

You can read more about impuestos propios on Spain’s Hacienda website (information in Spanish). 

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