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What does a ‘gestor’ do in Spain and why you’ll need one

The role of the gestor in Spain is difficult to pin down as there isn’t the same ‘jack of all trades’ figure for official matters in other countries. We speak to an English-speaking gestor about how they can make life easier for foreigners in Spain and what they cannot do.

What does a 'gestor' do in Spain and why you'll need one
Photo: Amy Hirschi/Unsplash

Look up the word “gestor” in the dictionary and you’re likely to get several meanings: consultant, administrator, adviser, accountant. 

They are in effect all of these, a first port of call in Spain for the endless bureaucratic processes that come with anything official here; intermediaries between you and the often-complicated government departments.

Gestores work in gestorías, which are licensed administrative offices dealing with all this state-related paperwork.

“Spain is a very bureaucratic country but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it makes some processes a lot more secure,” Isa Febrero, Managing Director of English-speaking Gestoría Estepona told The Local.

“If you sell a car in the UK for example, all you need is a log book which in some circumstances can leave sellers or buyers without protection, whereas in Spain you need to have a number of documents processed before the transaction is considered legally complete.”

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Some will argue against and others in favour of the convolutedness of Spanish bureaucracy, but the truth is that foreigners living in Spain – especially those who don’t have a firm grasp of Spanish and who don’t know ‘the system’ – will need the services of a gestor at some point.

“Right now we have more work than ever because many of Spain’s public administrations remain closed to the public due to Covid restrictions and we have a more direct line of contact with these institutions,” Febrero explains about the situation in September 2020.

Gestores seem to be able to get appointments for processes like driving licences, NIE and TIE etc when there are none made available to the general public.

“In fact, we’re taking on a lot of the work from these public administrations as they’re not fully operational”.

What can gestores do?

Residency

This is perhaps the most important matter a gestor/a can help foreigners in Spain with.

They are familiar with the required documents for residency applications for EU and non-EU citizens, they often know foreign office staff in person and can sometimes go with or for you to present the application.

“At the moment most of the foreigners contacting us about residency matters are UK citizens applying for the new TIE residency card,” Febrero says.

“For Brits applying for the TIE now, we collect all the documents required by extranjería (foreigners’ office) and present them ourselves, so our clients only have to go in person for the “toma de huellas” (fingerprint taking).

“Overall, the process is a lot more hassle-free for them and we check all their documents before their presentation to ensure that everything is in order.”

Fiscal matters

If you’ve got a contract as a salaried employee your company will handle most if not all your paperwork but self-employed workers (autónomos), whether novice or seasoned, often struggle to keep up with every single element of their fiscal obligations.

“We handle nóminas (payroll), contracts, dismissals, quarterly tax declarations for self-employed people, setting up as limited company or as a sole trader or investor, and many other fiscal matters that foreigners don’t necessarily fully comprehend because they don’t have them in their countries,” Febrero says.

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“With our British clients we’ve found that the vast majority are unaware of the requirement to declare international assets if they become Spanish residents.

“We generally recommend that you get a gestor who is based in your area as there are many fiscal matters where they might have to argue their client’s case in person.

“Gestores will have had previous contact with local tax authorities and know how to handle recurring issues.”


A branch of Spain’s Tax Agency, the “Agencia Tributaria”. Photo: Wikipedia

Health

New arrivals to Spain might find it hard to understand what the requirements are for free public healthcare and how to get the health card for their region. Gestores can help you with the entire process.

“We handle the process of validating UK pensioners’ S1 scheme at Spain’s social security so they don’t have to.”

Other taxes and processes

Whether it’s inheritance or gift tax, capital gains, transfer tax or stamp duty, property taxes such as IBI (land value tax), vehicle tax, ownership transfer or vehicle imports, gestores can handle the processing of pretty much any tax there is to pay in Spain, and there are plenty.

“We also help process divorce and marriage documents, exchanging driving licenses from UK to Spanish ones, we help our clients draft wills, there aren’t many administrative state processes we don’t do,” Febrero adds.

If you are planning on using the services of a gestor on a monthly basis, find out from them if this will only include handling fiscal matters or if the fee can include some other procedures.

What can’t gestores do?

Gestores certainly fulfil a lot of roles which in other countries would be the responsibility of civil servants or workers themselves, but they can’t do everything.

“We cannot give certifications or attestations – known in Spain as “fé pública”,” Febrero explains.

In this case the responsibility of legally approving official documents such as power of attorney or title deeds falls to a notary (notario) in Spain.

“A gestor cannot legally represent someone in court either”.

An abogado (lawyer) would handle the legal representation of clients for everything from property law, disputes and litigation, divorce and custody and other legal affairs.

In Spain there’s also the “procurador”, a court agent or representative ad litem, a legal expert who works with the lawyer on the preparation of documents to be presented in court.

For tax matters, Spain also has “asesores fiscales” whose services largely overlap with those of gestores when it comes to fiscal affairs, but the former are mainly professional accountants who specifically deal with Spain’s Tax Office (Hacienda).

Will you need a gestor in Spain?

At some point it’s highly likely that’ll you’ll need a gestor to help you out with an official process in Spain.

It’s their job to know all the intricacies of the state system, so if you want to make sure you haven’t filled in something wrong or that there isn’t any misunderstanding that holds back processing, paying a gestor to do it will give you peace of mind and you may well save time.

The fact that gestores seem to be able to get appointments and contact governments departments when they’re unresponsive or their online systems are not working properly is also a huge perk. 

Febrero, who has many British clients at her gestoría in Estepona, a town on Spain’s Costa del Sol near Málaga, has a concluding message for Britons who are thinking of becoming residents in Spain: “I’d recommend that they check their rights and obligations in Spain before deciding whether to become residents”.

According to Spanish website Cronoshare, a website where users can compare service provision rates for anything from plumbers to lawyers in their area, average monthly gestor rates in Spain range from €25 to €75.

There are English-speaking gestores in most provinces with a large foreign population. As with most matters in Spain, it’s always good to get a recommendation or reference from someone before choosing a gestor. 
 

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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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