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Q&A: How will Spain’s new social security system for the self-employed work?

The Spanish government announced new tax rates for the self-employed from 2023, but many "autónomos" are confused as to exactly how it will work in practice. Here's what you need to know to understand the new system better.

self employed in Spain
Spain's Minister of Social Security Jose Luis Escrivá. Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

From 2023 Spain’s autónomos will pay monthly social security fees based on “real earnings” in a similar way to how it works for income tax. The Spanish government revealed the new rates at the end of July 2022. 

The changes mean that rather than there being a fixed minimum contribution base of €294, self-employed workers will pay different monthly amounts based on how much they earn. It will go from €200 a month for lower earners to €590 a month for higher earners.

READ ALSO – CONFIRMED: Spain’s new tax rates for the self-employed from 2023 onwards

However, many of those who are self-employed are confused by the new rules and have many questions regarding exactly how much they’ll be paying from next year. 

Here are some of the most common questions asked and the answers, which are based on an interview with Social Security Minister José Luis Escrivá on radio station Cadena Ser. 

Q: When will the new system come into effect?

A: Autónomos will start paying the new social security quotas from January 1st 2023.

Q: How will I know what income bracket I will be put into?

A: At the beginning of the year, each autónomo will have to state their expected income level using a special tool called ‘importas’ or imports. This will help you calculate how much you might potentially earn during the year. You will be able to modify and change your income bracket six times per year, based on your real earnings. At the end of the year, you will find out what your final real earnings are and your fee will be adjusted accordingly.

READ ALSO: Will you pay more under Spain’s new social security rates for self-employed?

Q: Does that mean I will get my social security back if it turns out Ive paid too much?

A: Yes, essentially like the income tax, you will be paid part of your social security fee back again if it turns out you’ve paid too much. On the other hand, it also means that you will also have to pay more social security if you have paid too little.

Q: How will the new system work if I only work sporadically?

A: As mentioned above, you will be able to change your expected income every two months. This means those with seasonal work will end up paying less in social security fees than they do now, during the months when they get less work. When you begin to earn more, you can change your expected income level again and will be charged more.

Q: What will happen to the tarifa plana or flat rate scheme whereby new autónomos start out paying only €60 per month in social security fees?

A: The tarifa plana as it stands currently will end and those on it will not continue paying the same amount. Instead, new autónomos will pay a flat fee of €80 per month for the first year and will continue at this rate in year two, only if they earn below minimum wage. Low earners, those who earn less than €670 per month will see their rate reduced to €230 in 2023, €225 in 2024 and €200 in 2025.

Q: What will happen if I have to close my business for some reason, do I have to de-register completely?

A: The new law now states that if you are forced close your business partially or temporarily, such as in the case of the volcano eruption in La Palma, you now don’t have to deregister completely from the autónomo system. Those who have to partially close their business will be able to apply for financial help, even if they do not close completely.

Q: Why is there such a big difference between the social security rate in Spain and other European countries?

A: According to Escrivá, Spain is one of the countries with the highest level of protection for self-employed people in Europe. In other countries, you may pay less in social security fees, but will not get pensions, sick pay, maternity or paternity benefits, he explained. It also means you have aid benefits during a crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic or if you own a shop on a street that has to be closed for construction, for example.

Q: How will we know if the new changes will be successful or not?

A: These reforms essentially mean higher pensions for the self-employed, as well as higher and better benefits. When autónomos start benefitting from these, then we know that it is successful, said Escrivá. 

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SPAIN AND THE US

Spain and the US to exchange more language assistants in bilingualism push    

The governments of Spain and the United States have agreed to recruit more English and Spanish-language assistants from each other’s countries as a means of bolstering bilingual education in the two nations.

Spain and the US to exchange more language assistants in bilingualism push    

Spain’s Education Minister Pilar Alegría and US ambassador to Spain Julissa Reynoso met on Wednesday to sign a memorandum of understanding which will reinforce educational cooperation between the two countries. 

The agreement had been previously signed by Miguel Cardona, the United States Secretary of Education, who tweeted: “This week, alongside [Spanish] Ambassador [Santiago] Cabañas, I signed a memorandum supporting the study of Spanish language & culture in the US, and the study of English in Spain”.

It is in fact a renewal of a memorandum between the United States and Spain which has facilitated mobility of both conversation assistants and students between the two countries in recent years.

The aim of this newest memorandum of understanding is to further strengthen student and teacher exchange programmes and promote bilingual and multicultural teaching in both educational systems.

No exact details have yet been given about how many extra language assistants will be given grants to join the programme. 

Several teacher recruitment sources suggest the current number of North American language assistants (including Canadians) heading to Spain every year is between 2,000 and 2,500. 

The Spanish government has stated that in 2023, this figure will be around 4,500, which represents a considerable increase in the number of US and Canadian citizens who can apply through the NALCAP programme, which stands for North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain. 

According to Spain’s Foreign Ministry, the following requirements must be met by US candidates in order to participate in the programme:

  • Be a U.S. citizen and have a valid passport
  • Have earned a bachelor’s degree or be currently enrolled as a sophomore, junior or a senior in a bachelor’s programme. Applicants may also have an associate degree or be a community college student in their last semester.
  • Have a native-like level of English
  • Be in good physical and mental health
  • Have a clean background check
  • Be aged 18 – 60.
  • Have at least basic knowledge of Spanish (recommended)

NALCAP recipients receive a monthly stipend of €700 to €1,000 as well as Spanish medical insurance.

Application dates for 2023 are usually announced in late November. See more information on the NALPAC programme for US nationals here

According to The Fulbright Program, one of several US cultural exchange programmes that organises the recruitment of US nationals for Spain: “English Teaching Assistants assist teaching staff at the early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school, vocational and/or university level for up to 16 hours per week, with an additional two hours for planning & coordination meetings. Responsibilities include assistant-teaching, in English, subjects such as social studies, science and technology, art, physical education, and English language.”

READ MORE: The pros and cons of being an English language assistant in Spain

There are also currently more than 1,000 Spanish teachers working as visiting teachers in the United States, Spain’s Moncloa government has said, without adding yet how many more will be recruited in 2023.

Additionally, more than 1,000 North American students now take part in the Spanish Language and Culture Groups managed by the Spanish Education Ministry’s Overseas Education Action (or Acción Educativa Exterior, AEE).  

Canadian applicants can find out more about working as language assistants in Spain by visiting the NALCAP Canada website.

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