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How does Spain know if I’m a tax resident?

Taxation in Spain can be quite a tricky subject and many people are often confused as to whether they are liable to pay tax here or not. How does Spain actually know if you’re a tax resident and how can you prove one way or another?

How does Spain know if I'm a tax resident?
How does Spain know if I'm a tax resident? Photo: sarahbernier3140 / Pixabay

Sometimes taxation is not very straightforward. You may work in one country but live in another, or you may live in a different country to your family. In these cases, how does Spain know if you’re a tax resident or not?

According to the law 35/2006, the Spanish Tax Agency considers anyone to be a tax resident if they:

  • They live in Spain for 183 days or more a year
  • Their main economic interests are located in Spain
  • Their spouse and children live in Spain

Living in Spain for more than 183 days

You may own a property in Spain, but actually only live in it for part of the year. If the amount of time you live in the property is less than 183 days in one year, then it’s likely that Spain won’t consider you to be a tax resident, provided you don’t meet one of the other two criteria above.

Similarly, you may only be basing yourself temporarily in Spain to learn Spanish or to enjoy the weather. In these scenarios, as long as you’re not in the country for 183 days or more, you probably won’t be classed as a tax resident.

Remember that if you’re not an EU citizen, you can only legally stay in Spain for 90 days out of every 180 days, so it’s unlikely that you will meet the 183-day rule.

Keep in mind that these days don’t have to be consecutive. It could be any of the 183 days or more from January to December in a given year. Be aware, that short weekend trips away do not count as days not spent living in Spain.

There are various ways the Spanish authorities can find out how long you’ve been in the country. The first is obviously at immigration when you enter and leave the country. If you’re from a non-EU country your passport will be stamped upon both entry and exit, showing how much time you’ve spent here.

If you enter Spain via other means, such as by road, it’s not so easy for the authorities to know how long you’ve been in the country as checks are not always carried out at the borders.

However, there are other ways the authorities can tell if you’re in the country and how long you’ve been here. For example, when you stay in a hotel or an Airbnb, your passport details will be registered. If you try to rent a property, again your details will be registered.

In fact in Spain your details will be registered when you try to do many everyday life tasks such here as signing up for internet, buying new furniture or receiving packages bought online.

Some people may claim to be a non-tax resident, but try and live in their second home for longer than 183 days. In this case, the tax authorities may turn to the energy companies and look at your bills to see when the property has been in use.

Yes, you can obviously rent your property out and the bills will show the property has been lived in, but in this case, you will be expected to pay tax on the rental income, whether you’re a resident or a non-resident.

Your main economic interests are located in Spain

What does it mean if your main economic interests are in Spain? For example, if all your assets are located in Spain such as real estate, your main bank account and other investments, you may be considered to be a tax resident.

If you work in different locations around the world, but the headquarters of your business are based in Spain or your employer is in Spain, then it’s likely that you would also be liable to pay tax here. Even if you don’t live in Spain for more than 183 days a year in this case, you could also be considered to be a tax resident.

This is relatively easy for the authorities to find out where your place of work and main assets are located. 

Your spouse and children live in Spain

Even if you don’t live in Spain for more than 183 days a year, but you are not divorced or separated from your spouse and they live in Spain, along with your children, then the Spanish authorities may also consider you to be a tax resident. This will most likely be the case if they depend on you financially.  

For example, you could work abroad in another country, but your husband/wife and kids live in Spain – they’re registered here and your kids go to school here and they depend on your paycheck for household bills. In this case, when finding out if you’re a tax resident or not, the tax authorities may ask questions about your family and you may have to provide documents proving where they live. 

How do I prove I am not a tax resident in Spain?

If you don’t think that any of the above situations apply to you, but are still worried about being considered a tax resident in Spain, then the best way to prove that you’re not is to get a tax residency certificate from your home country stating that you reside and pay tax there. This way, you cannot be taxed in both countries, if they have a double taxation agreement.

Be aware, this certificate only lasts for one year, so you will need to get a new one the following year if the same situation still applies. 

If you do live in Spain for more than 183 days, however, it’s very unlikely that you will be able to get this certificate from your home country. 

  • Keep in mind that we at The Local Spain are not tax experts, we have learned the hard way by asking professionals, reading the laws and getting on the phone to speak to the experts. If your situation is not straightforward then we recommend contacting a lawyer to help you figure out your particular situation. 

Member comments

  1. I was just wondering about this:
    We do home exchanges meaning we have no rental income whatsoever but people come to our home for points and we can also go to theirs or use the pints we collect elsewhere in the world.
    Have you ever done a topic on this situation? It may be interesting as more and more people are becoming interested in this way of travelling.

  2. Thank you for a helpful article.

    Another aspect to this is the fact that Spain considers a foreign residents’ worldwide income as taxable. This becomes a significant issue for retirees, who sustain themselves on pension income (often tax deferred saving/investment plans) from ‘back home’. The policy results in double taxation, even if pension withdrawals are not brought into the country! It’s hardly fair. Spanish tax policy is forcing me leave. I don’t understand how other retirees manage.

    Not sure if this is worthy of a follow up article given your readership, but for folks in this category it’s a make or break issue and needs to be taken into account before major commitments are made.

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Spain to tax the rich to offset inflation relief measures

Spain's left-wing government has said that from 2023 it will slap a temporary tax on the wealthiest 1 percent of the population to help pay for inflation relief measures.

Spain to tax the rich to offset inflation relief measures

Tax Minister María Jesús Montero told La Sexta television channel it is important that “we can finance the aid” put in place to support “the middle class and workers”.

To this end, the government will impose an “exceptional” tax on Spain’s “big fortunes”, she said.

The tax will last for two years and affect “no more than one percent” of the population, Montero said.

“When we talk about rich people, we are talking about millionaires,” she added.

The minister did not provide details on what the tax rate would be or how much it would raise.

The announcement comes just days after Andalusia’s regional government decided to scrap its wealth tax for residents and non-resident homeowners with worldwide assets above €700,000, in a bid to attract higher earners to the southern region.

This has sparked a debate in Spain over whether it is fair for some regions (those governed by the right-wing Popular Party to be exact) to offer better tax conditions than others and then ask for an equal or bigger slice of the pie from the national state budget. 

Montero has accused regions such as Madrid, which has long been the region with the lowest taxes in Spain, of carrying out unfair fiscal competition, what’s referred to in Spain as ‘tax dumping’.

READ MORE: Why you should move to Madrid if you want to pay less tax

Spain’s leftist government in July introduced a draft bill to create a temporary tax on banks and power utilities to fund measures to ease cost-of-living pressures.

Spain is battling a surge in inflation as a result of the fallout from the war in Ukraine and the reopening of the economy after pandemic-related lockdowns.

The annual inflation rate hit 10.4 percent in August. It has remained in double digits since June, a level not seen since the mid-1980s.

The Spanish government has introduced a raft of measures to help people cope with soaring prices, such as free public transport, stipends for students to stay in school and subsidised petrol.

It says the measures amount to €30 billion  ($30 billion), or 2.3 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product.