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How wealthy people in Spain are avoiding the millionaire tax

The Local Spain
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How wealthy people in Spain are avoiding the millionaire tax
Donations are one way millionaires are using to get round the millionaire tax. Photo: Mike Swigunski/Unsplash

It may come as no surprise that the Spanish government has collected far less money than expected from the millionaire tax, as wealthy people have found several ways to avoid paying it.


Spain's temporary tax on the super rich (impuesto de solidaridad a las grandes fortunas) is usually referred to as the millionaire's tax or solidarity tax. It's a tax on people worth more than €3 million and it's not a tax on income, but rather on assets and holdings.

It was introduced by the country's left-wing coalition in an attempt to help Spaniards weather the economic storm of the cost-of-living crisis. But as of September 2023, around a year after the tax measure was first brought in, the Spanish government reported that it had raised €623 million in revenue, a decent amount but considerably less than the initial projection of €1.5 billion. We now may know why that is.

According to tax data, the millionaire's tax targeted just 12,010 payers, which represents barely 0.1 percent of the total taxpayer base in Spain.

On average these high-worth individuals each paid €52,000, which is complementary to the Wealth Tax (impuesto patrimonio).

However, though it was supposed to be a temporary tax measure, there's now some uncertainty about exactly how temporary it is going to be in the long-run. The government has been making non-comital noises as of late, and amid the uncertainty many wealthy Spaniards have begun trying to find ways around paying it and trying to reduce their wealth tax bill overall.

READ ALSO: When will Spain's millionaire tax be scrapped?


A lot of it comes down to 'donations' in order to make the money non-taxable or to reduce the taxable base on paper.

Spanish tax consultancy firms consulted by report an increase in requests for help arranging 'donations' from parents to children or spouses in recent years, as well as the arranging inheritance agreements in the regions that allow deductions to offset the tax burden of the millionaire's tax.


Donations are sometimes done through money and shares, but donating properties also seems to be a way of avoiding extra taxes, although property donations can work out more expensive due to the procedures to be followed and the taxes to be paid on property transactions in Spain.

The aim is to avoid paying the millionaire's tax by splitting up the fortune, essentially because donations between family members is a way to reduce the level of wealth (on paper) and thus keep it below €3 million, the taxable base from which the millionaire's tax is levied.

This trick is even more beneficial in regions where donations are subsidised, such as Madrid and the Balearic Islands, where inheritance agreements can be made, because any capital gain generated by the donation is not taxed.

READ ALSO: Inheritance tax in Spain - Should you pass your property on to your children or sell it to them?


Venture capital firms

Another method increasingly used by the wealthy seems to be setting up and putting money in venture capital or private equity firms.

According to Spain's National Securities Market Commission, the creation of venture capital firms has grown by 38 percent since the government first announced the millionaire's tax.

Siro Barro, partner in charge of tax law at Escalona de Fuentes, told El Economista that setting up venture capital firms are appealing because 60 percent of the investment made by creating a fund or equity can be exempt from both forms of tax in certain circumstances.

Tax experts expect the trend of creating and investing by the wealthiest taxpayers into private equity entities to continue to rise as long as the solidarity tax continues to exist, as with the donations loophole.

With the government yet to outline when this supposedly temporary tax will be scrapped (if at all), it seems these sorts of tricks, whether through donation or venture capital investment, are here to say.


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