Crying out for clarity

Lawyer Antonio Flores delves into the murky world of inheritance tax and how it affects expats

LAST UPDATED: 25 Jun, 2015 @ 11:17

Antonio Flores
Antonio Flores

SUCCESSIVE Spanish Governments are not celebrated for bringing clarity to the matter of inheritance taxes (IHT), whether on a domestic level –there are 17 different IHT tax regimes within the country- or internationally, in the very relevant cross-border investment context.   

Notably, Spain has only signed agreements to avoid IHT double taxation with Sweden (1963), France (1963) and Greece (1920), rather bizarrely. If you think about it, a country that is trying all sorts to lure foreign investment, yet fails to specifically address the IHT situation of an investor from Britain (the largest exporter of property buyers to Spain!), is a country with massive inefficiencies.

Spain signed its latest Double Taxation Agreement with the United Kingdom on March 14 2013, which entered into force in June 2014.

As far as Spain is concerned, the treat is meant to cover the following:

[…] income tax on individuals; (ii) the corporation tax; (iii) the income tax on non-residents; (iv) the capital tax; and (v) local taxes on income and on capital;

Yep, no trace of inheritance taxes, as if the thousands of British investors in Spanish property were immortal or this was a point of (tax) law that nobody ever asks or worries about. Paradoxical and incomprehensible.

Still, national laws in each country provide the solution:

In Spain, a rather unknown binding resolution of the Spanish Directorate for Taxes, with number V0148-08, applies the 1987 Spanish Tax Act to address the scenario of double taxation of a Spanish resident who inherits from a UK resident (where the estate is taxed). In this case, the resolution establishes that any taxes paid in the UK will be deducted off the taxes to be paid in Spain…if these assets are at all declared.

What if it was the other way round i.e. a UK domicile inheriting a Spanish property? In this instance, as Spanish taxes will be paid on local assets, according to the UK government website, HMRC gives credit against Inheritance Tax for the tax charged by another country on assets sited in that country. Interestingly, the web page cites an example of Spanish-based property and the ‘relevant double taxation convention’…when there isn’t one!

So while there is an understanding as to where and how IHT will be paid where Spanish/UK residents and/or assets are involved, surely it cannot be too difficult to sign up a treat on the matter for complete clarity, just as the wholly superfluous 1920 Double Taxation Agreement with Greece does.

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Lawyer Antonio Flores is the legal columnist for the Olive Press. Antonio has been practising law since 1997, year in which he began working for a large law firm in Marbella as a Property Lawyer. In 1998 he left the company he had joined a few months earlier, and used his knowledge and the experience gained to build his own practice. He is known throughout the community as independent, reputable and trustworthy. Through a combination of strong work ethics, determination and international exposure, his competence of Spanish Law is unparalleled and demonstrated through his fluency in English and Spanish.