18 Feb, 2020 @ 13:48
4 mins read

EXPLAINED: Why British expats in Spain might need to complete Modelo 720 tax form before March 31 deadline

Modelo 720

By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt of Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers

ALL tax residents in Spain who hold over €50,000 in assets abroad need to complete this tax return before the end of the March 2020 deadline.

Over 5,000 taxpayers had already been (heavily) fined by 2018 on failing to disclose they held substantial assets abroad. We stress the fines for non-compliance are the steepest we’ve ever seen. In fact, so much so, they have been challenged at Brussels. The infamous modelo 720, despite being the object of heated controversy, remains very much an active tax obligation with which taxpayers must contend with. If you fall within its scope, I strongly advise you to comply or else face the risk of stiff fines.  

It should be stated this tax form is only for reporting purposes; you do NOT pay any tax on submitting it. Resident taxpayers already pay income tax on submitting their annual I.R.P.F. tax returns once a year.

Brexit and the new wave of British residents in Spain

Unless you have been living under a rock for the previous four years, you will know the UK vowed to leave the EU by the 31/01/2020. As a consequence, thousands of non-registered expats (who were effectively living in Spain under the radar, whether purposely or not) have now stepped forward into the limelight and rushed to apply for Spanish residency over the last year. 

Applying for Spanish residency is a self-admission that you are in fact tax resident in Spain; the residency procedure is monitored continuously by the Authorities to ensure you retain your resident status (i.e. so they can turn down renewals when the applicant no longer complies with the residency requirements). 

As scores of new residents will be entirely oblivious of their new tax obligations, i.e. submitting tax return 720, it has prompted me to write this short article to shed some light on the matter and act as a gentle reminder on their newly-acquired tax obligations with the taxman.

Raimundo Larrain Nesbit A
Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt

Who needs to declare?

All Spanish tax residents who own assets overseas on or over €50,000.

E.g. Mr. and Mrs. Smith live all year round in Mijas Costa, Spain. They own two houses in Berwickshire, England, have open bank accounts in the UK and receive UK-based pensions. 

Mr. and Mrs. Smith are in fact tax resident in Spain and they both need to submit tax form 720.

Again, and for the avoidance of doubt, if you are non-resident in Spain you do NOT need to submit this tax return; it is only for residents.

Who is considered tax resident in Spain?

The Spanish Tax Office applies – amongst many others – the following broad criteria:

• You spend more than 183 days within a calendar year in Spanish territory.

• Your centre of financial interests is located in Spain.

• Your spouse and/or underage children live in Spain.

Reporting categories

Modelo 720
MODELO 720: Raymundo advises people to comply with this infamous tax form

There are three reporting categories: bank accounts, investments and immovable property.

Obligation to report

You must report all assets in a particular category if the value of your total assets within it exceeds €50,000.

2020 tax submission period:

From January 1 until March 31 2020.

Can I file it after the submission period?

Yes, but hefty penalties apply. Ask us.

If you have already filed tax form 720 in the past 

You only need to file it again if:

• The value of an existing asset grew by more than €20,000, or

• You sold an asset, or

• You obtained a new asset.

Penalties for non-compliance

The disproportionate fines levied are (very) stiff.

• Failing to file 720 or filing it incorrectly: €5,000 per infraction.

• Minimum fine of €10,000 for each group of assets.

• Penalty of 150% on unpaid income tax.

The Common Reporting Standard and you

Please take good note that with the advent of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), signed by over 100 countries to combat tax evasion, as from the 1st of January 2018, the Spanish Tax Office is being spoon-fed fiscal information by your home tax office.

For example, both HM Revenue & Customs and Ireland’s Revenue Commissioners are busy supplying the Spanish Tax Office with detailed information (and vice versa) on all your overseas assets and reported income derived abroad as from the 1st of January 2018.

In plain English, your home country’s tax office will likely have already informed the Spanish Tax Office of the assets you hold abroad. It is in your best interests to be pro-active and come clean before you are served with a legal notice imposing humongous fines on you; as it’s happened already to over 6,000 unsuspecting taxpayers. The tax office likes waiting till the last moment before imposing fines to rake in as much interests as is legally admissible before the statute of limitations kicks in. Fines on non-compliance start at five figures and often are six-figures, or higher.

The last word

We strongly advise you to submit tax form 720 if you are (tax) resident in Spain to avoid steep penalties. If you plan to submit it, please contact us well ahead of the submission deadline (31st of March 2020) as it takes days to prepare and process. If you are unsure if you qualify for it, just give us a buzz and one of our friendly staff will answer your queries to allay your fears.

Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers offers the following competitively-priced taxation service: 

Tax form 720

Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers, small on fees, big on service.

Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers is a law firm specialized in taxation, conveyancing, inheritance, and litigation. We will be very pleased to discuss your matter with you. You can contact us by e-mail at [email protected], by telephone on (+34) 951 894 675 or by completing our contact form to book an appointment.

Related tax articles:

Tax form 720 – 20th April 2018

Tax form 720 – 21st March 2019

Spanish Tax Office to fine 5,000 taxpayers over tax form 720 – 1st September 2019

Please note the information provided in this article is of general interest only and is not to be construed or intended as substitute for professional legal advice. This article may be posted freely in websites or other social media so long as the author is duly credited. Plagiarizing, whether in whole or in part, this article without crediting the author may result in criminal prosecution. Voluntas omnia vincit.

2.018, 2.019 and 2.020 © Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt. All Rights Reserved

Staff Reporter

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