Owning a property in southern Spain is a dream for many people - and it's easy to see why. The laidback lifestyle, fabulous scenery, golden beaches and perfect weather attract thousands of buyers each year. Life here is great, but of course there are less glamorous practicalities you'll need to consider, like organising your finances.
Luckily, almost everything in southern Spain is cheaper than the rest of northern Europe. And although they might take a bit of getting used to, Spain's financial regulations, services and procedures are no more complicated than at home.
Take a look at our quick guide, and then you can get back to thinking about more important things - like the beach!
If you're buying a property in Spain, it makes sense to set up a Spanish bank account. You can do this as a resident or non-resident and it's a very easy process. You'll find that all banks on the Costa del Sol have English-speakers on the team.
The two main types of banks in Spain are commercial banks for current accounts (called “bancos”) and savings banks (called “cajas”), which are like building societies in the UK and generally used for saving larger sums of money.
To open an account, you'll need your passport or residence card and an NIE number (your foreigners' identification number, which can be easily obtained from your nearest police station in Spain).
Buy a property in Spain and you will have to pay taxes in some form. What you have to pay depends on your circumstances, but here's a simple guide.
Income tax – “Impuesto sobre la renta de las personas físicas” (IRPF)
You'll have to pay tax on any income from Spanish sources, such as rental income from your property or wages from a summer job.
If you spend 183 days or more a year in Spain, you'll be classed as a resident for tax purposes. This means that you'll have to pay income tax in Spain on your total worldwide income.
Value added tax – “Impuesto sobre el valar añadido” (IVA)
Equivalent to UK VAT, but at slightly lower rates. It's included in the price of most goods in shops.
Wealth tax – “Impuesto sobre el patrimonio”
You'll only need to pay wealth tax on Spanish assets - usually your Spanish property.
You'll be taxed on the value of all your assets worldwide, though you'll have a tax-free allowance of around €150,000 for your main residence, plus €108,000 for other assets.
Inheritance and gift tax – “Impuesto sobre sucesiones y donacioness”
Payable worldwide. It's very important to take expert advice in order to take full advantage of all potential deductions.
Capital gains tax – “Impuesto sobre incremento de patrimonio de la venta de un bien inmueble”
The maximum capital gains tax for residents and non-residents is 18%.
IAE must be paid by businesses, sole traders and the self-employed, but only if the annual turnover is more than €1 million. The goverment changed the law in 2003 to encourage the growth of small and medium-size businesses.
Company or corporation tax – “Impuesto sobre sociedades”
Between 30% and 35% tax paid on profits by partnerships and registered companies.
Various other taxes may affect you, depending on your circumstances. Seek financial advice if you are unsure.
You can claim your UK pension from Spain. If you haven't yet reached retirement age, you should ask the Pension Service's Retirement Pension and Forecasting Advice Unit for a pension forecast, so that you know how much you'll be entitled to. You can contact them on 0845 300 0168 (inside the UK) or (0044) 191 225 4811 (outside the UK). There's extensive information on claiming your UK pension abroad on www.thepensionservice.gov.uk. Go to the International Pension Centre link and then choose Spain from the list of countries.
There's no problem having your UK pension paid to you in Spain - you just need to complete an E121 form, available from the Benefits Agency. In general, if you are a non-resident spending less than 183 days a year in Spain, then your pension will be taxed in the UK. If you are a resident, or a fiscal resident (i.e. spending more than 183 days a year in Spain) then you will be taxed in Spain.
The exception to this general rule is if you have a pension from the government service. In this case, your pension remains liable only for UK tax.
The UK state pension does not count as a government pension. It is tax-free in the UK but taxable in Spain if you are a resident or fiscal resident. It's paid to you in sterling but you can have it transferred in Euros to your bank account in Spain if you wish.
This can be complicated as the definition of an annuity is quite vague in Spain, so you'll definitely need advice. In general, you'll find that your annuity is taxed pretty favourably in Spain.
If you are employed or self-employed in Spain, your social security contributions go towards a state pension. As in the UK, this may not be enough to live on, so it's best to make other provisions.
With many things costing much less in southern Spain than in the UK, spending time here is good for your bank balance as well as for your state of mind.
Public transport, taxis and petrol are all cheaper than in the UK. Expect to pay around €0.81 a litre for unleaded petrol and €0.75 for diesel. Taxis cost around €0.87 per km.
Utilities, such as electricity and water rates, are generally lower than in the UK. The average cost of running a Spanish home is around €3,000 - €4,500, compared to €8,000 in Britain.*
You'll certainly notice the difference in your weekly food bill. In particular, fresh fruit and vegetables are fantastic value at the markets.
Prices vary from place to place, but expect to pay around €1 for a draught beer and €9 for a bottle of house wine. A meal out can cost anything from €7 each for three courses, including wine, to up to €150 each for a more extravagant meal.
Please note: As with everything to do with your money and property, you should always take independent advice before entering into any kind of agreement. The article(s) above are written based upon our understanding of the facts but do not constitute financial advice of any description.