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TAX

Reader question: Which items are exempt from duty for Britons moving belongings to Spain?

Brexit has ushered in a host of extra rules and restrictions on imports to Spain from the UK, but what is the rule for people bringing household items - either if you're moving to Spain or just want to bring a few belongings to your second home in Spain?

Reader question: Which items are exempt from duty for Britons moving belongings to Spain?
Photo: Loic VENANCE/AFP

Moving house within the EU is pretty simple – load up a van with stuff and cross freely across borders until you reach your destination.

But since the UK left the EU, bringing any goods from the UK to Spain has become a lot more complicated.

So what’s the deal if you want to move and bring all your possessions over, or you just want to shift some furniture or household items to a second home in Spain?

Well, there are quite a few things to consider.

The following information is taken from Spain’s Agencia Tributaria tax agency, Spanish foreign ministry sources and European law portal EUR-lex. In some cases the information provided by them differs slightly so it may be useful to use a forwarding agent or customs clearance agent in Spain.

Remember as well that the Canary Islands have a different tax regime called IGIC. This article will focus on the duty tax applicable under the IGIC tax laws that apply to the rest of Spain.

Personal belongings

This includes all manner of personal property that people are transferring from their normal residence in a non-European country – in this case the UK – to a European country, Spain.

However, Britons are only exempt from these charges if they have been living legally as a resident in Spain for no more than 12 months. After that, Britons bringing in personal goods to their homes in Spain could well be taxed on them. 

New British residents in Spain will therefore have a year to bring over without paying duty their furniture, electronics, kitchen appliances and other personal goods, some of which fall under the categories listed below.

According to the latest information published by Spain’s tax agency in March 2021, these belongings should have been owned/used for at least six months before they can be taken to Spain duty-free.

The items can’t be rented, loaned or lent and certain personal belongings may still have to be accredited if Spanish customs requires it.

It is possible for Britons to move their belongings over to Spain before they’ve obtained residency, as long as they commit to staying in Spain for the following six months and that they show proof of the residency process or their registration at a town hall in Spain (padrón). 

It is also necessary for them to have lived consecutively for 12 months in a non-EU country for them to be exempt from duty when importing their belongings to Spain.

Photo: JOSEP LAGO/AFP

The following belongings fall under Spain’s 12-month VAT exemption rule:

*Pets: Find out more about the rules for travelling with pets between Spain and the UK here.

Imported goods after marriage: goods imported to Spain after a couple gets married, provided that the person concerned has resided outside the EU for at least 12 consecutive months and can prove that they have been married.

Inherited goods: Personal belongings inherited by people residing in Spain and the EU

Study or work goods: equipment needed to carry out a trade, study material and other furniture for students who come to study in the EU. 

Vehicles: bikes, motorcycles, cars and other vehicles such as boats and their add-ons that are meant for private use. “The time given for the exemption of VAT on vehicles is 12 months,” writes Spain’s tax agency, suggesting that even those who have been resident in Spain for more than a year may still import their vehicle duty free until the end of the 2021, marking 12 months since the UK left the EU. Find out more about importing a vehicle here. The key step-by-step guide for importing a car into Spain

When do Britons moving belongings to Spain need to pay duty?

As explained above, if the UK national has resided in Spain for over a year, they may have to pay duty on personal belongings such as furniture or appliances. 

In this case, the item’s value may be the determining factor and it cannot be of a commercial nature. 

Then there are the limits on consumables such as alcohol and tobacco Britons were no doubt familiar with already, but new rules apply to them as non-EU citizens.  

According to Spain’s leading airport operator AENA, “some goods and products are subject to specific regulations (total value, quantity, etc.) when entering or leaving Spain on flights with third countries, Ceuta, Melilla and the Canary Islands”.

Tobacco

In principle, there is no limit to the amount of tobacco that you can transport to Spain, as long as it is for personal use. However, if the tobacco exceeds the following amounts, you must declare it at customs upon arrival and pay import duties, VAT and excise duties, or the authorities may confiscate them:

Cigarettes: 200.

Cigarillos: 100 ( with a maximum weight of 3 g./unit).

Cigars: 50.

Rolling tobacco: 250 g.

Alcohol 

Similarly, if you transport alcoholic beverages from Spain to the UK above the following amounts, you will have to declare it at Spanish customs and pay import duties or the authorities may confiscate them.

Alcohol and alcoholic beverages higher than 22 percent vol: 1 litre limit

Alcohol and alcoholic beverages lower than 22 percent vol: 2 litres limit.

Wine: 4 litres.

Beer: 16 litres

Any combination of the above can be brought in by Britons arriving in Spain as long as their individual limits aren’t surpassed.

Banned items

Products such as meat and meat-based foods, dairy produce, vegetables, plants, seeds and certain medications may not be subject to duty but that’s because they are now banned for Britons entering Spain as non-EU citizens. Find out more here

You can find out more about the requirements and the paperwork here – How Britons can import belongings into Spain duty-free post-Brexit

READ ALSO:

Member comments

  1. How about vice versa, what’s the situation with moving personal possessions back to the UK from Spain ?

  2. What about after 12 months? What are the tax costs? What if I have lived for more than 12 months and then inherit things?

  3. We have a holiday home in Spain. We’ve recently purchased a small chain saw in the uk to take over with us in the suitcase. We paid £150. Do we have to
    Declare the item? Do suitcases get checked for goods? How much duty would we have to pay?

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For members

WORKING IN SPAIN

NEW LAWS: How it’s now easier for foreigners to work in Spain

Spain has amended its immigration laws to make it easier for non-EU citizens (UK nationals, Americans etc) to work in the country in a bid to address some of its most pressing labour shortages. Here are the changes, the reasons why they’re being introduced and more.

NEW LAWS: How it's now easier for foreigners to work in Spain

What are the new changes in a nutshell?

The Spanish government has amended its laws relating to the rights and freedoms of non-EU foreigners in the country, as a means of resolving the bureaucratic obstacles which often prevent Spain from using its migrant population to cover labour shortages.

There are three main changes: 

  • Undocumented third-country nationals who have lived in Spain for two years or more can seek temporary residency papers.
  • Non-EU students will be able to work up to 30 hours a week while studying, and to start work in Spain at the end of their studies.
  • Non-EU nationals will be able to obtain a work visa to come to Spain more easily and take up jobs in areas facing labour shortages i.e. tourism, construction, agriculture.

Why is the Spanish government introducing these changes?

Spain may have the highest unemployment rate in the EU (around 13 percent, just under 3 million people) but it is also struggling to cover thousands of job positions.

This paradoxical situation is down to a combination of factors, not least the low wages and unstable working conditions that are pervasive in Spain’s labour market. 

READ MORE: 

Couple that with an inflexible bureaucratic system which is counterproductive to Spain’s economy and labour market and you have a situation where Spaniards would rather pass on exploitative jobs and stay at home, and foreigners who are eager to work regardless of the poor conditions/pay cannot because the law won’t allow them to.

If we take a closer look at the three main changes listed above:

Undocumented migrants in Spain, those who arrive in the country without first applying for a residency or work permit, have up to now found themselves trapped in a situation where for years they can’t apply for jobs with social security and other workers’ rights, leaving them with little option but to work in the black. 

Third-country higher education students in Spain who completed a degree, Masters or Phd up to now didn’t have their residency in Spain guaranteed after completing their studies, having to instead apply for residency and renew their permit regularly, contributing to a brain drain of talent that Spain trained and then didn’t harness. Those on student visas could also only work a maximum of 20 hours a week previously.

And as for non-EU people applying for a work visa in Spain, up to now the only way for third-country nationals to be hired from overseas for a contract job was if employers could not find an EU candidate for the position or if the job was on Spain’s shortage occupation list, which is made up almost entirely by jobs in the maritime and shipping industry. In reality, there are many industries that are central to Spain’s economy that are struggling to find workers.

The Spanish government has finally realised how these inflexible laws are proving extremely damaging to its economy at a time when employers are struggling to find tens of thousands of workers for the tourism, construction and agriculture industries. 

According to Spain’s Social Security Minister José Luis Escrivá, the measures will “improve the Spanish migratory model and its procedures, which are often slow and unsuitable”, admitting that they have “high social and economic costs for Spain”.

When will these new laws come into force?

Although the new laws were published in Spain’s state bulletin (BOE) on Wednesday July 27th, the legislation is set to come into force on August 15th 2022.  

Is there anything else I should know?

When it comes to Spanish politics, what Spain says it will do and then actually does are often two very different things. 

Take for example the alleged streamlining of degree validation for highly-skilled professionals such as non-EU doctors, dentists, engineers and other regulated professions, known in Spain as homologación

People in Spain with non-EU qualifications are currently having to wait two, three, four or even more years for Spain’s bureaucratic labyrinth to get round to validating their qualifications, even though the legal deadline is just six months and there are huge shortages in their expert fields. 

New decrees have promised to address the hold-ups but in reality nothing has changed. A lawyer specialising in helping foreigners with the homologación process told The Local that “unless Spain allocates more budget to employ more competent civil servants to address the problem, nothing will change”. 

However, the latest law change is overall good news for all non-EU foreigners who wish to move to Spain for work in the hospitality and tourism sector, construction or agriculture, including UK nationals, Americans, Australians, South Africans and any other third-country nationals.

The process for applying for a work permit should be considerably easier, but they should not forget that Spain is a country with wages that are lower than other countries in Western Europe and that it doesn’t have a good reputation in terms of work conditions. 

Therefore, their reasons for moving to Spain shouldn’t just be for a job, as this is a country which excels in many other fields (quality of life, weather, culture, people, nature) but generally not work.

READ MORE: The downsides of moving to Spain for work

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