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TAX

More than half of tax address changes in Spain are fake: survey

Sixty-eight percent of Spanish tax advisors consider that an increasing number of people are ditching their Spanish tax residence for one overseas or for a different Spanish region in order to get more favourable tax conditions, a new report has found. 

tax address spain
Madrid has some of the most favourable tax conditions in all of Spain. Photo: Robert Tjalondo/Unsplash

These are the findings of a report by Spain’s Registry of Tax Advisors and Economists (Reaf), titled “The opinion of tax adviser economists on our tax system”. 

Fifty-five percent of the 900 Spanish tax advisors interviewed said that these changes of tax residence to another country or region were primarily only theoretical, so only on paper without physically moving.

Sixty-eight percent of Spanish tax advisors considered the number of fiscal address changes were on the up in Spain and 57 percent said the number of queries they had personally received relating to tax residence changes had also increased.

Anyone who spends more than 183 days in Spain during a calendar year is considered a Spanish tax resident (find out more here).

Just over 87 percent of respondents estimated that the differences in tax regulations between regions are the main cause for people changing their fiscal address, whether they actually do move or it’s just on paper.

Sixty-two percent of the tax advisors that spoke to Reaf also consider that the stark differences in the level of tax pressure between the regions cannot be maintained.

“When tax differences are established by the autonomous communities, one should not lose sight of the fact that they can motivate these changes of residence.” Reaf President Agustín Fernández said regarding the survey.

The most obvious example of these big tax differences between Spain’s 17 regions is inheritance tax, which can be very high in some regions such as Asturias and Castilla y León and almost non-existent in others such as Madrid.

EXPLAINED: How choosing the right region in Spain can save you thousands in inheritance tax

Up to 86.5 percent of the surveyed tax advisors also considered that Spain’s Tax Agency – Hacienda – hasn’t adapted to changes to trends involving business and taxpayers and 96.1 percent said that Spain’s State Tax Administration Agency (Aeat) prioritised tax collection over tax justice.

Overall, these Spanish tax professionals were critical of Spain’s tax system, believing it hasn’t improved or adapted enough over time. 

Almost half of them believe Spain’s tax management system has been tightened whereas only 27.8 percent believe tax inspections have improved. There’s also a division of opinions among the experts over whether tax matters should be handled by Spain’s central tax body or together with the regions as it is currently. 

What they all agree on is the lack of clarity of Spain’s tax rules, 95 percent of respondents state that the wording of official Spanish tax regulations is deficient.

“If there is a change of real address and you go to live in Madrid, perfect, what cannot happen is that you are registered in Madrid to have the most favourable taxation and then you are enjoying the sun of our region every day,” Valencian Tax Agency general director Sonia Díaz said in 2019 when this trend became more commonplace. 

It’s worth noting that with Personal Income Tax (IRPF), the region where you’ve stayed a greater number of days in a calendar year is considered your habitual residence, whilst when it comes to inheritance tax the last five years are considered.

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VISAS

Warning over ‘bot’ scammers targeting French admin appointments

If you have struggled to find an appointment with your local préfecture to arrange visas or residency permits you might have assumed that they were just busy - but you could be a victim of scammers who book up all online appointments using bots, and then charge people for a slot.

Warning over 'bot' scammers targeting French admin appointments
The scams are relatively unsophisticated but cause great stress. Photo: Nicolas Asfour/AFP

Since most préfectures moved to online appointment systems police have broken up several rings of professional scammers working in this way. 

But it seems that the problem is still ongoing, particularly in Paris and the surrounding suburbs, with official appointments scarce and a plethora of websites and Facebook pages offering ‘one click rendez-vous’ services for anything from €30 up to €400.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, 27, has been trying for almost a month to book an appointment at the Paris préfecture to pick up her completed visa.

She said: “It’s so frustrating, my visa application is complete, all I need is a slot for a five-minute appointment at the préfecture to show ID, pay the fee and collect the completed card, but I’ve been trying to book one since January 3rd and there are just no slots.

“I’m checking the website multiple times a day and still nothing.

“I friend told me that the préfecture puts up the new appointments for the week at one minute past midnight on Sunday, and they had got one my logging onto the website then, but I was all ready at the time, multiple browsers open and ready, but still couldn’t get one.”

The typical MO of the scammers is to use automated bots to immediately book all appointments that a préfecture posts. They then set up a website or Facebook page offering ‘easy rendez-vous’ appointments, alerts on available appointments or ‘one click RV services’ – users are then offered an available appointment in exchange for a fee.

Although some administrative procedures like visas or resident cards come with a fee, the appointment itself at the préfecture should be free.

Another American in Paris told us: “I used the new online service to renew my titre de séjour – it was brilliant, really simple and so much better than having to go down to the préfecture with a huge stack of documents every year – but now I can’t get an appointment to pick up the card, which should be the easy bit.”

READ ALSO 8 online services which make French bureaucracy easier

Another reader told us that it had taken them three weeks to get their appointment, but when they went on the appointed day staff were not busy and many appointment slots appeared to be vacant.

Local authorities periodically post warnings on their websites if scammers are operating in the area, while French media including Le Monde and Le Parisien have repeatedly flagged the problem. 

While the issue is annoying and stressful for many foreigners in France, for those in precarious situations such as refugees the problem is even more acute and can see them losing the right to legal status in France.

In areas like Seine-Saint-Denis, which has a large number of migrants living in the area, many people resort to turning up at the préfecture in the early hours of the morning, hoping to secure an appointment slot when offices open. 

Hannah added: “The whole situation is really stressing me out but I’m aware that I am in a privileged position – my visa is already sorted and I have a job where I can be constantly refreshing to préfecture website. Also I can take time off whenever I finally do get the appointment slot. Other people are not so fortunate and this must be terrible for them.”

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