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REVEALED: Spain’s proposed new tax rates for the self-employed from 2023 onwards

The Spanish government on Thursday proposed yet more changes to self-employed workers' tax contributions, with the new measures suggested for 2023 beneficial for low earners but bad news for higher earners. How much will 'autónomos' of all income brackets pay if the new laws are approved?

Spain's  Minister of Social Security Jose Luis Escriva has proposed changes that will be beneficial in particular for low-earning autónomos. Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)
Spain's Minister of Social Security José Luis Escrivá has proposed changes that will be beneficial in particular for low-earning autónomos. Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

The self-employed in Spain – known as autónomos – have long felt they are burdened with unfair tax and social security contributions.

Throughout the last year the government has met with unions to try and level the playing field for low earners and increase flexibility in the system.

READ MORE: Self-employed in Spain – the key changes to expect in 2022

Major self-employed unions met again in January 2022 with Spain’s Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration to resume talks over changes to the system for the self-employed, and this most recent round of talks may present a step in the right direction for many. 

The Spanish government on Thursday revealed these plans for reforms to self-employed tax contributions based on income.

What are the proposed changes?

Social Security Minister José Luis Escrivá has suggested a system consisting of 13 different tax contribution brackets based on earnings, from those who earn less than €600 a month to those who make more than €4,050 a month.

The new model would introduce a minimum monthly contribution of 184 for low-earning autónomos and up to 1,267 for the top earners.

This would be done gradually over a period of eight years, so from 2023 to 2031 minimum earners would see their monthly tax contributions drop year after year, whereas high earners would seem them rise year on year.

The following table we’ve compiled using data by Spain’s Social Security Ministry shows the proposed tax contribution brackets for autónomos based on their monthly income over the next years. In yellow are the ones who would pay less, in turquoise the ones who would pay the same and in pink those who would pay more. 

chart proposed self employed tax contributions in Spain from 2023

Table: The Local, Source: Spain’s Social Security Ministry

The proposed changes also include a reduced flat rate of 70 for the first two years, and have been welcomed by many as the self-employed try to navigate the post-pandemic economy.

Half of Spain’s three million autónomos believe that they won’t recover to pre-pandemic financial levels until at least 2023, according to a poll from Spain’s National Federation of Self-Employed Workers’ Associations (ATA).

Who would these changes benefit?

According to government claims, the proposed changes would mean increased savings for two out of every three self-employed in Spain.

The plan, still in the negotiation phase and dependent on self-employed unions, would be applied over nine years starting from 2023, with measures to review the situation and contributions every three years. 

According to forecasts from the Ministry, the new system would generate savings of €1,300 per year for autónomos earning less than €600 a month; while for those who earn between €600 and €900 – a large proportion of Spain’s three million self-employed – the savings made under the new system could also be over €1,000.

However, for the higher earners being taxed on real earnings could result in considerably higher taxes over the next decade.

The contributions systems for autónomos in Spain has long been decried as unfair as it forced low earning self-employed workers to make contributions similar to higher earners with multiple income streams.

The reduced flat rate, and the improved flexibility of Escrivá’s new proposals, in particular, are aimed to level the playing field: the new system would allow each worker to increase or decrease their contributions throughout the year – up to six times – based on the ebb and flow of their income, something often unpredictable for the self-employed.

Does everbody agree with the proposals?

Although seen to be a step in the right direction, the proposals haven’t escaped criticism from some autónomo groups in Spain, however. Self-employed groups broadly welcome the return to dialogue and some view the proposal positively, but flaws have been noted in the proposed system. 

One criticism levelled at the Ministry’s proposals has been the speed with which the changes would be phased in. The Union of Associations of Self-Employed Workers and Entrepreneurs (UATAE) has stated that the self-employed “cannot wait nine years for the situation of the current regime to be modified until they are able to pay a fair quota.”

President of the  Union of Professionals and Self-Employed Workers (UPTA), Eduardo Abad, has suggested that negotiations so far are encouraging: “The objective for our organization, without a doubt, has been achieved, which is for this new system to return tax justice to a system such as the Social Security contribution.”

However, President of the National Federation of Associations of Self-Employed Workers (ATA), Lorenzo Amor, panned the government proposals and suggested that “they have no idea what it means to be self-employed.”

The latest round of negotiations between self-employed groups and government is set to continue from Monday. 

READ ALSO: Self-employed in Spain – What you should know about being ‘autónomo’

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FOOD & DRINK

Spain’s bars are placing time limits on customers (but is it legal?)

An increasing number of bars and restaurants in Spain are timing how long customers can stay before asking them to leave, for many the antithesis of 'the Spanish way'. But are business owners within their rights to do so?

Spain's bars are placing time limits on customers (but is it legal?)

Spain may be the land of sobremesas – the concept of dragging out post-meal get-togethers as the conversation between friends and family members flows – but an increasing number of café, bar and restaurant owners are now looking to put a stop to this in their premises. 

As Spain emerged from its Covid-19 lockdown and endured two years of domestic restrictions, many people within the hospitality sector looked for ways to recoup their losses. 

First, there were the ‘coronavirus service charges’ added to people’s bills (which consumer watchdog FACUA dubbed illegal), then a general rise in prices that’s recently been exacerbated by spiralling inflation, and to an increasing extent now, putting time limits on how long customers can stay, especially in bar and restaurant terraces.

To be clear, there were already establishments that set a time limit prior to Covid-19, in particular popular ones where booking a table was required. But it was during the period of restrictions on indoor seating for the hospitality sector that many business owners began to set limits on how long customers could spend at the terrace table as their overall seating was considerably reduced. 

After two years of limitations on socialising and eating out, Spaniards are now going out en masse during the sweltering summer, resulting in an even bigger rise in the number of bars and restaurants that start the stopwatch as soon as customers sit down. 

To have a drink, the limit is often 30 minutes. For those sitting down for a meal, it’s usually an hour and a half, or even just one hour. 

The practice is most prevalent in Barcelona and Bilbao. 

The reason for these time limitations which are so contrary to the Spanish way of life is of course money, the reasoning behind it being that the longer a person or group sits at a table without eating or drinking anything, the higher the chances that new customers won’t be able to sit down and spend.

Spanish newspaper EPE even found that some restaurants in Barcelona don’t serve customers who are on their own or couples as they can’t make as much money out of them as from larger groups. 

Then there are establishments that don’t allow people to sit at a table at la terraza after a certain time unless it’s to have lunch or dinner; some even expect customers to spend a “minimum amount” to enjoy their al fresco premises.

Opinions among Spaniards on table time limitations are fairly divided. 

There are those who understand that business owners are struggling to make a profit given the rise in costs of products, gas and electricity (perhaps from their own experience of working in the hospitality industry), whilst other Spaniards find the whole experience of being rushed when they’re trying to relax and enjoy to be unfair, believing that the owners’ reasoning is mainly based on greed and financial gain. 

As the Spanish saying goes, la polémica está servida (controversy is served).

table time limits spain

Consumer rights groups agree that customers should be forewarned for table time limits to be considered legal in Spain. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

Is it legal for Spain’s bars, restaurants and cafés to set time limits on paying customers?

If an establishment notifies the customer upon arrival or has a sign informing them of the time limit, then it is considered legal by consumer rights groups OCU and FACUA.

However, if the methods used by the waiters or owners are underhand, then the legality of the practice is questionable.

According to FACUA spokesperson Rubén Sánchez, “it’s one thing to be notified in advance when booking or arriving, and quite another when you’re already there (eating and drinking) and they try to kick you out”.

“Everything is subject to interpretation”, he adds, as if someone only orders a coffee and sits at a terrace table for five hours at a busy time it’s understandable that restaurant or bar owners will be concerned, but if you’re going to spend €100 or more, then the last thing you want is to be told you have to get up and go after one hour. 

It’s also important for table time limits to be clearly signposted and in a visible place, especially if the waiters don’t inform customers beforehand, otherwise Sánchez deems the practice illegal.

Furthermore, there’s the speed at which food and drinks are brought out, as if this takes very long, it’s a tough ask to expect customers to rush.

“What it’s about is weighing up the rights of each side, but not expecting customers to finish eating in just half an hour,” Sánchez concludes. 

“I don’t believe that these types of formulas will find much success. It’s about treating each other with respect, every customer has to evaluate their own case. 

“If the time limits aren’t applied properly it could end up being really chaotic”.

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