Spain Explained

Changing your status as a resident in Spain

There are a number of official actions you need to take to achieve full Spanish residency. This doesn’t just include obtaining a civil residency but fiscal residency in Spain too. It is also important to make sure you complete the necessary paper work and inform authorities if you decide to return to your native country.

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Which country do I live in? The rule is that if you live in Spain for 183 days or more then you are a resident in Spain. Those days don’t have to be sequential. Many people spend part of their year in one country and part in another or even alternate the months. They find that this way they enjoy the benefits of both countries and avoid some of the disadvantages.

There is no problem with doing this as long as you are clear which is your country of residence and which is not. Your country of residence (the one where you stay for more than 183 days) is the one to which you should pay your taxes. This includes all taxes on pensions except where the tax is removed at source as might be the case with some public sector pensions.

In this article we outline some of the procedures you must go through to make sure that whatever your status, you are complying with the law in Spain.

Changing from non-resident to resident

There are a number of hurdles you have to negotiate in order to become a resident in Spain. To begin with you need your Spanish NIE which is the number that registers you as a foreigner with an interest in Spain. You need your NIE for most financial activities such as buying a house or a car and it is prerequisite to becoming a resident.

Once you have your NIE you need to obtain your civil residency certificate. This is available from your nearest National Police office and you must check the documents you need to take to obtain one. With your civil residency, NIE and proof of where you are living you can register at the town hall on the padron. This is the local register of people who are resident in that area and is sometimes needed for buying a car or always for enrolling a child in school. You will also need it to obtain your health card (SIP).

The next stage is to become a Spanish fiscal resident. This is important as evidence of the length of time you have been living in Spain and enables you to benefit from reductions in capital gains and inheritance tax payments. You will be issued with a fiscal residency certificate when you present an annual tax declaration which you should do before the 30th June every year.

You are obliged to make a resident’s annual tax declaration if you have two or more sources of income (excluding some public sector pensions) or receive more income than the Spanish Tax System’s thresholds and allowances allow.  Even if your income is modest or you only have one source of income it is beneficial to make the declaration as a record that you are in Spain and you are known to the Tax Authority.

Changing from resident to non-resident

If you find, for whatever reason, that you must return to your home country then it is just as important to make sure you inform the authorities that you are going as it was when you arrived.

As a minimum you should:

  • inform your bank – you will need to change your resident account  to non-resident
  • inform the town hall where you registered on the padron
  • go to the National Police office where the residency certificate was first issued
  • if you have a residency card you should return it to the Foreigner’s Delegation Office

When you cancel your residency at the National Police office they will issue you with a stamped document that includes the date of cancellation and the reason for it. This is your proof that you are no longer a resident and that you have informed the necessary people.

You will also have to let your fiscal representative know about your change in circumstances. You will probably still have to complete   one more resident tax return  the year after you return to your home country as taxes are presented retrospectively. After that you will complete a non-resident tax declaration form before 31st December every year if you haven’t sold your property.

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Although you will no longer be required to pay taxes on your income, including pensions, to the Spanish Tax Authority you will still have the Spanish imputed income tax to pay as a non-resident or income tax on rental if you rent out your property in Spain.  Imputed income tax is the tax that non-residents pay if they are not renting out their property.

Of course, you must also inform the relevant offices and organisations in your home country of your change in living arrangements.  But remember, if anyone tells you that you can be resident in two countries – you can’t. You have the decision about where you spend most of your time. After that you have no choice at all.

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8 comments

Simon Scott

29 March, 2019 7:16 am

Dear Sirs
Dear Sirs

I moved from Spain to Cyprus at the beginning of this year and have not yet unsubscribed from the Spanish tax system. I came across an article online written by your firm which sets out how to do this (https://www.abacoadvisers.com/spain-explained/spanish-law/news/changing-your-status-resident-in-spain )

The penultimate step mentioned in your article is returning my original certificate of residency to the local police station, and that I will then be issued by the national police with a stamped document that states the date of cancellation of residency and the reason for it.

However, I have never been issued with a certificate of residency, only an NIE number, social security number, certificado de registro de ciudadano de la union and certificado de empadronamiento, therefore will I still be able to obtain a certificate of non-residency ?

Regards

Simon Scott

Suzanne O'Connell

2 April, 2019 1:00 pm

Hi Simon

Hi Simon

The 'certificado de registro de ciudadano de la union' is the Spanish residency card and you should cancel this with the police. David Ruiz would be happy to help you do this. 

joshua

29 June, 2019 8:08 am

hi,please i have a residence
hi,please i have a residence permit in spain and now has a child in the netherlands,i am on the process of getting a new residence permit from the netherlands immigration and the the immigration in netherlands ask me to give out my spanish residence permit first,i have went to give out my spanish residence card to the spanish consulate in Amsterdam,now i need a certificate of no residence,so please what should i do??

Suzanne O'Connell

6 July, 2019 2:42 pm

Hi Joshua

Hi Joshua

You should apply for a non-resident certificate at the relevant national police station. 

Maria-Isabel Dunne nee Reyes-Minana

29 December, 2019 7:08 pm

I was born in Spain to Spanish parents in 1961 and came to live in England with them in 1964. In 1979 I became a British citizen. How do I relinquish my UK citizenship to reclaim my citizenship in Spain if / when I relocate to Spain from Ireland, where I am now living these past two years in March 2019.

Thank you

Oscar Paoli

31 December, 2019 12:41 pm

Hi Maria-Isabel,

As far as we know it is possible that you have never lost your Spanish Nationality as Britain allows for dual nationality, but you just have to contact the Ministry of the Interior for clarification.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Harry Eamey

19 April, 2020 12:47 pm

Hi there,

I am currently a resident in Spain (UK citizen), and been here since January 2020.
If let’s say, in a year or so I decided to travel outside of Spain and spend less than 183 days in the country, would I still have to pay taxes in Spain for that fiscal year given that I am technically a resident? Bear in mind, I don’t have any physical assets or property here in Spain. Any information would be highly appreciated.

Oscar Paoli

21 April, 2020 4:39 pm

Hi there,
Complicated if you are just out of the Country travelling then your main residence remains here and the tax obligation remains here, if you are not intending to live here for 183 days then you should cancel the residencia and pay Tax where you are Resident.
Best regards,
Ábaco Advisers