If the UK leaves the European Union what impact does this have on taxation for international people living in Spain? 

The framework for taxation in all countries is based upon the following:

Are you tax resident according to the laws of that country?

Which tax authority is the controlling tax authority for your Worldwide income and gains?

If you have income or gains outside of the country where you are tax resident, is there a double taxation agreement between the country where you are resident and the country where the income or gain is made?

For those of us living in Spain, the simple test is are we in the country for more than 183 days in any calendar year? If yes, then we will be Spanish Tax resident.  For more detail see Spanish Tax Residency (I will ask Chris Clifford for the link as the page is not visible on the site as the article is too old.)

If we meet the residency requirement Spain is our controlling tax authority.  This means we have to report our Worldwide income and gains to Spain and our main payment of tax is in Spain.

Double Tax Treaties

The OECD, UN and USA have set up model frameworks for Double Taxation Treaties.  Most countries use these frameworks.  However, the Treaties are between individual countries.  Even if the country is in the EU there is NO EU wide double taxation agreements.  Therefore, if the UK leaves the EU it will not affect the double taxation agreement between the UK and Spain.  As an  example, Spain has 88 tax treaties, 66 of them with countries outside the EU and even if the UK leaves the double tax treaty should stay.  The tax treaty between Spain and the UK covers both income and gains.

Beckham Rule

It is not expected that there will be any changes to the Beckham rule (Impatriate Tax Regime). It is available to people from around the World. Therefore people moving from the UK to Spain should still be able to benefit from the lower rate of taxation for five full tax years.

Where we do expect changes

There is a potential economic impact in both Inheritance Tax and Exit Taxes if the UK leaves the EU.

Inheritance Tax.

In September 2014, the European Court of Justice instructed Spain to change its rules regarding Inheritance Tax where the deceased person or the person receiving the inheritance was in another country in the European Economic Area (EEA). The effect was to allow these people to claim the allowances that are available to inhabitants of Spain (in our case Catalunya), rather than them being taxed on a special "National" rate.  This was because the National Rate resulted in higher taxes.

If Britain is now longer a member of the EEA, it is quite possible that we will have to return to paying the national rate of inheritance tax.  Please note, it is possible for the UK to leave the EU but not the EEA and therefore will still qualify.  Whilst the loss of the local allowances will only put us back to the situation two years ago it will still be a backwards step.

There are several pieces of Inheritance Tax planning that you can do to reduce the burden of Inheritance Tax.  HOWEVER, we have not left the EU, there is some debate about whether we will ever leave the EU and we may yet become part of the EEA.  We strongly recommend, therefore, that you discuss the possible planning methods now but do NOT implement any planning on the basis of the UK leaving the EU.  This is because once taken, many of the planning steps cannot be undone. 

Exit Tax

Exit tax is chargeable to all taxpayers that have been in Spain in at least 5 years of the last 10 years whilst Spanish Tax Resident if

The market value of the shares and collective investments held exceeds a joint value of Euro 4 Million
Only Euro 1 Million if the person holds 25% or more of the shares in a company.

However, currently, if the person moves to another country in the European Economic Area with whom an effective exchange of information exists, the gain will only need to be declared and Spanish Exit Tax paid  if during the next 10 years  the shares are sold or the person loses his residency in the EU or in the EEA.

It the UK leaves the EU and does not get EEA membership, Spanish Exit Tax would become payable on departure.

CRS – Automatic exchange of information between countries

The OECD has also introduced a common framework for the automatic reporting of information from one country to another of the financial affairs of people who live in the second country, for example UK to Spain where a British person lives in Spain.  This framework has been updated and common formatting of reporting leads to common software and much easier analysis of the information.

Please be aware that these reports will still take place even if the UK leaves the EU.  Currently there are 101 countries using this common software and standards.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.