Understanding tax residency in Spain: A Complete guide for foreigners


Tax residency is an essential concept for people living abroad because it determines the tax laws that apply to them. In Spain, understanding how tax residency works is essential for both expats and newcomers. For expats new to Spain, establishing tax residency is an important step in managing their finances and complying with Spanish tax law. In this article, we will explore how tax residency works in Spain, the process of becoming a tax resident, and the  documents and procedures needed to prove your tax residency .

What is tax residency? Tax residency refers to an individual’s legal status that identifies the country to which they have primary tax obligations. In Spain, tax residency is governed by a specific set of rules, and becoming a tax resident requires individuals to report their worldwide income to the Spanish tax authorities. In Spain, tax residents are required to pay tax on their worldwide income, including income earned both in Spain and abroad (with some exceptions, e.g. as in the case of the «Beckham Law» tax regime).

Non-residents, on the other hand, are generally taxed only  on  Spanish-sourced income. In order to determine tax residency to become a tax resident in Spain, you must meet one of the following criteria:

• Physical presence: If you spend more than 183 days in Spain in a calendar year, you are automatically considered a tax resident. These days do not have to be consecutive, allowing individuals to accumulate attendance over time.

• Economic links: If your spouse or dependent children live in Spain, you may be considered a tax resident, even if you stay in the country for less than 183 days.

• Main economic benefits: If  your economic interests are mainly concentrated in Spain, you may be considered a tax resident. This includes factors such as professional activities, commercial interests or significant economic investments in the country.

• Declare your place of residence: Individuals who do not meet the above criteria can still choose to become tax residents by submitting an official declaration of  intention to reside in Spain. 

Spain determines tax residency based on the following criteria:

• Physical presence: If you spend more than 183 days in Spain in a calendar year, you are considered a tax resident. These days do not have to be consecutive, allowing individuals to accumulate the required number of days over the course of a year.

• Economic links: Even if you do not meet the 183-day threshold, you may still be considered  tax resident if the centre of your economic interests is in Spain. This may include owning a home, having a permanent establishment or maintaining close family ties in Spain.

• Spouse and dependents: If your spouse and dependent children reside in Spain, you may also be considered a tax resident, regardless of the number of days you spend in the country. 

The process of becoming a tax resident If you meet the criteria for tax residency in Spain, it is essential to follow specific steps to regularize your status:

  • NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) Requirements: As a foreigner in Spain, you will need your NIE, which is your foreigner identification number. You can get it at your local police station or consulate.
  • Register with local authorities: After obtaining your NIE, you must register with the local government (Empadronamiento) to establish your residence in a specific area.
  • Submit tax return: You must file an annual tax return in Spain, called the Modelo 100. This  includes all your worldwide income and serves as proof of your tax residence.

Documents and procedures to prove tax residence Proving your tax residence in Spain usually involves providing certain documents and following specific procedures:

• Identity card: You can request a tax residence certificate  (Certificado de Residencia Fiscal) from the Spanish tax authorities. This document certifies your tax residency status and is often required by banks, employers and other organizations.

• Tax code (NIF): The NIE you previously obtained  will be used as your tax identification number (NIF) for tax purposes.

• Bank reports: Maintaining a Spanish bank account and providing bank statements showing your financial activity in Spain can also serve as proof of your tax residency.

• Utility bills and rental contract: Proof of a utility bill or rental contract in Spain can be submitted to prove your physical presence and economic relationship.

• Labour contract: If you work in Spain, your employment contract and pay slips can be used to determine your tax residence.

• Family relationship: If you have family members residing in Spain, providing documentation proving their residence can further support your tax residency claim.

• Income tax declaration: As mentioned previously, it is important to file an annual income tax return in Spain. This document is the main proof of your tax residency. When a foreigner gains tax residency in Spain, it has a number of implications for them and their family members.

It is important to understand these implications as they can have a significant impact on a person’s financial and legal situation. Here are some key implications and considerations:

• Taxes on worldwide income: As a Spanish tax resident, you must report and pay taxes on your worldwide income, including income earned in Spain and abroad. This means that income from your home country and other foreign sources must be declared in Spain.

• Spain’s tax obligations: Tax residents in Spain are subject to the Spanish tax system, including income tax (Impuesto sobre la Renta de las Personas Físicas or IRPF), property tax (Impuesto sobre el Patrimonio) and other taxes. other. You must submit an annual tax return to the Spanish Tax Authority, declaring your income, assets and debts.

• Family considerations: If your family members (spouse and dependent children) also reside with you in Spain, they may also be considered tax residents and subject to Spanish tax on their worldwide income. Family members must individually determine their tax residency status.

• Tax credits and deductions: Spain has tax treaties with many countries to avoid double taxation. You may be entitled to tax credits or deductions in Spain for taxes paid in your home country, depending on the provisions of the relevant tax treaty.

• Asset report: Spanish tax residents  are required to declare their financial assets and  holdings, including bank accounts, real estate and investments held  in Spain and abroad . This information is used to assess property taxes and monitor compliance. 

• Inheritance and gift tax: Spain has its own rules regarding inheritance and gift taxes. If you inherit property or receive a gift, whether from Spain or abroad, you may be subject to Spanish tax and it is important to understand the applicable tax rates and exemptions.

• Impact on country of origin: Becoming a tax resident in Spain does not automatically change your tax status in your home country. You may still have tax obligations there and it is essential to understand how double taxation agreements  between Spain and your home country work to avoid double taxation.

• Exit tax: If you decide to leave Spain and end your tax residency, there may be exit tax implications, especially if you have significant assets in Spain. Planning your exit from Spain should be done carefully to minimize possible tax consequences.

• Consult a tax expert: Due to the complexity of international tax laws and regulations, we recommend consulting with tax professionals who specialize in cross-border taxes. They can help you navigate complex tax residency issues and ensure compliance with  Spanish and foreign tax laws. On the other hand, foreigners residing in Spain may lose their Spanish tax residence status in  certain circumstances. Tax residency status can change and it is important to know the criteria and procedures for losing tax residency status in Spain.

Here are some common cases in which foreigners living in Spain may no longer be considered  tax residents:

• Residing in another country: If you establish your tax residence in another country and can demonstrate that Spain is no longer your principal residence, you may no longer be considered  tax resident in Spain. Oh again. To do this, you must provide proof of your new tax residence, such as a residence permit or tax certificate from the new country.

•  Less than 183 days remaining: If you spend less than 183 days in Spain in a calendar year, you will not meet the physical presence criteria for tax residence. However, it’s essential to track your days accurately and know that temporary absences, such as vacations or business trips, do not count toward the 183-day requirement.

• Changes in economic relations: If your economic ties to Spain have diminished and you can demonstrate that your significant financial interests are now mainly located in another country, you may no longer be considered a resident. taxes in Spain too. This may involve selling real estate, closing down business interests or transferring financial assets abroad.

 • Stop maintaining permanent housing: If you no longer have your permanent residence or habitual residence in Spain, you risk losing your tax residence status. Selling your main residence and not having any other significant connections to Spain could be evidence of this change.

• Application for non-resident status: In some cases, people who have lost their tax residence status in Spain may choose to apply for non-resident status. This allows them to continue to own real estate or have other financial interests in Spain without being considered  tax residents.


Understanding tax residency in Spain is important for expats intending to live or work in the country. By meeting specific criteria and providing the necessary documents, individuals can establish  tax residency and fulfil their tax obligations. Establishing tax residency in Spain as a newly arrived expat can be a complicated process as it involves meeting specific criteria and providing the necessary documents. It is important to note that tax laws and regulations may change over time and individual circumstances may change significantly. Advice should be sought from tax experts or the Spanish tax authorities to ensure compliance with applicable regulations. Understanding your tax residency status is essential to fulfilling your tax obligations and enjoying the benefits of living in Spain.

Do you need consulting regarding your tax residence in Spain? Get in touch with BarcelonaGlobalService at francesco@barcelonaglobalservice.com or via the contact link

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