Beckham Law in Spain: 2024 Guide for Expats to Save on Taxes
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Beckham Law in Spain: 2024 Guide for Expats to Save on Taxes

What is the Beckham Rule in Spain? Definition and application process

The Beckham Law in Spain represents a significant fiscal opportunity for expatriates working within its borders. Initially established to attract top talent and investment, this regulation offers a substantial tax reduction on Spanish taxable income for eligible individuals. In the intricate landscape of Spanish taxation, where general tax rates can soar as high as 54% in Valencia, 47% in Catalonia, and 45% in Madrid, the Beckham Law can cap tax liabilities at a more palatable 24% for incomes up to €600,000. This article delves into the intricacies of the Beckham Rule, outlining its purpose, application criteria, and the process for claiming its benefits. For entrepreneurs and professionals considering Spain as a business hub, understanding and leveraging the Beckham Law can be pivotal in maximizing investment returns and minimizing fiscal burdens.

lawyer fills in taxation form for a client who has applied to the spain beckham law

What is the Beckham Law?

The Beckham Law, officially known as the Special Expats’ Tax Regime (SETR), is a Spanish fiscal policy tailored to attract international talent and qualified workers to Spain.

Enacted through Royal Decree 687/2005 and integrated within the Spanish Income Tax Act, this law offers a preferential tax treatment to expatriates, allowing them to be taxed at a flat rate of 24% on their Spanish-sourced income rather than the standard progressive tax rates applicable to worldwide income, which can range from 19% to 45%.

This advantageous tax regime applies during the first six years of residency in Spain, providing substantial savings and making Spain an attractive destination for global professionals.

Historically, the Beckham Law garnered its moniker from the English football icon David Beckham, who was among the first to benefit from this decree upon joining Real Madrid. The law’s primary goal was to bolster Spain’s appeal as a hub for exceptional talent by easing the tax load for affluent foreign workers. While originally inclusive of sports professionals, amendments have since excluded this group.

As of January 1st, 2023, further modifications have expanded eligibility to a broader range of expatriates, including those employed by foreign companies—a move aimed at stimulating Spain’s burgeoning start-up ecosystem.

Under this regime, not only the applicant but also their spouse and children under 25 are entitled to preferential tax treatment on their income and assets located within Spain. However, it’s essential to note that despite these benefits, capital gains and investment incomes sourced in Spain are still subject to taxation at rates between 19% and 28%.

In essence, the Beckham Law offers a strategic fiscal advantage for high-earning expatriates relocating to Spain by redefining tax residency and reducing the complexity and burden of tax liabilities on their income generated within Spanish territory.

Benefit from Beckham’s Law with Lawant’s expert tax consultancy. Whether you’re an expatriate or employing foreign professionals, our specialists provide clear, strategic guidance to optimize your tax benefits under this regime. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to enhance your financial efficiency in Spain.

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How does taxation of foreigners in Spain work without the Beckham’s Law?

Prior to the introduction of the Beckham Law in 2005, foreign nationals residing in Spain were fully integrated into the standard Spanish tax system. Upon spending more than six months (183 days) within a calendar year in Spain, they would be classified as tax residents. This status brought with it the obligation to pay taxes on their worldwide income under the Impuesto sobre la Renta de las Personas Físicas (IRPF), or Personal Income Tax.

Under this traditional regime, expatriates were subject to the same progressive tax rates as Spanish citizens, which could escalate up to 54% depending on their income level. The tax system was structured such that the percentage of tax owed increased progressively with income—starting at 19% for lower income brackets and rising for those earning above €60,000.

This meant that foreign residents not only had to declare and pay taxes on their income earned within Spain but also on any income generated abroad.

The implementation of the Beckham Law dramatically altered this scenario for qualifying individuals by introducing a fixed reduced tax rate and limiting the taxable base to Spanish-sourced income for a set period, thus offering a significant financial incentive for high-earning professionals considering a move to Spain.

This special regime is particularly advantageous for those earning more than €60,000.

How does taxation of foreigners in Spain work after the Beckham’s law?

The advent of the Beckham Law revolutionized the tax landscape for expatriates in Spain. Under this regime, the rigid boundaries of tax residency were redefined, allowing qualifying foreign workers to benefit from a more favorable tax treatment, similar to that of non-residents, during the first year they become residents and the following five years, depending on when they arrive in the country.

The primary alteration brought about by the Beckham Law is that even if expatriates spend over 183 days in Spain and are considered tax residents, they are taxed under a special set of rules. Specifically, they are only required to pay Spanish income tax on the income earned within Spain. Instead of being subject to the standard progressive tax rates, which increase with income levels, individuals under the Beckham Law are liable for a flat rate of 24% on earnings up to €600,000. For any income exceeding this threshold, a fixed rate of 45% is applied.

This special taxation method offers a substantial financial advantage as it significantly lowers the potential tax rate compared to the standard resident rates that can peak at 45%. The savings are particularly pronounced for high-earning expatriates who, without this law, would face a much steeper tax obligation. By capping the tax rate at a lower fixed percentage, the Beckham Law provides an attractive fiscal incentive for expatriates and has become a pivotal consideration for those looking to optimize their tax position while working in Spain.

Tax on Spanish Income vs Worldwide Income

One of the most salient features of the Beckham Law is its focus on taxation of Spanish-sourced income, to the exclusion of worldwide income. Under this regime, expatriates are required to pay taxes only on the income that is generated within Spanish territory. This starkly contrasts with the obligations of tax residents who must report and pay taxes on their global income, making the Beckham Law particularly advantageous for those with diverse international income streams.

This targeted approach allows expatriates to structure their finances in a manner that minimizes their tax liability in Spain while simultaneously reducing risk through income diversification. The wealth tax, for instance, does not apply to assets located abroad, but it taxes wealth, not income such as dividends. Income tax taxes income, like dividends.

However, there is an important caveat: employment income earned abroad remains taxable under normal rates. Even though expatriates are considered non-residents for tax purposes under the Beckham Law, they are still obliged to pay Spanish tax on foreign employment income. Nevertheless, Spain’s tax system offers mechanisms to prevent double taxation; taxes paid abroad can often be credited against Spanish tax liabilities under certain conditions.

For expatriates earning above a certain threshold, it’s crucial to evaluate whether the Beckham Law is financially beneficial. Low-income earners might find the progressive tax rates more favorable, especially if their earnings fall below regional thresholds where progressive rates could be as low as 0%.

It’s also important to note that those opting for the Beckham Law may not qualify for other Spanish tax benefits such as home rental income relief or deductions related to disabilities and dependents. Additionally, because the Beckham Law positions expatriates as non-residents for tax purposes, they cannot take advantage of Spain’s double taxation treaties that would normally prevent being taxed twice on the same income—a significant consideration for those with international financial dealings.

Who can apply for the Beckham Law regime?

The Beckham Law is designed to benefit a diverse group of foreign individuals who choose to relocate to Spain. Eligibility for application to the spanish Beckham Rule regime extends to:

  • Foreign workers who relocate to Spain to engage in an economic activity, specifically those employed by a company.
  • Expatriates who hold managerial positions or other significant roles are considered among the administrators or employees, as the law does not specify this as a separate category.
  • Individuals who move to Spain with the intention of performing remote work for an employer.
  • Highly qualified professionals who offer services to start-up companies, or are involved in training, research, development, and innovation (R&D&I) activities, with at least 40% of their income derived from invoicing related to these services.
  • Company administrators who take up positions in Spain, provided they do not own more than 25% of a company that is classified as asset-managing. Importantly, administrators can have more than a 25% ownership stake if the company is not considered an asset-management entity. In these cases, we recommend creating a wholly-owned LLC (SL) that engages in economic activity.
  • Family members of the remote workers, which includes the spouse and any dependents.

Who cannot apply for Beckham’s law?

While the Beckham Law in Spain opens the door to tax advantages for many expatriates, there are specific exclusions to be aware of. The following groups are not eligible to apply for the Beckham’s Law regime:

  • Freelancers or self-employed individuals, with the exception of those possessing a digital nomad visa.
  • Sports professionals, including athletes, irrespective of their income level or status within their respective fields.
  • It is incorrect to state that directors with ownership stakes exceeding 25% in Spanish companies are excluded. They are eligible, provided their company is not classified as asset-managing or if they apply under a startup or entrepreneur visa.

Beckham Law in Spain: Requirements

To harness the fiscal benefits of the spanish Beckham Law, expatriates must meet a specific set of requirements. It is crucial for individuals to assess their eligibility before proceeding with the application. If you are considering applying for the Beckham Law, here are the essential criteria you need to satisfy:

  • The applicant must not have been a tax resident in Spain during the five years prior to their relocation for employment purposes.
  • They must be relocating to Spain for work, with an employment offer, a digital nomad visa, a transfer from a foreign company, or be a director with ownership exceeding 25% in a company that is not classified as asset-managing (unless possessing a startup/entrepreneur visa).
  • The work performed in Spain should be the primary source of the applicant’s professional activity. This means that any income classified as obtained through a permanent establishment must come from highly qualified economic activity or entrepreneurial activity. The employer can be a Spanish or foreign corporate entity, but the income should not be attributed to a permanent establishment in Spain.
  • The employer can be a Spanish or foreign corporate entity, but income should not be attributed to a permanent establishment in Spain.
  • The deadline for applying to the regime is six months from either the registration with Social Security or arrival in Spain, whichever comes first.

It is imperative to note that these conditions extend to the applicant’s spouse and dependent children under 25, as well as elderly parents or disabled individuals who relocate with the taxpayer within the first fiscal year for which the regime is applicable. 

We strongly recommend contacting our team to verify if you meet all the requirements for applying for Beckham’s Law and to guide you through the application process.

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Tax reductions under the Beckham Law

The Beckham Law is not only a game-changer for income tax but also offers a broader spectrum of tax advantages. By allowing expatriates to be taxed as non-resident taxpayers on their Spanish-sourced income, the Beckham Law presents a fixed flat rate, alleviating the tax load for high earners who would otherwise face steep progressive tax rates. 

The impact of the Beckham Rule extends beyond income tax; it provides an optimized tax structure across various fiscal obligations in Spain. Under this regime, expatriates are only taxed on income generated within Spanish territory, thereby excluding foreign-sourced wealth such as rental income, dividends, interest, and capital gains accrued outside of Spain from the Spanish tax net.

All employment income is taxed at 24/47%, and any withholding tax can be recovered through deduction to avoid double taxation, mechanisms are in place to prevent double taxation, allowing expatriates to offset taxes paid elsewhere against their Spanish tax liabilities.

However, it’s essential for expatriates to evaluate whether the Beckham Law aligns with their financial situation. For those with lower incomes, the progressive tax rates—which can dip as low as 0%—may prove more beneficial. The decision to opt for the Beckham Law should be made after careful consideration of individual earnings and potential eligibility for other tax benefits that may not be available under this special regime.

Capital Gains Tax

Under the Beckham Law, capital gains tax is subject to specific conditions that differ from the standard Spanish tax system. While the Beckham Law does not exempt capital gains, it does offer a structured tax rate for expatriates. Dividends and profits derived from the sale of both movable and immovable properties within Spain are taxed at a variable rate, which is determined by the gain amount and ranges from 19% to 28%.

It is crucial for expatriates to recognize that while the Beckham Law provides relief on capital gains generated in Spain, it does not extend to those realized outside of Spanish territory. Capital gains accrued abroad remain subject to taxation in the respective countries according to their local laws. Expatriates must ensure compliance with international tax obligations, as income obtained outside of Spain does not escape taxation simply because it is not taxable under the Spanish Beckham regime.

Inheritance Tax

The Beckham Law regime has no impact on inheritance and gift tax, as it does not change the general regime of this tax is tailored to resemble that of non-residents, despite the individual’s de facto resident status. This alignment means that under the Beckham Law, expatriates are subject to the same inheritance and gift tax rules as those who are not permanent residents of Spain. The application of non-resident tax rates to inheritance and donations provides a significant tax reduction for beneficiaries and donors under the Beckham regime, effectively extending the financial benefits of this special tax status beyond income tax to encompass pivotal life events involving asset transfers.

Property Tax

The Beckham Law provides a strategic tax advantage for expatriates concerning Property tax, or IBI, taxes only properties in Spain, while the wealth tax only applies to assets in Spain and can be managed through an investment strategy outside the country. Specifically, under this special regime, property tax is levied solely on real estate assets located within Spain. This targeted approach ensures that expatriates benefiting from the Beckham Law are not burdened by wealth tax on their assets located outside Spain, significantly reducing their overall tax liability. For instance, an expatriate with a portfolio valued at 3 million euros would be subject to a wealth tax of approximately 1.79% on their Spanish properties alone. This focused taxation under the Beckham Law offers a substantial financial incentive for foreign investors and workers considering property acquisition in Spain as part of their wealth management strategy.

statue symbol of law to symbolize the fairness of the beckham law in spain

What are the benefits of Beckham’s law for expats?

Expatriates in Spain can enjoy numerous benefits under the Beckham law, which include:

  • A reduced flat tax rate of 24% on income up to €600,000, compared to the progressive rates of up to 54% for residents (in Valencia).
  • Taxation on Spanish-sourced income only, rather than worldwide income, which can lead to significant tax savings.
  • Wealth tax obligations are limited to Spanish assets, excluding global wealth from the taxable base.
  • No obligation to file the Modelo 720, a declaration of overseas assets, which simplifies tax compliance and preserves privacy.
  • The benefits extend to the expatriate’s spouse and dependent children, creating potential tax savings for the entire family.
  • Exemption from the new Solidarity Tax for non-residents, which applies only to Spanish assets.
  • The ability to access this regime even when employed by a foreign company, as amended by Law 28/2022.

These benefits combine to offer a compelling financial case for high-earning individuals considering relocation to Spain, particularly those looking to optimize their tax position while enjoying the lifestyle and professional opportunities available in the country.

Disadvantages

While the Beckham Law offers significant tax advantages for expatriates in Spain, there are certain drawbacks to consider:

  • Ineligibility to benefit from double taxation agreements that Spain may have with other countries, potentially leading to less favorable tax treatment on foreign income.
  • The regime’s tax benefits are most advantageous for high earners; expatriates earning below the threshold may find the standard tax system more beneficial due to personal allowances and deductions.
  • The flat tax rate applies without the possibility of applying for personal or family deductions that residents typically enjoy, which could offset the advantages for lower-income earners.
  • Once the six-year period under the Beckham Law ends, individuals will be subject to Spain’s general tax regime, which may result in a higher tax burden.
  • The Beckham Law is not applicable to all expatriates; certain professionals, such as athletes, are excluded from its benefits.
  • There is a cap on the income subject to the reduced rate; earnings above €600,000 are taxed at a higher rate, which may diminish the attractiveness for very high-income individuals.

These disadvantages underscore the importance of thorough financial planning and consultation with tax professionals before opting into the Beckham Law regime to ensure it aligns with one’s personal circumstances and financial goals.

How to apply for the Beckham Law in Spain?

Applying for the Beckham Law involves a straightforward process, provided that all the necessary criteria are met. Expatriates aiming to benefit from this tax regime must follow these steps:

  • Register as a Fiscal Resident: The initial step is to complete the Modelo 030 form, which registers you as a fiscal resident and allocates a tax identification number (NIE) with the Spanish tax authorities. This formality is crucial for those spending 183 days or more during a tax year in Spain, as it typically confers tax residency status.
  • Complete and Submit Application Form 149: After registration with the Spanish tax authorities, applicants must complete and submit form 149 to the Agencia Tributaria (Spanish Tax Agency), accompanied by their passport, NIE, employment contract, and social security number. Note that this form must be submitted within six months from either registering with Social Security or the arrival in Spain, whichever occurs first.
  • Receive and Present Approval Certificate: The approval process may vary in duration, ranging from ten days to two months. Once approved, you will receive a certificate that you must then present to your Spanish employer. This certificate enables your employer to apply the reduced tax rate to your salary accordingly.

Additionally, each year, it is required to formalize non-resident tax declarations using model 151. By diligently following these procedures and ensuring all documentation is correctly submitted, expatriates can successfully navigate the application process for the beckham law and potentially enjoy substantial tax savings during their tenure in Spain.

Application deadlines to the Beckham tax regime

When considering the Beckham Law for tax benefits, it is essential to understand the strict application deadlines set by the authorities. The application window is limited; you must apply within six months of registration with the Social Security system or from the date of arrival in Spain, whichever comes first. Failing to adhere to this deadline will result in a denial of your application for the Special Expats’ Tax Regime (SETR). It is imperative for applicants to mark this period in their calendars and prepare all necessary documentation in advance to ensure a timely and successful application process.

Tax advice on the Beckham’s Law from Lawants

Navigating the complexities of the Beckham Law requires not only a deep understanding of its intricacies but also an awareness of the ever-evolving legislative landscape. At Lawants, our specialists are at the forefront of these changes, equipped with the knowledge and expertise to provide bespoke tax planning and corporate structuring advice tailored to your unique circumstances. We understand the importance of strategic tax positioning and are committed to helping you leverage the Beckham’s Law to its fullest potential. For a consultation that aligns with Spanish legal and tax requisites while optimizing your fiscal outcomes, reach out to our dedicated team of Spanish legal and tax specialists.

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