Spain is the most sought-after destination for British expats looking to move to sunnier shores. However, whilst the delights of Spain appeal to many, there are some financial complexities to consider when it comes to investments, pensions, tax, and inheritance.
This is where the services of an expat financial advisor can prove invaluable. Helping you understand how cross-border taxation works to ensure your money works efficiently for you.
What does an expat financial advisor do?
In a nutshell, an expat financial advisor like myself can provide you with specialist advice on how to manage your money. This involves much more than simply managing your investments and mitigating your tax exposure.
A good financial advisor can take a detailed look at your finances, and your financial goals, in order to draw up a robust financial plan to ensure you reach your goals. This can include short-term financial goals such as university fees, or long-term financial goals such as a retirement fund. They can help you identify how much you will need to retire, and therefore when you can feasibly expect to retire.
A financial advisor can also ensure that your investments are working hard for you whether you are investing for income or capital growth. They can continue to manage those investments, making tweaks and adjustments in line with fluctuations in the marketplace, to ensure your money continues to work hard towards your future.
When it comes to tax planning, a financial advisor in Spain can help you plan for inheritance tax, Capital Gains Tax, wealth tax, and more including the Spanish law requiring residents to declare details of their overseas assets.
Ultimately, a good financial advisor in Spain should help you achieve financial freedom.
Tough financial questions an expat IFA can answer
There are several areas where a financial advisor in Spain can add significant value to your finances. These include answers to the following questions:
- What is the impact of Brexit on my financial situation?
- Is my UK ISA still tax-efficient if I am domiciled in Spain?
- How can I manage my UK assets to ensure they are Spanish-compliant?
- Can I draw down my pension in the same way whilst living in Spain?
- What insurance should I consider whilst living in Spain?
- What is the most efficient way to transfer money between Spain and the UK?
- Which taxes apply to my personal circumstances in Spain?
- Can I take out a mortgage in Spain?
Of course, these are just some of the questions that your independent financial advisor can help you with. They will take the time to thoroughly understand your finances both in Spain and in the UK to ensure you are tax-efficient, compliant and on track to make your financial aspirations a reality.
Why expats need a financial plan
Expats face additional financial complexities, arising from their unique financial circumstances, that make the need for a robust financial plan even more important than usual.
Leaving your country of birth to live abroad means your assets will potentially be spread over more than one country. Having a solid financial plan enables you to continue to move towards your life goals, whatever they may be.
What financial services do financial advisors in Spain offer?
There are several services that a financial advisor in Spain will offer to their clients, and whilst some of these will mirror the services you would expect to receive in the UK, there are additional factors that a Financial Advisor in Spain will need to take into account.
Working abroad can add a new layer of complexity to your tax status. Whilst your employer can assist you to a degree, the help of a professional financial advisor can ensure you remain compliant both in Spain and the UK.
Relocating your family abroad can throw up new financial challenges. Often spouses are forced to leave their employment in order to accompany their partner. This can lead to trailing spouse syndrome. Ensuring the financial needs of your spouse and dependents are met is part of a robust financial plan which should include any potential school fees.
Living and working abroad can have an impact on your superannuation entitlement both at home and abroad. Of course, financial planning for your retirement is essential however, a financial advisor in Spain will have the skills to navigate complex pensions that could be further exacerbated by where you plan to retire to, whether it be returning to your country of birth, or remaining in Spain.
Should you plan to return to your country of birth there are some financial considerations such as tax, moving assets, and the financial cost of repatriation for you and your family. Your financial advisor in Spain can help factor all this into your financial plan, so you are financially prepared for what comes.
Organising your will and mitigating your exposure to inheritance tax can help ensure your dependents are protected should the worst happen. There are some additional factors to take into consideration in the event of your death and a financial advisor can weave this into your financial plan for complete peace of mind.
Planning for Spanish succession laws
Spanish succession law could be enforced on your estate in the event of your death, should you fail to make proper provision. This could result in your wishes not being met and expose your dependents to additional stress.
Even if you have a will in the UK, you should include a Spanish will to document your assets within the country’s borders including Spanish bank accounts, property, life insurance policies held in Spain, shares, and any material goods such as car or jewellery.
Any will that you currently have must be translated into Spanish and legalised before a Spanish consul in order to be enforceable.
How to get financial advice in Spain
It is important that when seeking financial advice in Spain you avoid some of the pitfalls. There are many fraudsters who can be very convincing, so before you engage the services of a financial advisor you should always ask to see their regulation documents. The Spanish equivalent of the Financial Conduct Authority is the Comision Nacional del Mercado de Valores, or CNMV for short.
There are directories in Spain that will point you in the right direction, alternatively, like in any country, a recommendation from a friend or colleague is a great place to start.
Whether you are working, planning to retire, or looking to move your pension to Spain, there is a lot to consider as an expat in Spain.
The Spanish pension system is divided into
- State pensions
- Occupational pensions
- Private pensions
The pension age in Spain is currently 66 years and 2 months, increasing by 2 months each year until reaching 67 in 2027. What you receive will depend on your contributions among other factors. Expats who have worked in an EU member country will have accumulated pension rights in each of these countries.
Should you have a UK state pension you may be wondering if you can still claim it while living in Spain. The answer is that your UK pension can be paid into any account you nominate, whether at home or abroad. However, there are important taxation entities to consider and you must notify HMRC that you are paying tax in Spain in order to take advantage of the tax treaty between the UK and Spain.
For expats with a private or occupational pension in the UK, there is the option to transfer your benefits into a Qualified Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) or Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) as these options both allow the pension holder to convert their sterling pension into a Euro account.
For Expats with a defined benefit pension, there is the option to request a cash equivalent transfer value (CETV), which provides you with a lump sum in exchange for the lifetime benefit. Again, this can then be transferred into a QROPS or SIPP.
Money and tax for expats in Spain
It is essential to understand your tax liability in Spain as taxes are levied on foreign nationals regardless of whether they are a resident or non-resident. Whilst it is imperative to comply with your tax obligations, a financial advisor will be able to identify legitimate ways to mitigate your tax exposure.
In addition, financial advisers in Spain will help you determine whether you are a tax resident in Spain, which will ultimately dictate what taxes you are liable for.
There are several factors to consider concerning your portfolio as an expat in Spain. Whether you would benefit from a Spanish equivalent tax wrapper, whether your investments are Spanish compliant with EU registered funds and whether your portfolio is exposed to Spanish inheritance tax and Spanish wealth tax are just some of the questions a wealth management firm can provide answers to in relation to your investment management.
Overseas financial advisors in Spain
It is possible to use an overseas financial advisor, however, there are a couple of entities you may want to check before proceeding. Firstly, it is imperative that they have fiscal representation in Spain and secondly they are able to operate in Spain under EU freedom of services rules.
However, there are many excellent financial advisers in Spain, and choosing someone local can help forge a long-term relationship based on trust and communication.
Why your financial plan should include a will in Spain
The most compelling reason you should consider making a Spanish will is to ease the administration of your estate for your beneficiaries. This can substantially help to minimise any delays or cross-border uncertainties.
In the event of no legal, valid will, the deceased estate will be subject to Spanish succession law which could cause issues, especially if the marriage or partnership is not recognised or registered in Spain.
In addition, there are inheritance tax laws in Spain that a financial adviser can help mitigate for you.
How inheritance tax works in Spain
Inheritance tax is also referred to as Succession Tax in Spain and this applies to all residents, regardless of nationality. There are some complexities surrounding inheritance tax, not least the fact that it varies regionally, sometimes quite substantially.
Inheritance tax is applicable on any assets received after death, and also on any lifetime gifts. This includes any pension funds. The amount payable is progressive:
- Inheritance up to €7,993: 7.65%
- €7,993–€31,956: 7.65 to 10.2%
- €31,956–€79,881: 10.2 to 15.3%
- €79,881–€239,389: 15.3 to 21.25%
- €239,389–€398,778: 25.5%
- €398,778–€797,555: 29.75%
- €797,555+: 34%
However, there are some complexities surrounding this as there is tax relief available depending on the beneficiary’s relationship to the deceased and this can vary between regions.
Property tax in Spain
Buying, selling, and owning a property in Spain comes with its own tax implications which will vary depending on your residential status.
Buying a property in Spain is subject to taxation between 8% and 11.5%. When it comes to selling a property, you maybe liable for capital gains tax where non-residents will be charged 24% and residents will be charged 19%. This is best discussed with an expat financial advisor.
What does Brexit mean for UK banks?
Unfortunately, the UK’s failure to agree on a post-Brexit trade deal will mean that UK banks will no longer be able to offer cross-border financial services to expatriates living abroad.
This means that UK banks are in the process of closing down all accounts linked to an address in the EU.
Expats will therefore be required to make alternative arrangements.
A local financial advisor in Spain will be able to identify the best course of action for individuals affected by this change in legislation. This could moving your banking to an online banking service such as Revolut.
In addition, there are Spanish banks that offer accounts in GBP although these may come with charges for transactions from UK banks.
Will London Still be the financial capital after Brexit?
Following hundreds of years as a global financial centre, London has suffered a severe financial shock in the wake of Brexit, however, the city is still dominant in several markets and remains Europe’s financial capital as well as the second-biggest financial centre in the world behind New York.