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The Top Tips in Spain | May 2023

By Chris Burke
This article is published on: 15th May 2023

Summer is well on its way, lighter evenings and enjoyable temperatures are here for most and we will soon be commenting on how hot it is, I am sure!
For this month we shall be concentrating on the following topics:

  • Driving licence swap now active
  • UK investments/ISAs compared to Spanish options
  • UK tax code changes – beware!
  • State pension retirement options in Spain

Driving licence swap now active
From the 16th March 2023 the UK & Spain driving licence exchange, without the need to take a practical or theory driving test, is back at long last for those who are Spanish residents. From this date, as a resident you can legally drive in Spain on your UK driving licence, having 6 months to exchange.

You will also need to book a ‘Psicotecnico’ as I previously mentioned in my Newsletter and here is a link for the participating places to do this: Psicotecnico centres

So get your driving gloves back on and hit the Spanish roads! Be aware, this new exchange deal between the UK and Spain also means they will be sharing information on fines, speeding tickets and other incidents recorded (intoxication for example) so take note.

UK & Spanish investments

UK investments/ISAs compared to Spanish options
Many people who live in Spain are unclear or unaware of the difference between holding UK savings and investments compared to Spanish, and also what your options actually are here.

Unless you are on a specialist tax regime such as the Beckham Law, or potentially the new Digital Nomad Visa, Spain views UK savings and investments as non-Spanish compliant and therefore tax declarable/paid on any gains annually, EVEN if you do not access any of these monies. In the UK for example, normally the first advice any financial adviser will give their clients is to ‘max out’ their ISA and private pension contributions annually, as the tax saving alone makes this a great thing to do. However, once you become a Spanish tax resident these are not generally tax efficient and any gain on non pension related investments has to be declared and tax paid annually – therefore in many cases potentially nullifying the benefits of these.

So what can you do?
Most people speak to their Spanish bank and aren’t given any financial advice as such in respect of their circumstances and, in many cases, are sold investments that are not really what they are looking for, nor, dare I say, are any good from what my clients tell me!

When they have been put off by this they start looking around for something similar to what they had before they moved to Spain, and that’s when they find and/or are recommended to me. In Spain, we have access to several flexible investment solutions backed by some of the UK’s largest and well-known institutions. These products are EU regulated and highly tax-efficient, in essence similar to a UK ISA. We start by looking at your overall situation, carefully understanding what you are looking to achieve – whether that be a retirement plan, mid-term investment or complete financial planning for the whole family, taking into account university fees, or perhaps FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early). As the years go by and your money grows we provide ongoing advice to make sure these are optimised, taking into account life events that occur along the way.

UK tax code changes – beware!
On the 10th April this year UK state pensions were increased to rise with inflation up to £203.85 a week (10.1% increase) as the government restarted the ‘triple lock’ agreement it had suspended for one year. For most people receiving their UK pensions this was very good news, however for some it has created another problem depending on other income and how they are set up for tax purposes.

When leaving the UK as a tax resident it is important to inform HMRC. If you don’t, once your income rises above your personal allowance of £12,570 (with the state pension annually now £10,600) you will be subject to income tax in the UK and taxed accordingly.

Worse than that, this hike in UK state pension income has seen many retired people have their tax code changed, wrongly it would seem, by HMRC. In one case I have seen they were being taxed 40% on their income above the personal allowance. If the tax they are taking doesn’t look right a simple phone call to HMRC seems to solve the problem.

If you have set yourself up correctly as a non UK tax resident, then the only UK income you should be taxed on is property rental income. Most other income should not be taxed in the UK, but declared and tax paid in the country where you are tax resident.

State pension retirement options in Spain
Below I have listed the different options when you retire in Spain claiming a state pension – one notable new change is that to qualify for ‘partial retirement’ (also known as active retirement) you can only use Spanish contributions – previously you could include contributions from the UK.

Ordinary Retirement
Retirement age in Spain starts at 65, however for most it is 66 years and 10 months and by 2027 the number of years of contributions to retirement needed will be 38.5 years.

Flexible Retirement
After you retire, you can combine receiving a part of your pension with part-time work (reducing your full working day down to 50%). Your pension is reduced proportionally.

Partial/Active Retirement
If you have not reached the legal retirement age, you can combine a part-time employment contract with receiving part of your retirement pension.

**Reminder – to qualify for the Spanish state pension in general you must have contributed for 15 years, of which two at least should fall within the 15 years immediately preceding the start of your entitlement.

If you would like any more information regarding any of the above, or to talk through your situation initially and receive expert, factual based advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Chris.

Article by Chris Burke

If you are based in the Barcelona/Costa Brava area and would like to have an initial, complimentary face to face video call or arrange a time to visit Chris in his office in central Barcelona, contact Chris on or whatsapp +34 689915730.

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