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Inheritance tax in the Canary Islands.  How does it affect your family?

By Paul Montague, Partner, Blevins Franks 

 If you live in Spain, and intend to remain here for the foreseeable future, you need to be prepared for how Spain’s version of inheritance tax could affect you and your family. The Spanish succession regime can come as an unwelcome surprise for the unprepared.


Spanish succession and gift tax is due in either of these two situations:


  1. The beneficiary of an inheritance/estate, or the recipient of a lifetime gift, is resident in Spain. This will therefore apply to any of your heirs who live in Spain, as well to yourself if you receive an inheritance, even if it’s coming from abroad.


  1. The asset being inherited or gifted is a Spanish asset (e.g. a property located in Spain or a Spanish bank account). This applies even if the recipient does not live in Spain.


It is possible to be liable to both Spanish and UK inheritance taxes, on the same assets, though you will not pay tax twice (but will pay whichever liability is higher).


Here are the key considerations of Spain’s succession and gift tax:


  • Succession and gift tax is governed by both state and regional autonomous community rules; each community has the right to amend the state rules. Whether the state or the regional rules apply depends on where the beneficiary and donor are resident and where the assets being inherited/gifted are located.


  • Tax is paid by each recipient.


  • Spouses are not exempt.


  • Beneficiaries are divided into categories. Children and grandchildren under 21 are Group I.  Spouses, older descendants, ascendants (parents, grandparents) are Group II.  Group III comprises of siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles. Most other people fall into Group IV, though in-laws and stepchildren can be either Group III or IV depending on circumstances.


  • Unmarried partners are generally categorised as Group IV, even if they have registered as a pareja de hecho. However, some regions can treat pareja de hecho as married couples for succession and gift tax purposes.


  • Under the state rules, allowances are just €15,956 for spouses, descendants and ascendants (children under 21 get an extra €3,990 a year); €7,993 for Group III beneficiaries and nil for everyone else (Group IV). Disabled beneficiaries receive an extra allowance of €47,859 or €150,253, depending on the level of disability.


  • There is a 95% reduction against the value of the main home (maximum €122,606 per inheritor) when inherited by a spouse or descendant, but only if they keep it for 10 years.


  • Under state rules, tax is applied at progressive rates from 7.65% to 34%. However, multipliers depending on the relationship between the two parties and the recipient’s pre-existing net worth can take the tax much higher.


  • If you leave assets to your spouse, who then passes them on to your children when he/she dies, succession tax will be due again on the second death.


Canary Islands regional inheritance tax rules


Under the local Canary Islands rules, children under 21 basically escape succession tax as they receive a 99.9% relief on both inheritances and gifts. It increases to 100% for limited amounts of inheritance, based on age.


Relatives included in Groups II and III receive a relief, depending on the amount received as an inheritance (it does not apply to gifts).  This starts at a generous 99.9% relief for inheritances up to €55,000, then tapers down over nine bands to just 10% for inheritances between €275,000 and €305,000 (this is per beneficiary).


The allowances for inheritances (gifts follow the state rules) for Group II and III beneficiaries are as follows:


Spouses & pareja de hecho registered couples €40,000
Children over 21 €23,125
Other descendants and ascendants €18,500
Group III beneficiaries €9,300
Beneficiaries over 75 years €125,000
Beneficiaries with 33%-65% disability €72,000
Beneficiaries with higher disability €400,000


Also, in the Canary Islands, the main home deduction increases to 99%, with a maximum of €200,000, and the property only needs to be kept for five years.  There can also be substantial reductions for inherited family businesses.


Inheritance tax planning for UK nationals in Spain


It is important to understand the various succession tax rules (not to mention UK inheritance tax) and how they apply to your family situation.  You need specialist advice to understand the intricacies of the two tax regimes, the interaction between them, and how to lower tax liabilities for your family and heirs.


Blevins Franks have 45 years of experience advising British expatriates in Spain on cross-border estate planning.  In many cases we can recommend solutions to help lower the tax liabilities for your family and heirs, as well as to protect them from the Spanish forced heirship rules.


Contact us today for a personalised estate planning review.


Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.


Blevins Franks Wealth Management Limited (BFWML) is authorised and regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority, registered number C 92917. Authorised to conduct investment services under the Investment Services Act and authorised to carry out insurance intermediary activities under the Insurance Distribution Act. Where advice is provided outside of Malta via the Insurance Distribution Directive or the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II, the applicable regulatory system differs in some respects from that of Malta. BFWML also provides taxation advice; its tax advisers are fully qualified tax specialists. Blevins Franks Trustees Limited is authorised and regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority for the administration of trusts, retirement schemes and companies. This promotion has been approved and issued by BFWML.