Things to know before doing business in Spain

Starting a business in Spain

Do you want to start your own business in Spain? The following business forms are the most popular.

Legal forms in Spain

  • Sociedad Limitada. To set up a Sociedad Limitada, it is compulsory to deposit about $3,200 in a Spanish bank account. The entrepreneurs have limited liability.
  • Sociedad Anónima. The starting capital is high at about $64,842. This capital can be used as working capital.

If you have chosen a legal form, there are still some steps you need to take when starting a business in Spain.

  • You need to obtain the NIE document. This is a Spanish identity card.
  • You need to open a bank account with a Spanish bank.
  • You need to register at the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.
  • You need to get a Spanish tax number (CIF or NIF number).

Depending on the type of business you are starting, there may be some other actions you need to take such as getting certain permits and employment contracts.

Special Economic Zones in Spain

Spain has 4 special economic zones that offer benefits such as reduced VAT rates, transfer tax exemptions and reduced corporate tax rates. The Spanish special economic zones are the Canary Islands, Cadiz, Vigo and Ceuta and Melilla. In addition, there are special economic zones for the ports of Barcelona, Santander and Seville.

Buying a business in Spain

Do you want to acquire an existing business in Spain? Then you should also think about several of the above points. On the internet there is a wide range of websites where you can find companies for sale in Spain.

Export to Spain

Spain is a member of the EU and therefore there is free movement of goods and services. Nevertheless, there are some things you need to think about if you want to export goods or services to Spain.

VAT export goods or services to companies in Spain

If you export B2B (business to business) products to Spain, you charge in principle 0% VAT. There are 2 conditions for charging the 0% VAT rate. Firstly, your customer must be a company. Therefore, the customer must have a valid VAT identification number. You can check the VAT identification number of companies in the EU yourself via this website. The second condition is that the goods have left the Netherlands and that this can be proven in case of an inspection. The website of the Tax and Customs Administration provides information on how you can prove this.

VAT export of goods to individuals in Spain

When supplying products or services to consumers in Spain, you must always charge VAT to your customer. For the processing of VAT is a threshold amount of $10,800. Beyond this quantity, you must apply the Spanish VAT rate. You also have to pay the VAT to the Spanish tax authorities.

The simplest way to arrange this is via the Union scheme. Under this scheme, you pay the VAT received from Spanish customers to external tax authorities, who then transfer it to the Spanish tax authorities. The Union scheme applies to all EU Member States and you can therefore also use this scheme to pay the VAT on your exports to, for example, Germany or France.

Excise tax on goods exported to Spain

Do you want to export alcoholic products, tobacco products or certain energy products to Spain? Excise duty must be paid on these goods. Who has to pay the excise duty depends on a few factors. The European Commission offers an excise duty tool that allows you to determine who should pay the excise duty.

Invoice requirements for export to Spain

If you export goods or services to an EU country, such as Spain, additional rules often apply in addition to the Dutch invoice requirements. You can find these on the website of the Tax Office.

Multilingual Labels in Catalonia

Please note that your products in Catalonia must be labeled in both Spanish and Catalan. This also applies to brochures, information leaflets and other documents.

Export license for exporting goods to Spain

Despite the free movement of goods in the EU, some goods require an export license if you want to export them to Spain. This applies to medicines, phytosanitary products and strategic goods. If you want to export these types of products, we advise you to contact the Dutch tax authorities.

Business cultural differences between Spaniards and the Dutch

If you are doing business in Spain, we recommend taking the following into account:

  • Speak your languages. For Spaniards, their language is very important. If business is to be done, mastering the Spanish language is therefore a must. Don’t speak Spanish? Then using an interpreter is a good idea. Written communication in Spanish is also often the most effective. In addition, take into account regional differences. The younger generation often speaks reasonably good English and sometimes even French.
  • Use the right names. What’s in a name? Quite a lot in Spain. The name consists of the first name, the father’s name and the mother’s name. In written communication and official documentation, both last names are used.
  • Business and food go hand in hand. In Spain, business is often conducted over lunch or dinner. Also good to know: the person who invites the other person to lunch also pays.
  • Siesta. Spaniards take siestas. This means that they have a relatively long lunch, namely from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. or even until 5 p.m. and then continue to work until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.
  • No afternoon work in the summer. Going on a business trip to Spain in the summer months sounds very appealing. However, keep in mind that there will be an early start and no work in the afternoon. Friday afternoons are also not a good time to do business, when most companies are closed.
  • Formal business culture. T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. This is what the average tourist looks like while vacationing in Spain. In contrast, Spaniards themselves are classically and often formally dressed while at work. A lot of attention is paid to appearance. One expects the same from a foreign business partner. So despite the sun, put on your tie or suit when meeting a Spanish business partner. In younger companies, there is a less formal corporate culture.
  • Expensive gifts are not appreciated. Spaniards may appreciate a business gift, but it is not necessary. Expensive gifts can be interpreted as bribes.
  • Take your time. Spaniards often want to get to know you well before they do business with you. To do this, take your time and invest in your business contacts. Also, don’t be surprised if a Spaniard doesn’t show up on time during your appointment. Or misses a deadline. Spaniards like to take their time and are generally not very punctual. The best thing to do after lunch or a business meeting is to send your Spanish business partner an e-mail with the points discussed and agreements made.
Nathan Woods

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