Things to know before doing business in Spain in 2023

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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 €3,000 in a Spanish bank account. The entrepreneurs have limited liability. Sociedad Anónima: The starting capital is high at ... Read more

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 €3,000 in a Spanish bank account. The entrepreneurs have limited liability.
  • Sociedad Anónima: The starting capital is high at about €60,000. 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.

Steps to Start a Business in Spain

  • Obtain the NIE document: This is a foreigner identity number for non-EU citizens.
  • Open a bank account with a Spanish bank.
  • Register at the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.
  • Get a CIF or NIF number: This is a fiscal identification code for legal entities.
  • Register with the Social Security system and pay social security contributions.

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.

Invoice Requirements for Exports to Spain

When exporting goods or services to an EU country like Spain, it’s crucial to be aware that additional rules may apply beyond your local invoice requirements. You can typically find these rules on your country’s tax office website or by contacting them directly.

When invoicing in Spain, make sure you include the following information as a minimum:

  • Full details of the supplier
  • Full details of the customer
  • Date
  • Sequentially numbered reference which should follow the date order
  • Details of goods or services provided
  • Amount chargeable for goods or services
  • Breakdown of VAT if applicable
  • Tax rate and liability

If you are a non-EU company, then you will almost certainly have to register your non-EU company as a non-resident VAT trader in at least one EU country. You can also use the Union scheme to simplify your VAT payments.

Multilingual Labels in Catalonia

Take note that when selling your products in Catalonia, they must be labeled in both Spanish and Catalan. This bilingual requirement extends to brochures, information leaflets, and other related documents. It’s essential to ensure compliance with regional language regulations to avoid potential issues.

Export Licenses for Goods to Spain

Although the EU allows for the free movement of goods, certain products may still require an export license when exporting them to Spain. These products can include medicines, phytosanitary products, and strategic goods3. If you plan on exporting these types of products, it’s advisable to contact your country’s tax authorities for guidance and information on obtaining the necessary licenses.

The documents required for shipments include items such as the commercial invoice, bill of landing or airway bill, packing list, insurance documents, and when required, special certificates of origin, sanitation, and ownership. A copy of the commercial invoice should accompany the shipment to avoid delays in customs clearance.

Business Cultural Differences Between Spaniards and Americans

If you’re doing business in Spain, it’s important to be aware of the cultural differences between Spaniards and Americans. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:

Language Matters

For Spaniards, their language holds great significance. To succeed in business, mastering Spanish is crucial. If you don’t speak Spanish, consider using an interpreter. Written communication in Spanish is often the most effective. Also, be mindful of regional differences. The younger generation typically speaks reasonably good English and sometimes even French.

Naming Conventions

In Spain, a person’s name consists of their first name, followed by their father’s and mother’s surnames. In written communication and official documentation, both last names are used.

Business and Food

In Spain, business is frequently conducted over lunch or dinner. Keep in mind that the person who extends the invitation to dine is also expected to cover the bill.

Siesta Time

Spaniards observe siestas, meaning they take a relatively long lunch break—typically from 2 p.m. to 4 or 5 p.m.—and then continue working until 7 or 8 p.m.

Summer Work Hours

While the idea of a business trip to Spain during the summer might seem appealing, be prepared for early starts and no work in the afternoons. Also, Friday afternoons are generally not suitable for business, as many companies close.

Formal Business Culture

Despite the casual attire of most tourists in Spain, Spaniards themselves tend to dress classically and often formally for work, paying close attention to their appearance. They expect the same from foreign business partners, so even in warm weather, wear a tie or suit when meeting a Spanish colleague. In younger companies, the corporate culture might be less formal.

Gift-Giving Etiquette

While Spaniards may appreciate a business gift, it’s not necessary. Expensive gifts can be perceived as bribes and are not appreciated.

Patience is a Virtue

Spaniards often prefer to know you well before conducting business. Be patient and invest time in building relationships. Don’t be surprised if a Spanish colleague arrives late to an appointment or misses a deadline—they tend to take their time and are generally not very punctual. After a lunch or business meeting, it’s a good idea to follow up with an email summarizing the points discussed and agreements made.

Starting and running a business in Spain can be a complex process, but with careful planning, attention to detail, and cultural sensitivity, it is possible to succeed. Whether you’re setting up a new business, exporting goods to Spain, or conducting business with Spanish partners, it’s crucial to understand the legal, cultural, and logistical aspects involved. By following the tips and advice outlined in this article, you can navigate the nuances of doing business in Spain and increase your chances of success. And if you need translation services to help with language and cultural barriers, consider working with a reputable provider like ABC Translations to ensure accurate and effective communication.