real estate

European Commission vs Spain.- Transfer Tax on real estate companies

The European Commission has been very active during the last years regarding Spanish Tax position when a non resident element is involved. Our posting today deals with a matter involving transfer tax and stamp duty in the context of M&A.

During the last decades, individuals acquiring Spanish property owned by a Spanish Company (SL)  have been forced to create a double company structure to own the shares of the Spanish company.

In many cases the two shareholders were based offshore and increased substantially the costs of owning property in Spain. The reason was that this acquisition will save the application of a real estate transfer tax which was extended to the disposal of shares.

Spain has been applying for many years a transfer tax charge of 6-7% for the disposal of shares of companies owning real estate assets in Spain. Interestingly enough, the application of this tax was not included in the Transfer Tax Act but in Law 24/1988 on the securities market.

Article 108 of Spain’s Law 24/1988 on the securities market establishes that a 6-7 percent transfer tax  (7 percent in most autonomous regions) applies to the transfer of securities of a company whose real estate assets in Spain represent more than 50 percent of its total assets, or whose assets include securities in another entity whose real estate assets in Spain represent at least 50 percent of its total assets, if the acquirer gains control of the real estate entity as a result of the transfer.

The European Commission has asked Spain to modify its transfer tax provisions relating to the acquisition of securities in real estate companies, arguing that the provisions are not consistent with article 5 of Council Directive 2008/7/EC concerning indirect taxes on the raising of capital.