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How to Start a Business in Spain

This article has useful facts about spain for those of you planning to be self-employed and/or start your own business here.

The sort of work permit you will need as a self-employed person is called cuenta propia or autonomo as you will be paying into the Spanish Social Security system under a different plan from the employee.

EU citizens starting a business

Although European Union citizens will find that there is a fair amount of red tape and paperwork to be dealt with in order to start their own business, it will only be the same as any Spanish national has to deal with. Having said that, at least the Spanish national will be able to speak Spanish!

Another plus is that EU citizens who are professionals will now find it much easier to have their professional qualifications standardized to Spanish regulations and to set up their practice in Spain.

Non-EU citizens starting a business

Non-EU citizens will, first of all, have to find out what visa they need from the Spanish consulate in their home country before coming to Spain.

A non-EU citizen wishing to go into business will have to show that s/he has at least $18,000 to invest in their Spanish business and that they will provide work for Spanish nationals. The Spanish consulate may insist that the investment be made, employees hired and the business ready to operate before granting the visa. All rather complicated but, if you will bring employment to Spaniards, your application will be looked on favorably.

If you are a professional with titles or a degree from outside the EU, there is a lengthy process of validation.

General checklist for EU and non-EU citizens

This is a general list and not all points on the list will apply to each case.

  1. Title or degree.
  2. Impuesto de Actividades Economicas (IAE) or Tax on Economic
    – register at the Hacienda.
  3. Register with the Spanish Social Security as a self-employed worker – trabajador autonomo. It is illegal to work in Spain without paying Spanish Social Security.
  4. A licencia de apertura or opening licence from the Town Hall
    if you have business premises.
  5. A memoria de actividades or written explanation of the
    activity you will carry out as a self-employed person.
  6. Passport and photocopy.
  7. Four photos.
  8. Deeds or lease of the business premises plus photocopy.
  9. Incorporation charter if a company has been formed.
  10. Solicitud requesting permit.
  11. Any other permits relating to your profession, eg food handler´s certificate.

A competent gestor or abogado will see you through the process although, if your Spanish is reasonable, you can always get the forms from the local police station or from the Delegación de Trabajo and see if you can manage it yourself (rather you than me!).

You will have to pay into the Spanish Social Security system for yourself along with anyone you employ. And, you will also be making tax declarations, so will need an asesor fiscal.

Forming a spanish company

If you wish to form a Spanish company or a branch of a foreign company in order to do business in this country, the facts about Spain are that you can do so whether you are resident or non-resident.

If you have 60,000 euros, you can form a Spanish Sociedad Anónima (SA) – the equivalent of a British limited company (plc) or American corporation (Inc), where liability is limited to the amount of capital each investor has subscribed.

In Spain, you can also form a Sociedad Limitada, with a reduced number of shareholders and capital, or make a Spanish branch company of a parent company already existing in your home country.

However, if you are considering any of these options, you will need good legal advice, both in your home country and in Spain, to discuss the best tax and business options.

The Spanish Consulate in your home country should be able to supply you with booklets in English about starting a business in Spain, such as “A Guide To Business In Spain”, or you can write to:

Dirección General de Transacciones Exteriores
Calle Almagro 34
28010 Madrid

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