If you’re living in Spain then it’s likely that you’ll already have a Spanish bank account: this will make it easier to pay your bills and your taxes, as well as any other expenses associated with Spanish homeownership. But if you do have a Spanish bank account, it’s important that you use it regularly. Not using your bank account could actually cost you significantly in the long run! Here’s how, why, and everything else you need to know:
The Role of the Hacienda
All bank transactions in Spain are monitored by the Agencia Tributaria, also known as Hacienda, especially when it comes to payments above €3,000, transfers of more than €10,000 and any deposit of €500 banknotes. If any of these kinds of transactions take place, Spanish banks are legally obliged to inform the Hacienda so that they can be properly monitored: in Spain, the financial Big Brother is always watching you! What’s more, tax authorities can also request permission from financial entities (such as banks and loan companies) to investigate any specific account at any time: this right is often used when fraudulent activity is suspected.
The relationship between the state and the nation’s private banking institutions is a strong one: there is very little banking secrecy in Spain. So what does all this have to do with using your bank account regularly? It’s shockingly simple: if a bank account is considered to be inactive, then Spain’s Tax Agency is legally able to simply take all the money from that inactive bank account.
Long-Term Inactive Accounts
The good news is, this doesn’t apply to accounts that are left to stand for a year or two: if you go on an extended holiday you won’t have to worry about coming back to an empty bank account! The Spanish Tax Agency does, however, have the right to empty inactive accounts after 20 years without use.
It’s easy to think that this rule doesn’t apply to you: but it is a policy that bolsters public funds. The Hacienda managed to secure an extra €12.57 million from these inactive accounts in 2019 That’s 13 percent more than they managed to secure in 2018. In total, the Hacienda have injected €150 million into the public coffers from inactive bank accounts over the last 10 years.
There are many reasons why these bank accounts are left inactive: they could have been forgotten about, the person who initially opened them could have passed away without any relatives to inherit the funds, or they could belong to a foreign citizen who opened the account when they lived in Spain and forgot about it when they moved away again. This tax raid doesn’t only apply to Spanish bank accounts, it also applies to investment funds, fixed income securities, and any other banking product.
Always Cancel An Account You Aren’t Using
Leaving Spain, switching to a different bank, there are many reasons you might choose to stop using a Spanish bank account. But if you do, it’s important that you cancel that account rather than simply leave it with a zero balance. This means contacting the bank and informing them (preferably in writing) that you would like the account to be closed.
Because most banks in Spain charge maintenance and other fees on a regular basis, if you don’t do this you could end up leaving an account with a zero balance that ends up becoming overdrawn very quickly. This could lead to the account attracting a penalty fee which could mount up without your knowledge if you’re not receiving correspondence from your Spanish bank.
The Longer Your Account is Inactive The More Account Fees You Pay
When thinking about the cost of living in Spain, it’s important to consider your bank account fees and charges in your monthly budget. You should also be aware that if your Spanish current account has not registered a single transaction within the past three years, Spanish banks put these dormant accounts on a separate list, and a different (usually higher) set of maintenance fees apply to these accounts. The standard practice is for them at the very least to charge the maximum maintenance fees published in the Bank of Spain: €36 euros per year. For this reason, if you have a Spanish bank account then make sure you use it! Even if you just use it for one small transaction every year (such as paying for petrol or for your grocery shop) this will mean the account isn’t registered as dormant, and this will save you money in the long run.
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