Getting a Spanish VAT number or a Spanish Identification Number

Posted on Posted in Publications, Tax

Many business operates warehouses in Spain to store goods for further sale either in Spain or abroad. This post deals with the VAT implications of such arrangements.

The Tax Authorities consider that using a warehouse located in Spain, either as owner or a lessee, is a Permanent Establishment (“PE”) for VAT purposes. Therefore, a foreign entrepreneur operating a rented warehouse in Spain would be treated as established in Spain, with all the obligations involved (charge VAT, Vat number, quarterly tax returns and the like). The fact that the warehouse is operated by a third party, such a logisctic company, is not relevant in this context.

However, if a foreing entrepreneur only temporarily deposit its property at the warehouse operated by a third party without having any kind of interest on it, either as  owner, holder of a right of use or lease of all or of a fixed part thereof , the warehouse would not be considered a PE of that company. It would be receiving a service not taxable in Spain, but in the State where such company is registered under the reverse charge mechanism. Therefore, that company would not need a Spanish VAT number. The key issue is therefore to determine if a company has rented some space or only receives a service from the logistic company.
Other issue to be considered is that, even if a company is not established in Spain, any Spanish supplier delivering goods to the warehouse should charge Spanish VAT if the goods are not exported in a short period of time (one month). In this respect, the recovery of such  Input VAT could only be accomplished following the procedure for non  establised entrepreneurs which is not very fast.

It is noteworthy to remark that the PE for VAT purposes does not mean, in any way, that a company  should be deemed to be operating in Spain through a PE for Corporation Tax. As stated in most Tax Treaties signed by Spain  the use of facilities in Spain for the purpose of storage, display or delivery of goods or merchandise does not constitute a PE. Therefore, the profits of such foreing entrepreneurs  could not be taxed in Spain. To avoid misunderstanding, it is important that the  main activities are performed outside Spain. For example, the orders are received in the abroad, invoices are issued abroad and payments are handled there. The business cycle should be wholly performed abroad, except that the physical delivery is performed from the warehouse located in Spain.

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To obtain a Spanish VAT number, when needed, a Certificate of Good Standing of the foreign entrepreneur is needed. This Certificate must be issued by the competent authority of the country of residence (Chamber of Commerce, Registry of Companies…). The purpose of the Certificate is to probe that the company has been incorporated and is existing under the laws of the relevant country. The Certificate must be translated into Spanish, legalized and sealed with the Hague Apostille.

The Spanish VAT number is no more than the Spanish Identification Number (“NIF”) preceded by an “ES” of ESPAÑA. Any foreing entrepreneur involved in cross border transactions would need a VAT number. However, if such entrepreneur only intervenes in domestic transactions, a NIF would be enough.

Finally, and as practical advice, any foreing entrepreneur doing business in Spain should consider opening a bank account for the purpose of paying taxes, because foreing bank accounts are not allowed, and appointing a fiscal representative to deal with the Tax Authorities. The fiscal representative need not be Spainsh, but if he is foreing he should also get a NIF.