HotRIBS - The online RIB Magazine
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Buying and Using a Boat in Spain
By: Alex Chumillas
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The Spanish Boat Tax System Explained
The aim of this article is to explain some key questions about tax and leisure boats in Spain. The Spanish tax system is one of the hardest in the EU. The two main taxes to consider when we buy a boat in Spain or take a boat to Spain are the VAT and the registration (Matriculation) tax. Any citizen of the European Union has the obligation to register their craft in the country where they have their usual residency. The Spanish law requires to register, under the Spanish flag, any boat used inside a Spanish territory by a Spanish tax resident.

The concept of Spanish tax residency is defined in the Spanish Personal Income Tax Law, which establishes that any person becomes a Spanish Tax resident if they spend more than 183 days in any one calendar year in a Spanish territory. As well, the Spanish Corporation Tax Law establishes that any company incorporated according to Spanish laws is classed as a Spanish tax resident.

Spanish Boat Tax

Tax Scheme
Purchase of a new boat in Spain
registered under Spanish Flag (Length above 7.5 metres)

Acquisition by an Individual

Boat Location
(Matriculation) Tax
Spanish Territory
Spanish Territory
Out of Spain
Other EU Territory
Other EU Territory
Out of Spain
Non EU Territory
16% - 0%*
Non EU Territory
Out of Spain

If the boat is purchased by an individual in Spain there is no way to avoid these taxes. However, there are some ways of reducing the financial burden by purchasing the boat using the services of a Leasing Company. This is due to a difference in interpretation by member states of the EU as to the “place and supply of goods” and the “place and supply of services” in the application of VAT collection. Some jurisdictions in Europe, like France or Italy consider that depending on the length of the boat there is going to be a certain use of the boat outside EU waters which allows buyers to benefit from lower VAT tax rates.

In Spain, as we said before, there is no a direct tax benefit for the buyer, but as for the French or Italian financial company, which provides the lease, they can benefit from these lower rates in their countries. Therefore they are able to offer to anybody who buys a brand new boat in Spain a financial option that involves a total payment after four years that is the same as the full payment up front. Please see the following numeric example:

4 Years Financing
Price of the boat
(VAT not included)
£60,000 GBP
( VAT included 16%)
£69,600 GBP
First payment 50% (deposit)
£34,800 GBP
- deposit of 10 % (£6,960 GBP)
- first installment of 40 % (£27,840 GBP)
47 Instalments of:
£740,43 GBP
Final value payment (nil as already paid as part of the deposit)
10 %, £6,960 GBP
(The residual value is guaranteed by the deposit)
Final cost of the boat VAT included: £69,600 GBP

If a person spends less than 183 days in Spain that person doesn't become classed as tax resident in Spain. However, if a person stays more than 183 days in Spain, they will become classed as a Spanish tax resident and will be required to pay the same tax as a Spaniard.

Some questions to be aware of when in Spain with a boat.
Q. If we are living on board a boat in Spain, are we living in Spain?

A. Effectively when somebody lives on board a boat, they are deemed to be living where the boat is placed. Therefore in the Spanish case, if somebody spends more than 183 days living in a Spanish Marina, they will become classed as a Spanish tax resident.

Q. I have an administrative document that proves I'm a resident in a different country than Spain. Is that evidence enough to prove my residence for tax purposes?

A. It is very important to differentiate between the concept of administrative and tax residency. In this article we are interested in the concept of tax residency. An administrative certificate of residency is not enough evidence to consider if one person is a tax resident in one country or another. Following the criteria of the Spanish Tax Administration, heating, lighting, and water receipts or even being on the electoral register are not enough evidence as to proof of tax residency.

To prove tax residency in a particular country the only accepted evidence is a tax certificate issued by the Tax Authority of a country. The person who owns a certificate by way of proof of his/her tax residency can therefore be considered as a non tax resident in Spain with the tax benefits which that involves.

Q. Who controls our presence in the Spanish territory?

A. Nowadays all the internal frontiers of the Shengen Area* are exempt of border controls. If any EU citizen of the Shengen Area* stays no longer than 3 months in another state of the EU he/she doesn't need to apply for an authorisation for administrative residence. Therefore for an EU citizen it's quite difficult to determine the exact date of entrance into a Spanish territory. For a non EU it is completely different. They are submitted to immigration controls and therefore it's very easy to determine their date of entrance into the country.

Q. Who controls the entrance of boats to Spanish waters?

A. The Guardia Civil is the division of the Spanish police in charge of controlling the entrance of foreign boats. This division compiles all the information from the different Spanish Marinas as a control on how long foreign boats have been in Spanish waters.

For boats that belong to the Shengen Area* there is no limit of time to remain in one or another Shengen* country. It doesn't matter if your boat moves from one Marina to another inside the country, it's the accumulative time spent in Spain and the police can easily calculate how long any boat has been inside the country. The clock, however, starts again from zero on the 1st January each year, permitting another 183 days of residency. So it would be possible to have a full consecutive year in residency providing it straddled a new year, 183 days each side!

The criteria for non EU citizens is very complex and outside the scope of this article. However if any reader requires information on boat residency in Spain as a non EU subject they are welcome to contact the author below.

Note: * The Shengen Area in the EU includes: France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Luxemburg, Greece, Belgium, Austria, United Kingdom and Ireland.

About The Author
Alex Chumillas is a Spanish tax expert who specialises in nautical procedures and is officially licensed to deal with the different Spanish Administrations.

Contact Details:
Alex Chumillas Amat
Economista - Gestor Administrativo
C/ Villarroel, 212, 1º 2ª
08036 Barcelona

Teléfono: +34 934442137
Móbil : +34 667663521
Fax : +34 940469418
e_mail :

November 2006