Last updated: October 15, 2021

Here you will find all the information you need to get an idea of the special expats tax regime, also known as the Beckham Law.

Introduction

Normally, when someone becomes a tax resident in Spain, their income is subject to Spanish Personal Income Tax (“PIT”) or Impuesto sobre la Renta de las Personas Físicas («IRPF») in Spanish. In other words, they are taxed in the same way as any other resident in Spain. This means, for example, that employment income will be subject to progressive tax rates of up to 48%. The Beckham Law, or Special Expats’ Tax Regime (“SETR”) from Spanish Régimen Especial para Trabajadores Desplazados, exists for those who move to Spain to work and become tax residents in Spain. The special expats tax regime, unlike PIT, gives those who have moved to Spain the option of paying tax as non-residents. This means, for example, that their income from employment is taxed at a fixed rate of 24% up to 600,000 euros of income, and 47% thereafter.

It is the PIT Act and in the Non-Resident Income Tax Act that regulate the SETR. There is also a regulation of development (“Regulations”) that delves into the different aspects regulated by the acts. This constitutes the basic regulatory framework applicable to the special regime. In addition to the above, it is also necessary to take into account the criteria of the General Directorate of Taxes. This serves to interpret those aspects of the regulations that are not entirely clear.

Origin of the Special Expats’ Tax Regime

The beginnings of the special expats tax regime

The special expats tax regime was introduced in 2003 as an incentive measure to attract highly qualified foreign workers to Spain. In exchange for coming to Spain, they were offered better tax conditions. These conditions consisted essentially in giving them the option of being treated in terms of taxes as non-residents. Being taxed as a non-resident normally means lower tax rates and being taxed only on income generated in Spanish territory. Spain was not the only country to offer this special regime, in fact, there were other countries in Europe that were already doing the same.

However, as you have probably noticed, the expression “Beckham Law” has its origin in David Beckham. He was a well-known English footballer who used to play for Real Madrid C.F., one of the most important football teams in the world. The point is that this regime is commonly known as the “Beckham Law” because it coincided in time with David Beckham’s arrival in Spain. It is rumoured that he was one of the first celebrities to benefit from the special scheme for posted workers.

David Beckham, by whose surname the special expats tax regime is known
David Beckham presented as new player of Real Madrid. July 2, 2003.

The transformation of the regime and what it is now

After that, in 2010, the tax benefit was limited, meaning that only taxpayers whose income did not exceed 600,000 euros could apply the special tax regime. Bearing in mind that those years were quite difficult due to the economic crisis, it is quite likely that this measure had a propagandistic rather than a tax collection purpose. Moreover, it is likely that the aim was to send the message that celebrities had to set an example when it came to contributing to the sustainability of public expenditure.

The last major change was in 2015, when professional athletes were expressly expelled from the regime. Notwithstanding the above, the limit of 600,000 euros was also eliminated. This way, those with incomes above that amount could also apply the regime, but with a tax rate of 47% for incomes above that amount.

Today it is still known as the Beckham Law regime, but it is clear that it is no longer aimed at sportsmen, but at skilled workers. The key is that it is intended that skilled workers currently residing abroad move to work in Spain. This is why the regime is quite strict in terms of working conditions.

Key aspects of the Special Expats’ Tax Regime

The special expats tax regime is a special tax regime by which you could be taxed similarly to non-residents, which essentially means lower tax rates and being taxed only on income generated in Spain.

Almost flat tax rate

The main advantage of the SETR is that the general tax base (which includes employment income, rents, etc.) is taxed at an almost fixed rate. This almost fixed tax rate means that the first 600,000 euros of income is taxed at 24% and the excess is taxed at 47%. On the other hand, if the SETR were not applied, the same general tax base would be taxed at a progressive tax rate, a rate that can reach up to almost 50%. However, as you can see on the Pros and Cons page, the SETR is not always the best option.

Only income obtained in Spain is taxed

One of the main advantages of the special expats tax regime is that only income obtained in Spain, i.e. income of Spanish origin, is taxed. There is only one exception, employment income. With the regular PIT, all your worldwide income would be subject to taxation in Spain. You will find more information about this on the Pros and Cons page.

To apply for the SETR you need to be a tax resident in Spain. Once it is clear that you are or will become a tax resident in Spain, there are some requirements that must be met. You will find detailed information about the requirements on the Requirements page.

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What is the Beckham Law