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The “very low” figure does not represent a failure in the new reporting initiative’s primary purpose, say tax specialists
12.06.13 - 13:21 -
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95% of residents with offshore assets don’t declare them
‘Hacienda’ produced a video showing how to fill in form 720. :: SUR
Only 4.9 per cent of those classified as tax residents in Spain (generally, that is anyone who spends more than 183 days per tax year in the country) with overseas assets valued at more than 50,000 euros in any single asset class, have declared them to the Spanish authorities, according to GESTHA, an 8,000-strong collective of specialists within the Spanish tax office. It became an annual obligation to report these offshore assets in April this year.
The figures reveal that only 131,411 people presented the 720 form, the document used to report assets of 50,000 euros outside Spain, before the 30th April deadline.
This is “a very low number” says GESTHA, bearing in mind that there are 2.6 million foreign tax residents in Spain alone – the group widely considered most likely to hold overseas assets that should now be declared each year to ‘Hacienda’, as the tax authority is popularly known.
Speaking on the issue last week in Brussels, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, confirmed that more than 87 billion euros worth of assets had emerged as a result of the project, or approximately nine per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
‘Government failure’
But does the fact that so few 720 forms have been filed mean that the new asset reporting initiative - designed, say its proponents, to catch tax evaders – has failed in its primary purpose?
“The poor uptake on the declaring of assets is not a failure of the anti-fraud measure that was passed in 2012; however one could say that it represents a failure in the way the government rolled it out,” José María Mollinedo, the Secretary General of GESTHA tells SUR in English.
“The government was led to believe that the harsh penalties and consequences for non-compliance alone would be enough to shed light on hidden assets from tax havens.
“We must think of it as a failure of the government’s awareness campaign aimed at foreigners living in Spain, many of whom didn’t know about this new obligation in time, even though they had little or nothing to hide.”
To counteract that so few of those believed to have overseas assets declared them, the government, according to Mr Mollinedo, will now focus its efforts more specifically on certain nationalities.
He says: “It’s forecast that the government will seek to focus more on foreign residents in Spain, especially those from the US and those from EU member states.”
Spain has recently signed an intergovernmental agreement with the US, under its Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), for financial institutions to automatically exchange fiscal information from certain accounts.
Similarly, on 10th April this year, Spain, Germany, the UK, France and Italy agreed to a pilot information sharing scheme that is expected to be implemented more widely across Europe next year.
Speaking to this newspaper in April, the GESTHA Secretary General robustly rejected claims that the new declaration obligations are a ‘fiscal attack’ on foreigners in Spain.

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