Town halls are 65 million euros better off thanks to undeclared changes to properties

Inspections took place all over the province
Inspections took place all over the province / SUR
  • The tax authority has finished its inspections and discovered 89,000 properties whose owners will have to pay an extra 150 euros on their IBI bill on average, and a further 600 euros for arrears

Town halls have found themselves with considerable extra income from IBI property tax thanks to the inspections under way in the province since 2014.

The authorities have been searching for cases of new construction, extensions, renovation work or change of use of buildings that had gone under the IBI radar. This is mainly because neither the owners nor the relevant town hall had added the work to the official Catastro property records, whether or not they had a building licence or certificate of habitability.

After four years of work on this "regularisation plan", the authorities have now finished checking the 1.8 million buildings in Malaga province, and found irregularities in 88,919 of them (about five per cent of the total). Among the list of undeclared works are brand new construction projects, extensions and swimming pools which, although they may have had a works licence, had not been declared at the town hall's Catastro office where the cadastral values should have been updated; their owners, therefore, had not been charged the extra IBI tax they should have been paying.

Now things are changing, and after paying the Catastro a fee of 60 euros to correct their records, people will find that their IBI bills have also been updated accordingly. Not everyone will be affected equally, because the amount varies according to the type of construction and the square metres which have been added, but the average increase is 150 euros and the town halls are demanding a further 600 euros for late payments for the past four tax years, which is the longest period the authorities can claim for.

Altogether, this regularisation plan will enable the 103 municipalities in the province to collect over 65 million euros. This is around ten per cent of the total collected every year through the IBI tax, which is the main, but not the only, contribution to be affected by the updating of cadastral values.

The figures held by the Catastro are also applied to decide the amount payable of another municipal tax, 'plusvalía', which has to be paid when a property is sold, inherited or gifted, and also in some regional taxes, and state ones such as wealth and income tax.

Many of the undeclared changes detected concerned brand new construction work, such as a new house or storage facility. These amounted to 34.2 per cent of the detected fraud.

However, there were also numerous house extensions and rebuilding work in of buildings that were already registered. These represented 38.4 per cent of the infractions. Another 21.5 per cent were renovation work and changes of use (such as enclosing terraces with windows, or restoring an old house). The remaining 5.9 per cent of properties had swimming pools that did not figure on the authorities' database.

Place to place

By municipality, Malaga city stands out with 13,050 properties being regularised, of which half were extensions or rehabilitation. Nevertheless, in relative terms, it is striking that the inspectors detected irregularities in one in every ten buildings in Álora (2,144 out of a total of 19,241), with an almost equal amount of new constructions and extensions.

In the list of municipalities, it can also be seen that three of every four infractions in Vélez were for new buildings, most of them on rustic land between the numerous hamlets in its vast terrain. In Benalmádena and Cártama new swimming pools predominated, accounting for one in every four infractions detected.

Although this is officially tax fraud, no fines are being imposed. Hacienda says the 60 euros it charges are to cover the cost of the inspection services, which included personal visits, orthophotos and drones. The Cadastral Law obliges people to declare fully and correctly any new constructions or modifications carried out to existing ones, whether they are economic, physical or a change to ownership, or be fined between 60 and 6,000 euros.

Despite this type of amnesty by the tax authority, the town halls are still able to issue fines for illegal works, and in this case they can include those which have been carried out in the past six years.