Spain’s customs regulations can get a little messy. But whether you’re importing goods into the country as part of your business or you want to move your personal belongings to your own home, it often works out much cheaper than buying everything from scratch.
Most items imported into Spain are subject to import taxes. Thankfully, some exceptions help lower the cost and make importation more worthwhile. Here’s an overview of the customs and VAT rules you’ll need to know for moving items into Spain from a non-European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland. These rules apply to the US and the UK.
My advice: Use a professional removal service to manage the importation application on your behalf. This will make things much easier for you and boost your chance of success.
Paperwork for personal importation
Here’s a list of the paperwork you need to have to import personal items into Spain without having to pay import duty or VAT:
● Application addressed to Spanish customs regulations officer.
● Certificate of change of residence. From the embassy or consulate of the country where you’ve lived for the last 365 days. It needs to confirm that you’re changing your residence to Spain.
● List of imported goods + estimated value + approximate date of purchase. A Spanish consulate in your country of origin must stamp it.
● Personal use confirmation. You need to sign a document that confirms you won’t sell, transfer, or lease any of the items you’re importing for at least twelve months. You must also prove you’ve owned the items for at least six months.
● Proof you’ve lived outside Spain for at least 12 months. Tip: Use your certificate of tax residency, national identity document, utility bill, or employment contract to prove this.
● Copy of your residence permit in Spain. You can use the empadronamiento certificate you receive from the town hall to prove your residency in Spain if you’ve already achieved residency status. You can use your TIE application receipt if you haven’t received formal residency.
Tip: Paperwork is constantly changing in Spain. Contact your local embassy or consulate to confirm the documentation you need to avoid unpleasant surprises and conform to Spain customs regulations.
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Goods that are exempt from import duties according to the Spain customs regulations include:
● Any items designed for personal use, for your family, or your home
● Portable tools and domestic animals that you need for your job
● Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, caravans, trailers, and recreational boats for personal use
Avoid: Importing new items, even if they are for personal use. Customs officers can check all items being imported into Spain. If they think you’re importing new goods into the country intending to sell them, you’ll have to pay the duty, VAT, and a hefty fine.
Requesting exemption from duty and VAT
Spain customs regulations provide several ways of requesting exemption from duty and VAT. You can ask for these extra payments to be waived. To do this, you can contact the city customs office where you plan to live at least six months before you move. If you do this, you need to prove you will move. This involves extra paperwork and can be an unnecessary hassle.
Alternatively, you can request exemptions at the customs office in the airport when you enter Spain. My recommendation: Avoid this option. Traveling is already pretty stressful, and adding the hassle of going through customs procedures when you’ve just landed is likely something you’d rather pass on.
My favorite option is to request an exemption from duty and VAT at any customs office in the municipality where you move. You’ve got 12 months to do this, giving you plenty of time to arrange your residency paperwork so things become more manageable.
According to Spain customs regulations, most import duties are 0%. This includes items imported for commercial and personal use. However, some items may be subject to import duties because of the country in which they were manufactured.
For example, a bike made in China will be taxed according to statistical value or additional rate tax statistics of 48.5%. This is part of the EU’s antidumping mission to avoid foreign companies lowering the price of goods in other countries.
Value Added Tax (VAT)
Although most items imported into Spain are duty-free, you’ll almost certainly have to pay VAT. The standard VAT for importing goods is 21% into mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands. It’s only 7% for importing goods into the Canary Islands.
Some exceptions to the rule make things cheaper and reduce VAT to as little as 0%.
Tip: Don’t let the acronyms confuse you. VAT in mainland Spain and the Balearics is known as IVA (Impuesto sobre el Valor Añadido). In the Canary Islands, it’s known as IGIC (Impuesto General Indirecto de Canarias).