Spanish Governments are not celebrated for bringing clarity to the matter of inheritance taxes (IHT), whether on a domestic level –there are 17 different IHT tax regimes within the country- or internationally, in the very relevant cross-border investment context.
Notably, Spain has only signed agreements to avoid IHT double taxation with Sweden (1963), France (1963) and Greece (1920), rather bizarrely. If you think about it, a country that is trying all sorts to lure foreign investment, yet fails to specifically address the IHT situation of an investor from Britain (by and large the largest exporter of property buyers to Spain!), is a country with massive inefficiencies.
Spain signed its latest Double Taxation Agreement with the United Kingdom on the 14th of March 2013, entering into force in June of 2014.
As far as Spain is concerned, the treaty is meant to cover the following:
income tax on individuals; (ii) the corporation tax; (iii) the income tax on non-residents; (iv) the capital tax; and (v) local taxes on income and on capital;
Yep, no trace of inheritance taxes, as if the thousands of British investors in Spanish property were immortal or this was a point of (tax) law that nobody ever asks or worries about. Paradoxical and incomprehensible.
Still, however, national laws in each country provide the solution:
In Spain, a rather unknown binding resolution of the Spanish Directorate for Taxes, with number V0148-08, applies the 1987 Spanish Tax Act to address the a scenario of double taxation of a Spanish resident who inherits from a UK resident (where the estate is taxed). In this case, the resolution establishes that any taxes paid in the UK will be deducted off the taxes to be paid in Spain (if those UK assets are at all declared in Spain!).
What if it was the other way round i.e. a UK domicile inheriting a Spanish property? In this instance, as Spanish taxes will be paid on local assets, according to the site https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax-double-taxation-relief, HMRC gives credit against Inheritance Tax for the tax charged by another country on assets sited in that country. Interestingly, the web page cites an example of Spanish-based property and the “relevant double taxation convention”…when there isn’t one!
So whilst there is an understanding as to where and how will IHT be paid where assets of Spanish/UK residents are involved, surely it cannot be too difficult to sign up a treaty on the matter for complete clarity, just as the wholly superfluous 1920 Double Taxation Agreement with Greece does.