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Home > Tax Law > Spanish Lawyers and Tax Advice

Spanish Lawyers and Tax Advice

November 14th, 2013

 

Providing sophisticated tax advice has become a risky business, according to the latest spate of incidents relating to tax advisors who have crossed, in the view of the Spanish Courts and authorities, the fine line between tax avoidance and tax evasion.

Last week, the Audiencia Nacional stated that Garrigues, the number one firm in Spain by turnover, has helped a number of CAM bank former directors cheat the Spanish “Hacienda”. The statement can deemed as being bold but then again, how else can you define the advice given to bent bank directors who were accused, and arrested shortly after, of setting up offshore companies in the Dutch Antilles to channel loans granted to themselves that were later syphoned off to these tax havens?

Last month, also the Madrid-based Audiencia Nacional held that Demetrio Carceller, a prominent businessman, has hidden the full extent of his income and wealth “since at least 1990” through a complex scheme, with companies in the Antilles, Panama and Madeira, in which he claimed alternatively to be resident in Portugal and Britain when it appears, lived in a Madrid penthouse, “avoiding as much as possible socializing in the capital”. The State Prosecutor also accuses his son, a straw man and…his lawyer of devising a tax defrauding arrangement, which included commercial centers in Arizona, and will be asking for 14 years imprisonment for each.

And also in Madrid the State Prosecutor, arguing a case against a lawyer accused of devising an illegal tax avoidance scheme, stated that the creation of an onshore (Spanish S.L.)/offshore (Delaware Co.) corporate structure to facilitate the transfer of shares (and the property with it) and hinder hypothetical tax inspections, the setting up of fictitious self-tenancy agreements between the company and the true owner and the proven lack of activity of the Spanish company are incriminating factors per se.

In Malaga, 8 businessmen and their lawyers are accused of setting up a “complex” maze of companies based in the Dutch Antilles (again!) to conceal the true owners of the Spain-based assets and the origin of profits received (profits that appears to have been generated from the Hotel Marbella Club). According to the Prosecutor, the accused law firm also advised to register cash contributions for the purpose of buying real estate as “corporate loans”, thereby illegally deducting fictitious interest from profits, to the tune of 2, 2 million Euros, in a not-so sophisticated tax scheme known as “left pocket pays right pocket”!

3 teachings we can derive from the above:

  • Offshore companies are 99% of the times used to cheat someone: a Tax Office, a creditor, an ex-spouse or partner or a victim of a swindle. 1% of the times it is used to just conceal the identity of the true owner, as happens with Moroccans who are, in principle (except for the King of course), prohibited from having property abroad.
  • The dividing line between tax avoidance and tax evasion is so difficult to pin down that you have to steer well away from the line.
  • No lawyer or tax advisor, no matter how reputable or famous, should suggest or recommend you even get close to that line

The Spanish Supreme Court, summarizing its stance in this matter, held the following

in conclusion, in the criminal sphere, fraudulent tax engineering has to be repressed when those activities are themselves deemed criminal, irrespective of the formalities used to carry them out.

About Antonio Flores

Antonio Flores is the head lawyer at Lawbird, a Spanish law firm specialised in property and litigation. More on .

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  1. Tom Jones
    April 13th, 2016 at 11:26 | #1

    Hi Antonio,

    We wonder if you can help us, my relative lives in a Community of owners, who have all purchased Aparto Residences with an optional facility to let as Aparto Hotel, they have about 30 owners who reside and do not let,and all as per the statutes, however they have had a new President forced on them by the Managing Agent named Roach who is the owner of a company we have read about on your blog called Wincham, and he with the Managing Agent has caused mayhem and panic amongst the owners, forcing a charge on owners on top of their Communidad called IBU(Individual Business Units) this money is then paid into the Hotel Side, this is against the statutes, this decision obtained with a Postal Vote, that was very suspicous, and he is now telling them all their escituras are wrong, and they have purchased a Hotel Room, and have to get out of their homes for eight months of the year, many been there for over twenty five years, or he will have the Touristica and the Police remove them, owners who stand up for us and insulted by roach in his letter, have asked him and the managing agent for the legal proof for this, and they are unable to provide it, many residents in their 90s and very worried, his actions have driven an already low value to even lower, so as they can not even sell up, we have sent you a copy of his last letter we have recieved,with an article from the Costa Blanca News, the old man in question has since passed away, and as the managing agent has all the owners names and contact details we are unable to get to every one,and he handles all the Postal Voting that we object to but he says we have lost Horizontal law,as he has done four years the limit for the Committee, he is resigning and forcing his pals on the committee to finish the job,no doubt he will come back after one year,he claims that as he is a profesional he knows Spanish Law better than the owners do,and can understand the Statutes and the escence of them, mean every owner purchased a Hotel Room, it is a difficult thing to get a lawyer who is not involved with these people locally, and any advice would be gratefully recieved,I have sent the relevant documents with also a document sent by another owner who is fighting for the people,

    Best regards
    Tom

    Tom