Inheritance Tax Spain: Essential Insights for Expats

inheritance tax spain

Inheriting property in Spain can be a complex process, especially for foreign nationals unfamiliar with the inheritance tax Spain and law liabilities. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies involved in inheriting a house in Spain, addressing common concerns and offering guidance to navigate these challenges effectively.

What is the Inheritance Tax Spain?

The inheritance tax Spain, also known as the successions tax (“impuesto de sucesiones y donaciones”), is a progressive tax paid by individuals receiving an inheritance, which could be property, money, or other assets. This tax also applies to donations and life insurance payouts. The payment of this tax is a prerequisite to acquiring the inherited assets, with a standard deadline of six months, extendable by 183 days, and the option of installment payments.

Key Differences in Inheritance Tax Between Spain and Other Countries

The inheritance tax framework in Spain shows notable distinctions when compared to other European nations, such as the UK. A key difference is that in Spain, contrary to the UK, spouses do not receive an exemption and are required to pay inheritance tax on global assets inherited following the demise of their partner. This variation highlights the critical need to comprehend the unique aspects of the Spanish tax system.

Applicable Legislation and Regional Variations

The Spanish Civil Code governs inheritance tax, leading to variations across different regions or Autonomous Communities. While the National Government sets the basic tax rates and allowances, each community has the authority to modify them. For habitual residents (those residing in a region for more than five years), regional laws apply, whereas non-habitual residents or non-residents owning property in Spain are subject to State law.

Who Pays the Inheritance Tax?

Both residents and non-residents are liable for inheritance tax in Spain. The tax applies if the heir is a resident receiving an asset from abroad or if the inherited assets are located within Spain. Notably, a law change in 2015 eliminated the previous disparity in tax rates between residents and non-residents, ensuring equal treatment.

Exact Rates and Allowances

The inheritance tax rate in Spain is dependent on several factors, including the heir’s relationship with the deceased and their location. The rates range from 7.65% for inheritances up to €7,993 to 34% for amounts above €797,555. However, these are not the final amounts due to various allowances based on the heir’s group classification:

  1. Group 1: Children under 21 years old, with an allowance of €47,859.
  2. Group 2: Children over 21, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses, and registered civil partners in some regions, with a €15,957 allowance.
  3. Group 3: Siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, in-laws, with a €7,993 allowance.
  4. Group 4: Cousins, unmarried partners (in regions not recognizing civil partnerships), and unrelated individuals, with no allowance.

Additional allowances exist for individuals with disabilities and for inheritances involving the main residence of the deceased, provided it is not sold within five years.

Avoiding Double Taxation

Expats, particularly those with tax obligations in other countries like the UK, must navigate the complexities of double taxation. Professional advice is crucial in these scenarios to optimize tax payments and avoid paying inheritance tax in multiple jurisdictions.

Strategies to Reduce Inheritance Tax

Several strategies can help reduce inheritance tax in Spain:

  1. Registering as a civil partnership in regions where applicable.
  2. Drafting a will to protect distant relatives.
  3. Leaving a spouse a usufruct, allowing property transfer without additional tax.
  4. Claiming the applicability of another country’s inheritance law, though limited if assets are primarily in Spain.

Understanding Spanish Inheritance Laws

Spanish inheritance laws can be perplexing, particularly for British citizens. In cases where there is no valid will, Spanish intestacy rules apply, prioritizing the closest relatives of the deceased. However, if the deceased was habitually resident in the UK at the time of their death and died without a will, the estate may be subject to the inheritance laws of the UK instead. It’s crucial to seek legal advice to determine which country’s laws apply to your situation.

What are the steps to inherit a house in Spain?

  1. Proving Your Right to Inherit: This involves showing that you are named as a beneficiary in the deceased’s will or, in the absence of a will, proving your familial relationship to the deceased.
  2. Dealing with the Property: Decide whether to sell, live in, or keep the property as an investment.
  3. Ensuring the Property’s Legality: Verify that the property is registered and complies with planning permissions. A lawyer or conveyancer can assist in this process.
  4. Registering the Inheritance: Accepting the inheritance must occur before a Spanish notary. This process can be complex and is best navigated with professional help.

What a re the costs and taxes associated with Spanish inheritance?

Inheriting a property in Spain involves various costs, including legal fees, notary fees, and the cost of property registration. As we mentioned earlier, Inheritance tax is another significant consideration, varying based on your relationship to the deceased, the value of the estate, and the property’s location in Spain. Professional advice is essential to understand the tax implications and minimize these costs.

Deciding whether to keep the property or sell it

Before deciding to keep an inherited property in Spain, you should consider the following factors:

  • Maintenance and tax costs.
  • The feasibility of managing the property from abroad, especially for non-residents.
  • Future plans, such as living in or selling the property.

Selling Inherited Property in Spain

If you opt to sell the property:

  1. Choose a reputable estate agent experienced in the Spanish market.
  2. Engage an independent lawyer for legal assistance.
  3. Obtain a property valuation to set a realistic asking price.
  4. Prepare necessary paperwork, including the sale contract and property deeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I have to pay inheritance tax on my parents’ house in Spain? Yes, the amount depends on the property’s location and value. Professional advice is recommended to ensure accurate tax payment.
  • What happens to a property in Spain when the owner dies? The property is typically passed on to the heirs, but the process involves various costs and legal complexities.
  • Who inherits property in Spain? This depends on whether there is a will. In its absence, Spanish law usually favors the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased.
  • Can I avoid inheritance tax in Spain? Options like settling property in trust or gifting to charity can reduce tax impact, but each has its costs and limitations. Professional advice is crucial.


Inheriting property in Spain requires careful navigation of legal and tax complexities. Understanding Spanish inheritance laws, the procedural steps, and the associated costs and taxes is crucial for a smooth inheritance process. Seeking professional advice is highly recommended to ensure compliance and to make informed decisions about your inherited property in Spain.

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Bruno Bianchi
Bruno Bianchi is the Director at SpainGuru, where he offers his expertise on Spanish immigration, visas, and residency. Over the years, he has been a guide for many navigating the intricacies of Spanish immigration & bureaucracy. In addition to his role at SpainGuru, Bruno anchors the SpainGuru YouTube channel. Through this platform, he shares valuable insights and updates on immigration matters, simplifying complex processes for a global audience. Bruno's dedication to providing clear and trustworthy information has made him a trusted figure in the community. In addition to his pivotal role at SpainGuru, Bruno boasts over 17 years of professional experience in several online platforms. With roles ranging from the COO and co-founder of and Sales director of the MAPSA Group, Bruno's diverse experiences (he holds 3 nationalities) and multilingual capabilities (he speaks 5 languages) make him a dynamic and influential figure in both the immigration and business sectors.