Those of you from the UK will be familiar with the process known as SORN. This is used when your vehicle is not in use and you wish to stop paying road tax. The vehicle may be undergoing repair or in some cases we can no longer afford to run the car at the moment; either way it is a useful system

SORN is a Statutory Off Road Notice which is fairly self explanatory as it means that the car is literally not on the public highway. There are a number of ex-pats in Spain who have declared their car SORN at DVLA in order to avoid road tax but drive their cars here. Most of these people are not aware that SORN applies throughout the EU so it should not be used in Spain either; some will be concerned, others couldn’t give a toss that they are driving illegally and not paying to maintain the roads

A similar system is in place in Spain and referred to as “Baja”. The primary document used for this purpose is “Solicitud De Baja Del Vehiculo” which roughly translates to “request to change the status of a vehicle”. Baja literally means “low” but is also used as an expression for “delete”. Blimey my Spanish anorak is coming out now!

Why Baja a vehicle?

The reasons that people have approached me to help them declare a car Baja are normally because they have sold a car and the new owner has not transferred it to his name; more on this later, or because they are permanently taking their car out of the country and wish to take it off the Spanish system so let’s take a look at the options

There are two main types of Baja, Temporary and Permanent, containing in all seven options only three of which we are likely to use. It is used as is SORN to make a declaration to the licensing authorities

Baja Definitiva (Permanent)

Under Permanent is the option to declare the car scrapped and two others which may be of interest to those of us with Spanish vehicles. One if for “Exportacion” which is used when a car is permanently taken out of Spain to a non-EU country. The most commonly used by Brits is Transito Comuntario which means that the vehicle is being permanently taken out of Spain to another European country. When you do this, the vehicle is removed from the records; you will always be shown as the last registered keeper but are no longer liable for road tax. Here is an interesting little twist; if you are taking your Spanish car “back home” and intend re-registering it there you should Baja the car after you have arrived home. To do this you will need someone reputable to undertake this in your absence. The reason for doing it this way round is because as soon as you Baja the car it cannot be used on the roads; could be a bit of a nuisance if your car is impounded on the way to the ferry in Santander! It does mean though that you are legal all the way in all countries

Baja Temporal (Temporary)

In the Temporary section, there is a box called “sustraccion” which is used if your vehicle has been stolen. This generally means that you can get out of any fines that the thief incurs and if he is stopped by the police for any reason a quick check will alert them to the theft and they can hopefully take the driver away to a nice cosy B&B where he will be treated to the renowned hospitality shown by the nice boys in green

Another box is for voluntary Baja and is used for any non-specific reason; this is the one I normally use when a car has been sold but not transferred. The effect of this is that although the seller remains the registered keeper, he will no longer be liable for road tax in the following year; I say the following year because whoever a vehicle is registered to on 1st January remains liable for road tax for that year. It also means that whoever is driving the car may be apprehended and taken to the same B&B for a gentle chat. The thought of this happening understandably gives great satisfaction to those who sold their vehicle to someone who promised to take care of the transfer; yeah right!

The right and wrong way

A customer of mine wanted to do everything correctly after taking his Spanish Mercedes back to the UK, so he sold the car and I took care of the Baja. Just before Christmas he started receiving letters from Trafico showing photos of the car zooming through speed cameras in Malaga province. He contacted me for advice and I suggested that he alert the Mercedes dealer to whom he had sold the car for them to contact the new owner. Oops, they couldn’t help as they had sold it on and the dealer to whom they sold it was not responding to phone calls or emails. It is common for a car to pass through a few dealers before it is eventually sold with the paperwork often disappearing

We sent copies of the fines, plus the Baja and receipt from the sale to Trafico who in turn contacted the UK dealer to confirm that they had in fact bought it. Meanwhile the fines keep rolling in as the new owner clearly has a yearning for speed and is ignorant of the speed cameras. The Guardia Civil are on the lookout for the car

The moral of the story is that if your car needs a Baja, then do so as it may save you a lot of grief down the road