Jose and Maria decide to buy a brand new car as the old one that was fine when they were courting in the campo is showing signs of age. They finally settle on one. As a new car, it will not need an ITV until it is 4 years old; the dealer gives them an ITV card which will remain with the car for the entire lifespan of the vehicle, a bit like a birth certificate. As well as the cost of the car, they have to pay “Registration Tax”. This tax is based upon the value of the vehicle and the CO2 emissions of the car. The CO2 levels are taken into account due to an initiative by the government to bring down the amount of noxious gases spewed into the environment. The lower the emissions the lower the tax, so people are financially encouraged to buy cars with lower emissions

Registration or Import Tax

Antonio and Carmen need a new car also, but they have heard that cars are much cheaper in the UK, so set about buying one there and ask for help from a friend who speaks English and seems to know the ropes. The car duly arrives, but has UK plates, so they need to re-register it. This is not particularly cheap due to the high fees required by various departments and they also have to pay the Registration Tax. The tax is levied in the same way that it was for Jose and Maria, but on the Spanish valuation of the car, not on the much lower price they paid in the UK. Nevertheless, they saved a fair bit of money by buying their new car in England

Both couples now have new cars with one paying overall less than the other, but both paid Registration Tax. As Spaniards, there was no way out of paying

George and Jenny have lived in Spain for some time enjoying the glorious sunshine, endless beaches and friendly natives. They enjoy fine wines served from a cardboard brick rather than a pint of rough ale that may come with a brick through the window. George’s pension has come through so they decide to splash out on a new car and knowing that they are much cheaper in England go back there to buy one. It needs re-registering because Jenny is nervous of being stopped by the police if they keep it on UK plates and they have always been a law-abiding couple. They pay the same taxes and fees on the car as the Spanish couples including Registration Tax

Exemption from Import tax

Robbie and Fiona have been in Spain a short while and bought a new car before moving here. They also decide to re-register the vehicle but are bombarded by advice from everyone that they meet, becoming totally confused before finally turning to a professional re-registration company. Eventually, their car has Spanish number plates, but they did not pay Registration Tax. Must be a fiddle! Whose palms did they grease?

Neither Robbie nor Fiona have paid any income taxes in Spain and whilst they had the all important NIE certificate, they had not yet registered on the Padron, nor had Residencia. As newcomers to Spain, they are allowed to re-register their car without paying the Registration Tax which is more commonly known as Import Tax or Emissions Tax. This exemption is only applied to newcomers to Spain and is only given if the car is more than 6 months old, has completed 6000 Km and is re-registered within two months of the owner’s arrival. In reality, Robbie and Fiona could have had the car in Spain for years; the tax is only avoided where they can prove that they (not the car) are newcomers via a Padron or Residencia taken out within the last two months.

Reverse Discrimination

The point is this, those bar room lawyers who see the “import tax” as a tax on foreigners bringing their vehicles to Spain couldn’t be further from the truth. Exemption from import tax can only be given to foreigners, such as us, moving to Spain and bringing our personal possessions with us

Incidentally we Brits are fond of moaning about the “favouritism” being shown to foreigners moving to the UK and few would argue that there is an element of truth to this, but I have just read an article in a local paper here announcing the opening of a new padel tennis facility. Free lessons are being given to foreigners in order to “aid integration”. I’m not sure what the Spanish think of this, but I can imagine the comments if this were announced in reference to a similar concession in Anytown, England.

Let’s say that Antonio and Carmen went back to the UK to buy an older car rather than a new one. They fancy a 1985 Mini Cooper. The car arrives in Spain and whoops they cannot re-register it because it does not have European Type Approval and because of its age will not pass any inspection. Robbie and Fiona also bring in a 1985 Mini and it is re-registered with no problem as they owned it before moving to Spain. More positive discrimination?

Seeking advice

What does all of this mean? Well several things; firstly that whether a vehicle can be re-registered without paying registration/import/emissions tax is determined more by the owner’s status than that of the car. Generally speaking cars can only be imported by Spanish natives or foreign residents of Spain if the car has European Type Approval. What it means overall is that the subject of vehicle re-registration is highly complex with each case being different so how could the bar room lawyer have all of the answers? Professional advice should be sought on this and all matters relating to living in Spain. The old adage that “you get what you pay for” could not be truer

As for discrimination, it should never exist, but where it works in our favour, we would be naive not to take advantage