Tax season is upon us. In the US, this means we’ll all scramble around until April 15th – or October 15th, if you file an extension – and then we relax for another year. In Spain, tax season for expats starts now, and will end when we all file the final paperwork by June 30th.
The first document that is due is the global declaration of assets required by the Spanish government in March. This year, they actually want to know, and are actively seeking out, complete information to ensure we foreigners pay our fair share, if we are tax residents. Jeff and I filed our visa revisions last year and we had to include our Spanish taxes in the paperwork we were required to submit. This was the first time.
After my fury over the €500 ask by our lawyer to file for our digital certificates, it got me looking through everything we do with the firm and what we might farm out, or just do ourselves. They should have just gotten me those digital certificates out of the goodness of their hearts. But they didn’t, and now I’m starting to dig a little deeper. Jeff laughed. ‘Uh oh. They poked the bear.’
Last year, they charged us €500 – notice a trend? + VAT (value added tax of 21%) to file the 720 Foreign Asset Declaration form. I rifled through my files, got the one from last year, and looked it over. I could fill this out. So I did. But then I tried to file it, and found I don’t have all the information to do that myself. Yet. So, I walked down to Gestoria de Dodgy, again, and asked for their help. The six foot tall blond woman at the first card table was eating her breakfast, but she nodded with a full mouth. ‘Si.’ She told me she recognized me from the other day and offered me a seat.
I gave her the form I had already filled out and she tapped ferociously on her keyboard – asking where I was from.
‘Estados Unidos.’ I told her. (America)
She stopped typing suddenly, and picked up her cell phone. She dialed and put it on speaker. Someone answered and they had a rapid conversation. Then she handed me her phone and the voice spoke to me in Ingles. It was her son. We chatted for a bit while she typed. It seems he went to high school in Atlanta – where his father lives – and he was anxious to speak ‘American English.’ He is a nice 20-something kid and he answered all my questions, while relaying things to his Mom. Filing the form would be €50 euros. Seemed OK to me. Better than €500. We said goodbye. Then she stopped typing, again, and broke out the photo albums from the shelf behind her.
It seems this mother had documented her son’s American football (not European futbol) career in minute detail throughout his 4 years of high school in the US. She was very, very proud. Then I looked up and realized all the photos taped up on the wall, and the trophies on her shelves full of binders, were for American Football, along with his framed team pictures. Suddenly, there was Homecoming. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s the biggest annual schoolwide celebration in American high school life. Bigger than Prom. What’s ‘Prom’? We’ll cover that topic on a different episode of The Quintessential American Teenage Life. Homecoming happens each Fall when the school plays their rival high school in a game of football. Its is a week long celebration with flowers, skits, corsages, floats, assemblies in the school’s gym (basketball court) and Homecoming queens (kind of like Falleras) being crowned. My beauty queen older sister was one of these. I was not.
It’s a huge deal, and a part of every American’s coming-of-age experience. If you want to know more you can tune in to the tv show ‘Friday Night Lights’ on one of the streaming services. Anyway, here I was, sitting in this hole in the wall gestoria in Benimachlet, looking through photos from Homecoming at a high school in Atlanta, Georgia. It felt a little surreal.
Soon, a car pulled up and double parked, entirely blocking the narrow street. It was her son and his friend. She went out on to the sidewalk, and motioned for them to come inside. So, just like that, I was able to meet the Spanish American HS football hero. He was a big kid. The right size to play American football. Clearly, with a 6ft tall Mom he had the right genes for it. Hand shaking, and a plate of cookies wrapped in foil came my way. Finally, his mother shooed him away and they were met outside with furious honking, after blocking the street for 5 minutes.
Then the lady returned to her seat and took another bite of her sandwich, all while typing on the keyboard with her long red nails. Click Click Click. Finally, she stood. ‘Finish.’ she declared. Going over to the the printer and sliding my filed form with receipt stapled to the front, into a plastic sleeve. I held up my card so I could pay the €50 euros.
‘No tarjetas,’ she told me, shaking her finger. ‘Cash only.’
I had no cash, and told her so. Offering to head straight to the ATM to get the inevitable €50 bill it would spit out.
She waved her red nailed hand. ‘No. It’s not a problem. Mañana. Or next week. It’s OK. And its €30. Not €50. Discuento.’
Even better. We’re friends now, after all. Apparently, once you review someone’s Homecoming photos, and accept their cookies, you’re in.
Now, I’m still trying to decide if I have our Spanish firm from last year do our taxes, or do I have Gestoria de Dodgy do it. In the US, our accountant gives us tax advice. He runs scenarios, and has saved us significant money, and countless headaches and problems, for years. When I pay the bill I feel happy knowing we are doing things the right way. I trust him implicitly. Here, it just feels like it form filling. There isn’t the advice or expertise we’re used to in the US, thus far. Just typing and filing. Oh well, I have lots of time now that my Declaration is done. And I have a new friend. This time, I got cookies and a form filed. All for €30. I can only imagine what a full set of tax documents might cough up.