Lawyer Raymond Nesbitt explains what a Spanish NIE number is, who needs it and how to get one.
By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Lawyer – Abogado
8th of May 2017
What is a NIE number? This will be one of the first questions you will be asking yourself when you move on over to Spain. Succinctly, a NIE number is a tax identification number for foreigners which identifies you before the Spanish Tax Office and allows you to file and pay taxes in Spain. NIE stands for Número de Identificación de Extranjero. It is the counterpart of the NIF number which only applies to Spanish nationals.
I have written up this brief Frequently Asked Questions to give a quick rundown on what it entails. You can request a NIE number service from our law firm.
Photo credit: Benidormseriously.com
Why is a NIE number needed?
Basically, any activity in Spain that requires you, as a foreigner, to pay taxes will need you to apply for a NIE number. A NIE number does not preclude your tax residency. The list supplied below is ad exemplum; it is by no means a closed list.
*Whilst it used to be a mandatory requirement in the past to attain a NIE number as a foreign resident to open a bank account in Spain, this is no longer the case. However, although initially you can now open a bank account without a NIE number it will be required further down the line by the Tax Office.
Who needs a NIE number?
What does a NIE number look like?
A NIE number is issued by the National police on a standard A4 size of paper which also has your name, surname, date of birth and nationality (see article’s photo above for more details). Example: X-12345678-R.
How to get a NIE number
What is required to attain a NIE?
Not true. The NIE number comes with an unfortunate wording that makes it seem as if it was only valid for three months. In practice, it does not expire. Once you have a number assigned by the National Police it will be yours for lifetime. You also do not need to renew it; so, it is basically a one-time thing.
Now that I have clarified this common misunderstanding, comes the tricky part. What actually does expire is the certificate itself which you are issued by the Police Station (the A4 size sheet of paper). Should you require a new certificate, for whatever reason, you may need to request them to re-issue you one (but as I write, it will have exactly the same NIE number as the one before). The only thing that will change is the expiry date which will be again for a further three months.
Short answer is no. Only the property owner (or joint owners) need to apply for a NIE number.
Although on paper this may seem like a good idea, in practice it´s botched. The main problem on applying for a NIE number through a Spanish consulate is that your paperwork is sent from your home country over to Spain (usually Madrid) and then back again. This winded process can take up to several months to fruition with little to no feedback. You will endure first-hand the wonders of Spanish red tape setting you back by several months. Besides, not all consulates allow you to apply for one. So basically, it’s a no-no unless you enjoy watching grass grow.
No, it doesn´t. All it is really is just an admin number to identify you before the Spanish Tax Office. It does not preclude your tax status.
Both of you need one. Any owner or joint owner of a property needs to apply for a NIE number. This will also include your children should they also become joint owners with yourself and your wife.
I take the opportunity to introduce a shameless commercial plug and advise that our law firm offers significant discounts when you apply through us for two or more NIE numbers.
Yes. One of the roles of a Spanish Notary is to ensure all taxes are paid to the Tax Office. It stands to reason that if you don’t have a NIE number you cannot pay the associated taxes of a purchase. In other words, to buy or sell property in Spain it is mandatory by law to have a NIE number (if you are a foreigner) at completion so you can pay the appropriate taxes. A Notary will check if a buyer has a NIE number and will refuse to witness the signing if he lacks one.
Rather than wrong, I would say this advice you have read on internet is out-of-date. Please excuse me digressing for a bit.
For a few months in 2012 National Police Stations turned down representatives using PoA to apply for a NIE. Lo and behold, it panned out that many non-residents simply did not have the sweet time to waste two or three days to leave their work and fly over to Spain in person just for the privilege of queueing up at a Spanish Police Station for hours on end under a baking sun. On top of it (booking flights, hotel lodging) these foreigners also needed to hire a translator to deal with Spanish police as they only communicate in ta-da: Spanish!
So, the dire combination of costs ballooning coupled with all the red tape translated into a sharp dip in property sales at a time when Spain’s ailing economy sorely needed its property market to pick up. The ensuing public outcry was such that the Government came back into its senses and backpaddled on its new policy only months after introducing it. As a result of such a short-sighted policy, the economy had virtually grinded to a halt. You really couldn’t make it up.
What can be gleaned from this amusing little story is that the whole property market in Spain pivots on this first step, a NIE number; if you mess with it the property market tumbles like a house of cards which is exactly what happened. Long story short, business is back to usual and National Police Stations now accept representatives applying for NIE numbers using PoA.
Nothing much. You can always request a duplicate. As previously mentioned, the number you have been assigned does not change.
No. You get to keep the one you were assigned.
You must apply for a another NIE number that matches your new surname.
If you are interested in buying, working, studying or simply living in Spain, you will need a NIE number.
My advice is that you keep it simple and hire a competent law firm such as ours to sort it out on your behalf for a (very) competitive fee. We will save you time, money, hassle and considerable aggravation under the sun.
Article originally published at Spanish Property Insight: Spanish NIE Number Explained.
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