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Living and Working in Spain

The Pros & Cons of Being an Autonomo in Spain

Living and Working in Spain Barbara de Swaan

If you’re considering becoming a freelancer or starting a one-person business in Spain, that’s great! There is so much to take advantage of when working in this wonderful country. But there are a few things you should know. First, you will need a Foreign Identity Number (NIE). This number will be linked to your Social Security obligations. It’s rather easy to get set up as an autónomo in Spain, which is the Spanish term for a freelancer. Certain professionals may need to have their qualifications recognised in Spain before being able to start their activity (like doctors, lawyers, etc).

In order to become an autonomo in Spain, you will have to go through the following two most important steps:

1. Register your business with the Spanish tax authority (Agencia Tributaria).
You’ll have to choose a category that describes the type of work you do, which is related with a number/code. You’ll have to complete forms 036 or 037, which gives you a personal tax certificate.

2. Register with the Spanish Social Security System (Tesorería de la Seguridad Social).
You’ll have to register here within 30 days of registering with the Tax Authority. Bring along with you the original and copy of your passport, NIE document, the tax certificate you got from the tax authority, the 036 or 037 form, and the filled out application form. Once registered, you will have the right to use the Spanish state healthcare system.

Advantages of Being an Autonomo in Spain

  • You can start quickly and easily and contribute only a monthly investment in social security costs.
  • You can stop just as easily in case you don’t have earnings all year round, so you don’t have to pay social security when you have no income.
  • There is relatively easy invoicing and accounting. You can do it yourself or for around 50-100 euros/month, an accountant can take care of it.
  • By paying social security, you obtain certain coverages through the state, like:
    - health insurance coverage for yourself, your husband or wife and children
    - coverage in case of an accident at work
    - unemployment type of coverage when you have to stop your activity due to a at least 10% less income, higher losses, bankruptcy and several other reasons, with maximum coverage of 2 years (24 months).
    - Training

an autonomo in spain has healthcare rights, but not much

Disadvantages of Being an Autonomo in Spain

  • The monthly costs of social security are for most professions a minimum of 282.30 euros, which is a lot of money to start with. Spain is one of the most expensive countries for becoming an freelancer in this aspect.
  • The state pension scheme for an autónomo is very little, mainly because most freelancers decide to pay the minimum coverage. Still it’s a lot less than if you worked for a normal company.
  • You completely depend on the income you generate, so in case of an illness you might have no income at all, but you still have to pay social security. There is no coverage for disability or death.

Because of these disadvantages, we recommend these actions for anyone thinking of becoming a freelancer in Spain:

1. Get yourself a good private health insurance. Though the medical attendance of the Social Security is rather good through the Spanish government, you can’t risk running into month or yearlong waiting lists in case you need an operation. This doesn’t have to be expensive - if you know that you’re a very healthy person that won’t make a lot of use of doctors, but you still want ease of mind, you could opt for a policy with co-payment and very low monthly prices.

2. Don’t count on a pension scheme through the government. Pay the minum to social security, but don’t forget to contract your own private pension scheme with your insurance agent. Start as young as possible, even though you might save very low amounts during the first few years. Be independant and prepare also for your older days.

3. Get yourself the correct legal advice for contracts and liability issues. Sometimes a liability insurance is useful, either professionally or as the main beneficiary, so no one can claim your private possessions.

4. Work hard, but play harder! Life is too short to only work.

Download Free Guide:  Health Coverages for Freelancers in Spain

Barbara de Swaan

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