It is true to say that having your own car in Spain definitely gives you the advantage of being able to take off at the weekend and make the most of your time here. Going for a drive into the countryside gives you the chance to really appreciate the different types of landscapes, from the mountains to the plains, to the coast. You can also enjoy visiting the smaller pueblos and villages between the major cities and experiencing more of the “real” Spain. But, if you are moving to Spain and want to bring your own car, you also need to think about the less romantic notions of cruising the open road and be realistic about the legal requirements, including the cost of car import tax in Spain.
There are generally 4 key areas covered in the importation process:
- Importing the vehicle and paying customs charges.
- Having the car inspected for roadworthiness (the ITV test – which is the Spanish MOT).
- Registering the vehicle and changing the registration plates (within 30 days of arrival).
- Paying the applicable car import tax or registration tax.
As you can see above, unfortunately, if you are moving to Spain, you cannot just drive here in your own car and keep using it as you would in your home country. It is illegal for expats who are Spanish residents, and live in Spain more than 183 days a year, to drive a car that is registered in another country and has foreign plates. Therefore, alongside doing the paperwork to confirm your own residency, you also need to fulfil official obligations, and complete required paperwork to make your car a “resident” too.
One of the key reference points for this process is the Direccion General de trafico website. The information and key steps can be found by choosing the dropdown options “Nuestros Servicios”, “Tu vehiculo” then, “¿Quieres traer o llevarte un vehículo del extranjero” and then opt for “Matricular un vehículo proveniente de la UE” if you are coming from an EU country, or “ Importar un vehiculo de fuera de la UE” if you are coming from outside the European Union.
Before you even start this process, you need to know that you must be the legal owner of the car so, if the car is registered under someone else’s name in your home country, you will first need to transfer the ownership to your own name and you will need to be in possession of the original documentation related to the car.
Sorry, I digressed a little, but I think knowing this information before you start out on this road, pardon the pun, is important! Now back to the key topic of this article – car import tax in Spain…
So, what is the car import tax in Spain, and who, or which types of vehicles, is it applicable to?
The taxes you pay to import your own car to Spain is directly related to its age, or more officially, the amount of time it has been in operation, its mileage, the vehicle’s technical specification, and whether you are bringing the car from a country inside or outside the EU.
There are 3 taxes related to importing vehicles:
- Import Duty or Customs Tax - known as IPSI - Impuesto sobre la Producción, Servicios e Importación. This is currently based at 10% of the cars value.
- Valued Added Tax (VAT) - known as IVA -Impuesto sobre el Valor Añadido. This is currently 20% of the cars value.
- Registration Tax or IEDMT - Impuesto Especial sobre Determinados Medios de Transporte, which must be paid on the first definitive registration of new or used vehicles in Spain.
The amount or IEDMT you pay is based on 2 aspects: the level of CO2 emissions and the average market value of the vehicle. I will come onto this more specifically in a moment.
Importing vehicles from within the EU
- If the car was bought within the EU, you are exempt from having to pay the specific customs tax or import duty (IPSI).
- In terms of VAT, there are different rules depending on whether it is a new car – i.e., it has been in use for no more than 6 months, or it has been driven for no more than 6000 km, or a used/second hand car – which a car that is more than 6 months old or has more than 6000 km on the clock. It also depends on whether you paid VAT at the time of purchase. If you bought the car tax-free in another EU country you will have to pay 21% of the value of the car in VAT, (IVA) in Spain. If you paid this tax when the vehicle was purchased, you should not have to pay it twice, but depending on your situation you may need to pay again in Spain and claim the VAT back from your home country. For more details about VAT on imported cars within the EU you can check the European commission website, which gives more details related to different scenarios.
- You will need to pay the registration tax (IEDMT) when you import a foreign car and re-register the car to Spain. The registration tax on imported cars in Spain is based on market value and the CO2 emissions it pumps into the environment. These are both important considerations, as you may think that it is good to bring an older car, as the market value is less, however, if it has high CO2 emissions then it will negate this fact.
Market value can be calculated based on the purchase price minus the period of time it has been in operation. For example:
- 0-1 year = full market value
- 1-2 years = market value minus 20%
- 2-4 years =market value minus 30%
- 4-10 years = market value minus 50%
- 10+ years = market value minus 80%
The CO2 emissions are based on the levels of CO2 emitted into the environment. For example:
- Emission levels 120-160g of CO2 = 4.75%
- Emission levels 160-200g of CO2 = 9.75%
- Vehicles not rated for CO2 emissions = 12%
- Emission levels 200g + of CO2 = 14.75%
Importing vehicles from outside the EU
- If you purchased a car from a country outside the EU you have to pay the specific customs tax or import duty (IPSI) This is paid to the customs offices and is 10% of the value of the car. The value is calculated based on the original market price with deductions based on the age of the vehicle. Upon payment of the IPSI you will be given a document called the DUA (Documento Único Administrativo) which you will need to register the vehicle correctly.
- As I mentioned above the VAT situation is a tricky one, and depends on whether you already live in the EU and bought the car abroad, in which case it is treated the same as other imports and you will have to pay the import VAT (IVA), or if you are coming to live in the EU and the car is being imported as one of your personal possessions, in which case you should not have to pay the VAT (IVA). In both cases it is irrelevant whether the car is new or used. For more details about paying VAT on imported cars from outside the EU you can also check the European commission website, but I would also strongly recommend seeking the advice of a tax advisor, at home or here in Spain, who has experience in importation of vehicles from outside the EU, as they will be able to help you navigate through the requirements, and will have experienced various scenarios from which they can pass on their invaluable advice.
- As with if you are importing within the EU, when importing from outside the EU you will need to pay the registration tax (IEDMT) when you import your car and re-register it in Spain. The market value and CO2 emissions are calculated in the same way as mentioned above.
So, as you can see it is not a “one size fits all” fixed fee, and therefore it can seem quite confusing and hard to determine what the final cost will be, as it depends on a number of variables based on the original location and the actual car itself.
It is possible to get an idea of the cost of the importation of your car by using an online calculator, which asks you to add the details of your vehicle, such as the make, model and value, engine size, emissions, date and place of first registration etc – which you should be able to find on the vehicles documentation. This will give you a ballpark figure which will ultimately help you to decide if it really is worth paying the car import tax to bring your vehicle from home to Spain.
I would also highly recommend getting the help of someone (such as a gestor or tax advisor) who has experience in completing this process for other ex-pats. They will be able to guide you, not only breaking down the specific financial taxes to be paid, but also in terms of the timescales, deadlines and documentation required to make sure your car is fully legal, and that you are ready for the open road on paper and in practice.