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Spain To Probe Homeowners' Gibraltar Ties

by Ulrika Lomas, Lowtax.net, Brussels
05 September, 2014

Spain's Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, has announced that the Government will look into the financial affairs of Spanish homeowners with ties to Gibraltar.

During an appearance before Congress, Montoro claimed the British overseas territory's tax regime is "opaque," and said the Spanish Government would be investigating Gibraltar taxpayers who own properties in Spain.

He said figures from the United Kingdom showed that, of the 21,760 companies operating in Gibraltar, fewer than 11 percent pay tax. He said: "On the Rock, there are more than 6,000 citizens who used our public services but are registered as living in Gibraltar."

The Finance Minister reiterated a recent claim by Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, Spain's Secretary of State for the European Union (EU), that the Spanish government misses out on EUR1bn (USD1.3bn) of tax revenues each year as a result of Gibraltar's tax regime.

Authorities in Gibraltar responded to the claim in an official statement, calling it "a financial flight of fancy." They said that, out of the 15,673 active companies, there are only 102 Spanish nationals with a Spanish address holding one or more shares in a total of 66 companies. "This helps to clearly demonstrate that Gibraltar is, unsurprisingly, not seeing significant numbers of Spanish individuals using Gibraltar's financial services," the Gibraltar Government said.

Relations between the two territories have been sour for years but had improved somewhat during the term of the previous Spanish Government, which had engaged with Gibraltar in a tripartite forum with the United Kingdom. However, these talks were abandoned when the current Spanish Government took office, undoing the previous Government's efforts to improve ties. It claimed that Gibraltar should not be recognized as a territory separate from the United Kingdom.

There have been several disputes concerning Spanish claims over, and entry into Gibraltar's maritime territory; threats from Spain to introduce a "congestion tax" on persons and cars at the border, amid complaints also of unnecessary delays; and, on the tax front, that Gibraltar should not be allowed to set its own tax policies and that it is not transparent in tax matters.

After having made significant progress with the previous Spanish Government towards the signing of a tax information exchange agreement, which it had hoped would silence such opacity claims, the Gibraltar Government was unable to conclude an agreement before the new Government took office and subsequently refused to participate in tripartite talks.


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