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Spain: Related Information

Canary Islands Special Zone

This page was last updated on 13 November 2020.

General Information

The Canary Islands is an archipelago of seven main islands, situated in the Atlantic Ocean near the Tropic of Cancer, near the African coast of Western Sahara. The islands stretch in an east-west 500km arc. The latitude of the Canaries is in the subtropical zone. The climate of the Canaries, however, is tempered by the surrounding ocean.

The Canary Islands are an integral part of Spain; this has been so for more than 500 years, and a huge majority of Canarians have confirmed their status repeatedly over time. The language of the Canaries is Spanish (Castilian), but the accent is more like the Spanish spoken in the Caribbean.

The Canaries form an "autonomous community" within the Kingdom of Spain. The islands have their own government and parliament, established by the Statute of Autonomy of the Canary Islands. The Canarian financial and economic system is different from the general Spanish one, which is in force in the major part of the mainland.

As a part of Spain, the Canaries are also part of the European Union. However, the islands enjoy some exceptions in the financial and economic area.

The currency in the Canary Islands is the euro, as in Spain.

The Parliament of the Canaries is in Santa Cruz de Tenerife; the delegation of the Spanish Government in the Canaries is in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, with a sub-delegation in Santa Cruz de Tenerife; the Supreme Court of Justice of the Canaries is in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

The Supreme Court of Justice exercises the judicial power. Appeals against its resolutions are to the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court of Spain.

Special Tax Regime (REF)

Although mainland tax regulations apply in the Canaries, companies operating there are also eligible for special tax incentives (the Special Tax Regime or REF). Key features of the REF are as follows:

  • VAT is not applied in the Canary Islands; instead there is a specific sales tax (IGIC) which has a general rate of 5%. In addition to increased and reduced rates of IGIC, there is a zero tax rate for certain basic need products and services (e.g. telecommunications).
  • Exemptions from duty on capital increases.
  • The use of undistributed profits to reduce the taxable base provided that the amounts concerned are invested within three years in certain qualifying fixed assets or public stock.
  • Enhanced tax credits for various types of investment.

Special Economic Zone (ZEC)

The Canary Islands Special Zone has been created within the financial and economic regime of the Canary Islands to encourage the economic and social development of the islands and the diversification of their manufacturing and service sectors.

The ZEC was initially the Canary Islands special zone, authorised by the European Commission in January 2000.

In early 2006, the Department of Economic Affairs and Finance of the Canary Islands Government suggested the introduction of improvements to the Canary Islands Economic and Fiscal Regime, including the extension of the time frame of the low tax zone beyond 2008 of 25 years for companies in the service sector and 50 years for companies operating in the industrial sector.

In addition, a suggestion has been made for solving the problems related to double taxation on profits. This modification aims to make the ZEC a real stimulus for attracting companies with newly-created economic activity. At present, companies with their head office in mainland Spain are subject to double taxation on profits, which makes it difficult for them to set up in the low tax zone.

Any company intending to carry out manufacturing, commercial or service activities within the territory of the Canary Islands may register in the ZEC; financial services are excluded.

Permitted manufacturing, processing, handling and goods distribution activities include:

  • Fishing
  • Food, beverages and tobacco
  • Clothing
  • Leather goods and footwear
  • Furniture and related products
  • Paper, publishing, graphic arts and reproduction of recorded material
  • Building materials
  • Machinery and mechanical equipment
  • Electrical, electronic and optical materials and equipment
  • Chemicals
  • Recycling
  • Wholesale and distributive activities
  • Packaging, bottling and canning

Permitted service activities include:

  • Transport and related activities
  • IT
  • Natural resources and waste disposal
  • Telecommunications
  • Advertising
  • R & D
  • Education and Training
  • Consultancy
  • Legal and financial services
  • Other services

Service companies registered under the ZEC may be set up in any part of the Canary Islands.

Production, processing, handling and distributive activities must be based in certain designated areas, at:

Gran Canaria

  • Port of La Luz and Las Palmas
  • Gando Airport
  • Arinaga Industrial Estate


  • The Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
  • Los Rodeos and Reina Sofía Airports
  • The Granadilla Industrial Estate

There are designated areas on each of the other Canary Islands.

Any company wishing to set up in the ZEC must satisfy a number of requirements, of which the most important are:

  • A ZEC company must be newly incorporated;
  • At least one of the persons authorised to manage and act on behalf of the company must be resident in the Canary Islands;
  • A ZEC company must make an investment of at least €100,000 (€50,000 in some locations) in fixed assets related to the activity within the first two years subsequent to authorisation;
  • A ZEC company must employ at least five persons (reduced to three in some locations) in the ZEC area within the first six months subsequent to authorisation and must retain this number of employees, on average, throughout its lifetime;
  • A ZEC company must present a description of its activities, with particular mention of its economic viability, international focus, contribution to the economic and social development of the Canary Islands and solvency.

Taxation of ZEC Companies

ZEC companies enjoy the following tax benefits:

  • Corporation tax (levied in Spain at 25%) is charged at 4% on profits derived from ZEC activities. The rates depends on:
    • Net creation of employment;
    • The period of inclusion in the Register of ZEC Companies;
    • Whether the activity is new or pre-existing;
    • The type of activity
  • ZEC companies are exempt from capital transfer tax and stamp duty in the following circumstances:
    • Purchase of goods and rights for the conduct of the business activity of the ZEC company within the geographical area of the ZEC;
    • company operations except liquidation;
    • Stamp duty on documents connected with the company’s operations in the geographical area of the ZEC
  • ZEC companies are exempt from Canarian indirect general tax (Canarian Sales Tax) on delivery of goods and provision of services from one ZEC company to another, and on imports.
  • International Double Taxation Treaties and the EU Parent-Subsidiary Directive: the Canary Islands are an integral part of the territory of Spain and the European Union. Therefore ZEC companies may take advantage of Double Taxation treaties signed by Spain and the EU’s Parent-Subsidiary Directive. ZEC Companies are not obliged to deduct tax from payments for tangible assets made by them.

Registration of a ZEC company

Application, authorisation and registration are the three steps required of companies wishing to set up within the ZEC. The application must be presented together with the description of the intended activities.

The Consortium Board will then decide on the application and will inform the applicant of its decision within the space of two months from the date of presentation.

The new company must be incorporated by a Notary Public and must be registered on the proper Registers (this may be done prior to authorisation being received).

Once authorisation has been received, the company must be registered on the Official ZEC Register, which is managed by the Consortium Board.

ZEC Companies are subject to the following fees:

  • Registration fee
  • Annual fee to remain on the official ZEC register



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