Lawyer Raymundo Larrain does a brief rundown on the ECJ’s landmark ruling from 28-01-2022 on tax form Modelo 720 (Worldwide Asset Declaration for Spanish residents).
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European Court of Justice. Photo credit: Cédric Puisney
By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Director of Larraín Nesbitt Abogados
21st of February 2022
It was long time coming, the writing was on the wall.
Through the dogged perseverance of one Spanish lawyer, Mr. Alejandro del Campo, we now have this ruling. We should all be grateful to him (and our EU Overlords).
Finally, after years of anxious wait, the European Court of Justice (ECJ, for short) delivered a landmark ruling on Spain’s unfamous 720 tax form. We had published several articles on this topic leading up to this long-anticipated moment (i.e. European Court of Justice’s lead council states Spanish Tax Form 720 fines are disproportionate – 16th July 2021).
On Thursday 28th of January, the ECJ declared null and void several sections of the law related to tax form 720.
This was featured prominently all over the Spanish press and is now being misconstrued as the end of 720. But, is it really?
(Spoiler) No! Not by a long shot.
We keep receiving emails from clients telling us they no longer need to file 720 because it “has been abolished” etc.
In light of this, I’ve written this short article to shed some light on the matter and hopefully clarify the matter.
The ECJ’s ruling declared null and void a series of aspects that we had previously bitterly criticized in our articles and blog posts:
- The no imprescriptibly of the debt.
- The disproportionate fines of 150%.
- The disproportionate fines on not disclosing all the financial data or doing it wrong.
All three aspects above have been declared null and void by the ECJ in yesterday’s ruling.
I really don’t want to go into this in detail, but as an example, only crimes of genocide in our legal system have no imprescriptibility. And quite frankly, you honestly cannot compare a heinous act such as genocide (a crime against Humanity) with not disclosing your estranged rich uncle left you 60k in some fancy Swiss bank. I mean honestly.
In short, the above points are an affront to core tenets enshrined and upheld by the community of nations known to us as the European Union i.e. freedom of movement of capital. As a result, they are null and void as they are deemed incompatible with core principles of our Union (UK not included).
Does that spell the end of the dreaded Modelo 720?
Again, for the avoidance of doubt, no.
720 remains, and will very much remain, a tax form that all tax residents in Spain will need to abide.
If you meet the 720 criteria, you must file a 720 tax form on or before the 31st of March of every year. It’s only for reporting purposes, no tax is paid and in principle, you only need to do it as a one-off, not every year.
So, what’s changed then?
The three points I collate above.
The Spanish Tax Office will waste no time (understatement) in working on this and tweak the penalties associated to 720 over the next weeks so they are fully compliant with the ECJ’s ruling on the 720 and with the EU’s founding principles that pervade all our legal system.
I bet my bottom dollar that they’ll sort it out before the end of February 2022. When it comes to these matters, that is to demand taxes from us poor buggers, our tax office moves so fast it would even make a cheetah blush in shame. Eat your heart out Mr. Bolt Usain, you’re no match for our tax office.
Going forward, as mentioned, any resident taxpayer that meets the criteria of 720 needs to submit it, so no changes there.
The only difference is that the associated penalties on non-compliance, or presumably on making any mistakes (knowingly, or not), will be far more lenient and fall in line with other tax forms.
What about fines? What happens to all those that were fined in the past?
The Spanish Tax Office racked up an estimated 230 million euros in fines since the inception of 720 in 2012.
As a result of yesterday’s landmark ruling, all those taxpayers that were (heavily) fined now have the door ajar to apply for a tax rebate on the amount fined, plus legal interests on top.
We advise taxpayers, that find themselves in such a predicament, to contact our law firm so we study their case and assist them in recovering their money.
Conclusion on the ECJ ruling on the Modelo 720 Spanish tax form (Worldwide Asset Declaration)
Once more, the ECJ, the highest court in the land, proves its mettle and draws the line on abuse. The voracity of the Spanish Tax Office knows no bounds and it is up to law courts and impartial judges and magistrates to defend us from this abuse.
Ideally, and it pains me to write it, it should really be Spain’s Supreme Court that should be doing this job and holding the line. But I guess they are far too busy still trying to rule – twelve years on – such cases like the one on abortion. I kid you not. A slooow justice indeed, no cheetah fast-pace here.
Once more, I must commend our EU Overlords for delivering impartial justice and setting the record straight. Thank you.
For the broader market (read real estate & foreign investments), the implication of this ruling is that resident taxpayers should no longer hold back submitting this tax form as the fines that will now be levied by the Spanish Tax Office (still to be disclosed) will be very reasonable and should no longer be feared.
Bottom line, the ECJ’s key ruling is (most) positive, and it is much appreciated by us punters, kudos!
“Justice delayed is justice denied.” – legal maxim
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Related tax articles
- Tax form 720 – 20th April 2018
- Tax form 720 – 21st March 2019
- Spanish Tax Office to fine 5,000 taxpayers over tax form 720 – 1st September 2019
- Tax form 720 – Modelo 720 – 21st of February 2020
- Modelo 720 – Tax form 720 – 8th of January 2021
- Spain’s worldwide asset reporting tax form (modelo) 720 explained – 8th January 2022
Article also published at Larraín Nesbitt Abogados: European Court of Justice rules on tax form 720 – 21st February 2022
Please note the information provided in this article is of general interest only and is not to be construed or intended as substitute for professional legal advice. This article may be posted freely in websites or other social media so long as the author is duly credited. Plagiarizing, whether in whole or in part, this article without crediting the author may result in criminal prosecution. No taxman or politician was harmed on writing this article. Voluntas omnia vincit.
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