Trouble on the Costas.
Today a friend of mine there told me that he would like to believe that Spain is a member of the European Union, wouldn't you? We have all heard nightmare stories to do with land grabbing on property that you own, and we are told this practice might now be changing due to intervention by Brussels. But now he tells me the Spanish and unscrupulous ex-pats are at it again! This time it's not your home at risk but your car!
Hundreds of UK registered vehicles are being impounded all over Spain. Unless you have Spanish plates you are at risk. So if you are touring Spain you had better beware and make sure you have the correct documentation with you and maybe a Spanish document or a telephone number of a Spanish speaker to call in case you are stopped on the road.
This week Fred Knight from Thaxted in Essex was touring in his Chrysler Voyager in Valencia. He was stopped by the police at a roadside checkpoint specially set up to check foreign cars. Although he had his driving license and insurance certificate with him he had omitted to bring the registered document which was at DVLC as he had just acquired the vehicle.
The Spanish Police did not speak English and neither did Fred have a lot of Spanish so conversation was confusing and Fred was unsurprisingly misunderstood.
The Spanish Police were not interested in whether he lived in Spain or whether he was a tourist. The new law states that if you are in Spain for longer than 6 months with your car you are considered by law to be a resident for the purposes of the Spanish Police Departmento Traffico. Should you actually move to live in Spain then you are now, due to a change in the law, liable to exchange your UK number plates with a Spanish MOT within 30 days of entry.
Fred's car was placed in a Police compound and it took him 5 days of form filling and retrieving statements from the UK before a translator helped him to remove it and clear up the misunderstanding. There was also a fine for not carrying the registration document.
The change in law has new implications both for those wishing to live in Spain and take their car with them, as well as the visitor who may be on a tour. Spanish Police do not have to speak English. The onus is on the traveler to speak the local language! Most tourists today who travel to Spain come by Air and hire a car.
Recently Keith Sharp from Rutland had a similar experience. Keith had made several journeys to Spain in his quest for an overseas property. He had now found his dream home abroad and had moved in as a resident of Spain. He had taken with him his recently acquired Renault Scenic which he had purchased in the UK the year before. Not wanting to lose too much money on a sale of the vehicle he preferred to take it with him even though it was right hand drive.
He made sure he had in the car two red triangles, a yellow coat, lamp deviators and spare bulbs to comply with French and Spanish Highway law.
Keith settled in to his new way of life in Alicante very well.
There is a great deal of form filling required when moving to Spain to live, work or retire and Keith wished to comply with the laws of his newly chosen country. He was not advised however by his agent, lawyer or his friends of the new law. Indeed it is doubtful that they would have known. Within 6 weeks of living there he was stopped by a special traffic police unit at a checkpoint near Quesada. Even though he had a spattering of Spanish learnt before he came he was not ready for this! He had all his documents with him and his new Spanish National Insurance number (NIE) documentation which of course showed his new address. Oh dear, the date on the Spanish documents proved he had been in Spain for more than 30 days and that he had a home there. The car was impounded.
He had thought, like many others that he had at least 6 months running on his English plates, but the new change in the law caught him out. After a few weeks of discussion it became apparent that he had to pay Spanish VAT on the current value of his car, before they would release it from the pound.
The British Consulate told me to look on their website under the section living in Spain. It states quite clearly that as a non-resident you have the right to bring your car from the UK or Ireland and use it on the road for 6 months in any one year.
This would have helped Fred had he been made aware of it and he might have taken with him a document in Spanish explaining that he was only touring for three months and was not therefore to be treated as a resident in Spain. The Spanish Police would probably have been more accommodating.
Further the British Consulate website explains that as a Resident in Spain you may import your car from the UK free of tax, but you first need to make several declarations, pass a Spanish MOT test which will involve fitting new headlights, and obtain forms from the taxation department locally and from the Department de Traffico. This has to be achieved within 30 days.
Quite correctly Keith really thought Spain was a full member of the EU. Reading this you would presume not. EU membership policy clearly states that it allows for the "Free movement of people and goods within the frontiers of Member States." Your own personal car is your own possession and is not or should not be considered a tradable commodity. Even then a car purchased with VAT paid in one Member State should be allowed to be imported freely into another Member State under the Treaty of Rome.
In reality you might extend the 30 days by being a little economical with the truth as to exactly when you imported the vehicle, but once you make the first declaration the clock starts to tick. Keith was far too late in starting the paperwork trail so he had to pay 5000 Euros in import tax.
In part two I will tell you about unscrupulous Ex-Pats who take advantage of this new law to mislead unsuspecting non-residents.
Article by Hugo Raymond, founder of Mypropertypal.com .
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