Once upon a time in Spain, you used to be able to do everything paperwork-related by making an appointment online on a government website and then going to the office in person on the appointed day. You might have to get to the office well in advance before your scheduled time but more often than not arriving a mere 5-10 minutes beforehand sufficed. After that, as you stood in line or sat waiting for your number to be called, you clutched your paperwork and forms and just prayed that you would be assigned a funcionario/a who knew what they were talking about.
Those were the days, right?
Now that a global pandemic shook things up in terms of how Spanish bureaucracy is handled once again, all government offices have gone “digital” and expect you to do things like registering as a first-time freelancer in Spain online instead of requesting an appointment and going in-person to either Social Security or Hacienda (the Tax Office).
If you have completed any type of bureaucratic process in Spain before reading this article, especially but not limited to the student visa modification process, I can picture you inwardly (or outwardly) groaning at the mention of Spanish governmental offices just one day being forced to go digital. Even before they’re properly trained!
I still can’t wrap my mind around how much of a disaster it has proven to be. So that’s why, after a few years of freelancing myself, I’ve decided to come to your rescue and aid you in figuring out the complicated yet very detailed world of being a freelancer in Spain. But before you can even begin to do any freelance work, you’ll need to get registered!
¡Vamos a por ello! Let’s tackle this!
First things first, if you are an American or of other non-EU nationality, you will need to take your work permit/visa acceptance letter (or upload the letter for proof) and request that the government assign you a social security number (número de afiliación de la Seguridad Social). You can do this in person by going to your nearest Oficina de Seguridad Social based on your zip code – which is what I did back in late 2017 – but you can also apply for the number online through their electronic portal.
This part of the process technically doesn’t have an expiration date but it’s likely you personally have a deadline that’s been exercised upon you via the Spanish government, which is typically around 30 business days (national and regional holidays excluded). For a summary of what you need to do in order to apply for the number, you can read this informational page in Spanish. If you have already applied for and have a Social Security number through a language assistant or Master’s program/internship, you can apply for acreditación del número de la Seguridad Social and receive an official form serving as proof that you have an existing Spanish social security number.
If you are doing the process in person, you will need to bring the following documents:
– ID card (TIE) or passport
– Letter of approval for cuenta propia – autonómo permit or freelancer visa (if applied for in your home country)
-Completed TA_1 form (only print pages 2 and 3, page 1 is merely instructional)
As soon as you apply for your Social Security number – which should be assigned automatically -, you will want to leave that corner of the Internet and search for the exact economic activity for your business.
Note: You do not have to (only) sign up for the activities you listed in your business plan, you are open to adding the ones you want to do most or feel most qualified to do. The more activities you have, the more complicated your taxes will be so my advice to you is to not go overboard. You can always take an item off your list of business activities in the future.)
You will need to identify the exact code for your proposed economic activity(ies) as cataloged by the IAE. Here is a short list of just some of the activities I’ve participated in during my years as a freelancer in Spain:
659.4 COMERCIO MENOR – LIBROS, PERIODICOS, REVISTAS
751 PROFESIONALES PUBLICIDAD, RELACIONES PUBLICAS
774 TRADUCTORES E INTERPRETES
826 PERSONAL DOCENTE ENSEÑANZAS DIVERSAS
One thing you need to keep in mind is the order in which you register at these two government entities. Up until recently, you could sign up with Hacienda and then later register (darse de alta) with Seguridad Social. This has since changed due to the implementation of the new freelancer reduced payment plan otherwise known as the tarifa plana (flat-rate). The new order of doing this registration process is as follows: register with Seguridad Social first – a process which is also known as registering (darse de alta) in the Régimen de Trabajadores Autónomos (RETA) – select the correct payment plan you wish to contribute to (el base de cotización) and then registering your economic activities with the Tax Office (Agencia Tributaria). In other words, the date on which you sign up for registration with Hacienda cannot precede the date on which you signed up for Social Security.
The reason why doing the process in this specific order is so important is because you want to make sure you don’t pay for the entire month’s contribution when you sign up or accidentally pay the full rate (no discounts) and not receive the discounts you are entitled to as a first-time freelancer. If you are male and under the age of 30 upon signing up or female and under the age of 35 you will receive an extra 30% discount off the quota for the remaining 12 months of the plan as per the rules, which I will explain later on.
Registering with Seguridad Social (Online)
First, you will need to register at Social Security’s SEDE Electrónica and click on the drop-down category underneath the Spanish flag labeled Ciudadanos and select Afiliación, Inscripción y Modificación. You will need a digital certificate in order to sign on toE their database and sign up for the RETA. If you want to do this in person where you live at a local Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social, fill out pages 3 and 4 of the Modelo TA.6 form and make an appointment (cita previa) at your nearest office. Enter your contact information and choose the Elegir yo el centro, el día y la hora en esta provincia (this option usually allows you a greater range of dates in my experience). You will also have to answer a security question that will involve matching a word with a category (ie: Idioma > Castellano) before you can see a list of available appointments.
**Please note that the Seguridad Social’s webpages are time-sensitive and can usually kick you out of a session in less than 5 minutes if you navigate away from the page or become inactive on it, ie: leave your laptop alone for a couple of minutes. Stay on the page and finish the application and don’t lose your work!**
When doing the process online, you’ll get to pages that look like the following screenshots below:
Datos laborales – Employment data
Fecha de inicio de la actividad (put the same day you are applying) in this format: dd/mm/aa
Actividad económica (economic activity, find yours according to your sector’s classification number in the box to the right of this line)
Apartado 4.1 Opción respecto de la base de cotización
¿Realiza la actividad en mercados tradicionales o mercadillos con horario inferior a 8 horas, sin disponer de establecimiento fijo ni producir los productos que vende? meaning, Are you carrying out your business activity in a traditional or untraditional market with a schedule of fewer than 8 hours a day, without a fixed location nor producing the products you sell? Select NO. It’s highly unlikely that you will be starting a brick-and-mortar business selling physical products.
Seleccione la base de cotización – select your contribution amount.
Base máxima – maximum contribution (up to 1200€) (choose this option if you can pay more)
Base mínima – minimum contribution (around 295€) *what most freelancers choose*
Otra base – choose contribution with box to fill in amount (not recommended)
Base mínima específica para venta ambulante – minimum contribution for street vending (N/A)
55% de la base mínima – 55% of the minimum contribution (this puts you at paying an extra 25% of the minimum quota, not recommended but if you can pay it, great)
*En el supuesto de que usted, en el momento de alta, tenga cumplida 48 años o más, la base máxima de cotización que se consolidará será la establecida, en cada momento, para esta circunstancia, meaning, “In the event that, at the time of registration, you are 48 years old, the maximum contribution that will apply will be the established rate, at all times in the year for this specific case.” It’s unlikely that you will be of this age upon registering for the very first time but it’s good to know what its implications are for the future. It essentially means that your contribution will go up and be fixed at a certain rate (to be determined by the government) once you turn 48.
Solicitud de incremento automático de la base de cotización; meaning, “Apply for automatic Social Security contribution increases.” I recommend selecting NO for this option as that was what I chose to do when I signed up and with a government worker’s help. Regardless if you do select this option or not, your monthly Social Security contribution will automatically be adjusted for inflation and increases by the entity itself.
Apartado 4.2 Mutua colaboradora con la Seguridad Social
Opción respecto de la cobertura cese de actividad/formación profesional meaning, “Option for pausal/cessation of activity coverage. You want to have income coverage for when you can’t work or are forced to stop your activity. (Check SI)
Mutua colaboradora con la Seguridad Social meaning, “Select mutual company that will provide your accident or cessation of activity coverage. I recommend the company FREMAP (the one I chose at the time of signing up) and accountants do as well because they have offices in every city in Spain. I don’t recommend choosing any mutual fund company that only exists in the region where you’re registering as it is likely you will move in the future. It’s a rare occasion that choosing a local company is not a good option.
Apartado 4.3 Opción de cobertura por contingencias profesionales y por cese de actividad
Opción a respecto a la cobertura de las contingencias profesionales (accidentes de trabajo y enfermedades profesionales). Opta por acogerse.
Opt-in for work-related accidents and illnesses coverage.
Note: This coverage costs an extra 15-20€/month and is added to your cuota.
(Depends on your personal situation and needs. I chose NO but didn’t know at the time that the added coverage would raise my monthly contribution)
Opción a respecto a la cobertura de cese de actividad/formación profesional. Opta por acogerse.
Opt-in for cessation of activity (voluntarily or circumstantially) and/or professional training coverage (meaning taking time off work and dropping out of the system to take a course or receive training). (SI)
Apartado 4.4 Cobertura por incapacidad temporal
Coberturas – Types of Coverage
Opción en respecto con la incapacidad laboral. Opta por acogerse.
Opt-in for inability to work coverage.
Está en situación de pluriactividad a la fecha de alta en este régimen.
Working under the pluriactividad scheme (being a contract employee and a freelance simultaneously) at the time of registration. This is likely not anyone from non-EU countries who just got approved for the cuenta propia work permit.
Registering with the Agencia Tributaria (Online)
You must choose your economic activities before you sign up with Social Security and become registered as an active freelancer before you can register with the Tax Office. Open a new web browser – preferably the same one you used to register for the certificado digital. Go to the Agencia Tributaria’s website (also known as Hacienda – AETA) and register by filling out either the Modelo 036 or Modelo 037, depending on your particular type of business.
If you have changed your address or plan to move shortly after registering as a freelancer, it is actually your legal obligation as an autonónmo to let Hacienda know of any changes made to your fiscal address or business activity. When applying for your new TIE, you will most likely have to present a copy of your most recent padrón so make sure you give yourself enough time to change your address if you’re moving and update it in your local Ayuntamiento’s database.
(Disclaimer: I did all of these steps in person back in 2017 because that was the only way I could do any of these processes at that time. I am already registered and active as a freelancer in Spain so I may not be able to get screenshots of all of the sections I’ll be telling you about below.)
**Helpful tool** You can check and see if your economic activity is subject to IVA or not using this Localizador de Prestación de Servicios tool from the Agencia Tributaria. It’ll ask you a series of questions about your work and you’ll have to respond with answers such as which sector it’s in, where are you performing the work, where is the client located, etc, but you’ll get a clear idea of what responsibilities are attached to your specific economic activity as a Spanish freelancer.
One final note before we get started on that. The difference between the Modelo 036 and the Modelo 037 is that one is more detailed than the other. The Modelo 037 is the more simplified version of the two and it exists for freelancers who don’t require as much paperwork to get started with their business. On the contrary, it lacks certain sections that the Modelo 036 has but it is the best choice for freelancers who won’t be doing a lot of activities and will be performing said business activities only in Spain. The Modelo 036 is for anyone who wishes to have a fiscal address different from their home address, opt into a special IVA scheme or do operaciones intracomunitarias (work with clients outside of Spain). Carefully consider your situation and what you plan to do in the future as well. Consult a gestor to discuss your present and/or future tax obligations if you want the extra support and advice.
Without further ado, for this part of the process, let’s go page by page.
Page 1 – Identificación
101 – NIE/NIF – Foreigner Identification Number
102 – Apellidos y Nombre – Last and First Names
Causas de Presentación
A) Alta (Registration)
111 – Alta en el censo de empresarios, profesionales y retenedores (check this box only)
Move on to the second page of the form as the other sections Modificación and Baja do not apply to your situation. If you need to modify your personal contact details or update your business situation or activities, you can do so by selecting one of the options in the Modificación section. And, on the off chance that you do drop out of the system (darse de baja) for either the short or long-term, you will need to select a reason for “de-registering” from the drop-down box and put a compatible date when your baja (leave) will go into effect.
Page 2 – Datos de contacto
This section is all about personal contact information and home address (for notification and business purposes).
2A – Fill this out if you are representing yourself and will put your own home address
You will fill in the following boxes:
A1 Residente fiscal en España (select the first option, “SI. Art.9.1.LIRPF“)
A2 Código país de residencia (choose España)
A3 Nacionalidad (Select your nationality)
A4 NIE (put your assigned number, which can be found on your TIE)
A5 Apellido 1 (put your last name as it’s written on your TIE and passport)
A6 Apellido 2 (optional)
A7 Nombre (put first and middle name here)
A8 Nombre comercial (N/A, unless you have chosen a name for your business)
~Leave the rest of the boxes blank until you get to the next section. They apply to freelancer entrepreneurs who are applying to register their limited company.~
Datos de teléfonos y direcciones eletrónicas (para recibir avisos de la AEAT)
A26 – Correo eléctronico para avisos – Enter your email address to receive messages (avoid Hotmail)
A28 – Prefijo país – Enter the country code for your cellphone number (Spain is +34)
A29 – Teléfono móvil para avisos – Enter your Spanish cellphone number here
2C – If you are getting a gestor to fill out the form for you, then they will most likely add their info on page 2B
Page 3 – Identificación de los representantes
Skip this page if you are filling out the Modelo 036 by yourself but if you are having an accountant register for you, they will need to fill in their information below and select the alta representante option in the caso de presentación category.
Page 4 – Declaración de las actividades económicas y locales
This is the page where you will list your specific business activities with their corresponding classification numbers as I talked about above in the Social Security registration section. If you need help locating your IAE epigraph number for your activity, the Agencia Tributaria has a handy search tool (Buscador de Actividades, which opens in a separate window) off to the side of that box but, you can only access it while you’re inside the Modelo 036 form.
Declaración de las actividades económicas y laborales
403 – Cód(igo) y tipo de actividad – Work code and type of activity (Select A05 Profesionales)
402 – Sección I.A.E./Grupo o epígrafe – IAE Group or classification (ie: Traductores e Interpretes)
400 – Descripción de la actividad – Description of the activity (it auto-fills with your above choice)
If you need to register more than one activity, you can create a complementaria (complementary page) by clicking on the drop-down menu (where the letter C is) right next to page 4 and adding an extra page following the same instructions above but adding a different business activity and number.
B) Lugar de realización de la actividad
La actividad se desarrolla fuera de un local determinado – The activity will be performed outside of a determined/fixed location
Causa de presentación
406 Fecha (de inicio) – dd/mm/yy
Page 5 – IVA
For this section, select 510 Alta for the Régimen General underneath the category
C) Regimenes aplicables. Most business activities will carry an extra charge of 21% VAT (except for education) while others will vary between 4-10%. You will charge your clients 21% VAT (or the percentage rate for the country they’re located in) and add it to your invoice if it applies. The client will pay the extra tax on top of the services (cost of the project) provided but you will retain that amount and then submit the amount to the Spanish government (Hacienda in this case) when it comes time to file your quarterly tax forms. I will explain how that works in more detail in future posts.
The two most important sections you’ll need to pay attention to here are D) Registros and F) Gestión de otras opciones. If you are planning to (or already have pre-signed contracts) work with clients outside of Spain and either inside or outside the EU (or both), you will want to select 582 Alta underneath this line, Solicita alta/baja en el Registro de operadores intracomunitarias and list the date in which you plan to start the activity. Another voluntary option you can select is the Llevanza de los Libros registros del IVA a través de la Sede electrónica de la AEAT. Select Opción if you want to register your accounting books/records directly with the Agencia Tributaria and be able to access them when you submit your quarterly tax forms.
Page 6 – IRPF
So, if you are filling out this form as a persona física (in other words, representing yourself), you will only need to look at section A) Impuesto sobre la Renta de las Personas Físicas, more commonly known in Spain as IRPF. This is what is known as annual income tax in English and the rate that will apply to your specific situation will depend upon how much you earn in a given year. BBVA has a helpful tax rate calculator (or tramos de IRPF) if you want to learn more about it once you finish getting registered as a freelancer.
Underneath section A, look for the line that says Métodos de estimación en el IRPF and go down to the Estimación directa category and check the box 609 underneath the word Inclusión and next to the word simplificada to join this tax scheme (the most common one and the one the tax advisor checked for me upon my in-person registration). Sections B and C are for sociedades limitadas (roughly the Spanish equivalent of an LLC in the US) and personas no residentes meaning non-residents, which likely don’t apply to your situation.
Page 7 – Retenciones y regímenes generales
As a new freelancer, you will be able to withhold the low rate of 7% of your total fee on your invoices for the first year and the two subsequent years. The regular retention rate will be 15% once you surpass three years as a freelancer so keep that in mind as your business grows or for as long as you are registered. If you are unsure as to what specific retentions your business activities require, you can take a look at this list of retentions on InfoAutonómos. (Note: you will have to create an account on their website in order to be able to download the PDF)
Page 8 – Socios (optional)
This page and page 9 are also nonapplicable to anyone submitting these forms as themselves directly. For your own information, the socios page is for any partners, members or participants who will also be involved with your business operations. It’s very unlikely that you will be hiring any employees or other freelancers right off the bat but you can definitely do that later on in your freelance business. For that, I would recommend seeking out a tax advisor or consultant to help you with that process.
And that’s a wrap on the registration process to becoming a new freelancer in Spain! Is there any tips or advice that you would add to help anyone who’s new to the Spanish freelancing world? Leave them in the comments below!
Just a reminder: I am not a certified tax professional but I did register on my own and in person at a local Hacienda Office here in Madrid so I received personal guidance in real-time for my own situation. I do have a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Economics plus years of experience freelancing so that’s why I’ve decided to add more content about what it’s like to freelance in Spain.
Do not take all of what I have written in this post as fact, as some of the information can and will change in the future. If you have any questions at all, you can contact Hacienda themselves and make either a phone or in-person appointment with them if you need it and have a high level of Spanish.
I suggest booking a consultation with an accountant (un gestor) to help guide you through the process if you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t feel comfortable doing it on your own or if you feel that your situation is more complex than mine. I recommend websites like Infoautonomos, Declarando.es and GetQuipu to find more resources on freelancing, taxes and working in Spain.