Minimum and maximum limits are established by law, but within these, tax levels are set by individual municipalities and vary from town to town depending on their size; rates are higher in municipalities with over 100,000 inhabitants, which may double the minimum tax rate. Among the cheapest cities are Madrid (surprisingly), Valencia and Zaragoza, and among the most expensive are Barcelona (around 20 per cent higher than Madrid), Bilbao and Córdoba.
The amount of tax payable also varies with the ‘fiscal horsepower’ ( potencia fiscal or caballos fiscales) of your car, which is a nominal amount not necessarily related to the engine power of a vehicle, as follows:
It’s advisable to check your bill, as some town halls overcharge by up to 100 per cent by using the wrong formula to calculate the horsepower.
Road tax must be paid to your local authority, usually some time between March and May. Contact your local town hall to find out when and how it must be paid and to obtain a payment form. Announcements are made on municipal notice boards and in local newspapers and banks, and the town hall may send you a reminder (but don’t count on it!). Tax can be paid in person at the town hall (where there are usually long queues) or tax office ( recaudación or oficina municipal de impuestos), via certain local banks (or by direct debit from your account) or by post.
When a vehicle is purchased, the tax payable is calculated pro rata for the current tax year. If a car is unused for a whole calendar year, you can have its registration temporarily suspended ( baja temporal) at your provincial traffic department. However, if a vehicle is used for just one month in a year, tax must be paid for the whole year.
There’s a late payment surcharge ( recargo) of 5 per cent in the first month and 20 per cent thereafter, and the unpaid sum is also liable to interest. Some people have been able to avoid paying road tax for many years, although municipalities are now clamping down on non-payers, whose vehicles can be impounded by local police. Note that a Spanish-registered car is automatically logged by your local municipality when you register your ownership with the provincial traffic department.
A Spanish road tax certificate isn’t displayed inside your car’s windscreen or on your registration plates. However, you should keep the receipt in your car with your other vehicle documents, as the local police may ask to see it.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
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