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Guide To Spain’s Tax Codes NIE, NIF And CIF Expat Tips

Moving to a new country is always going to fill you with excitement, however, this may be short-lived once you find out you have to deal with a completely new form of bureaucracy.

When you first move to Spain, you not only have to learn a new language but also familiarise yourself with a whole host of abbreviations.

This is especially the case when it comes to taxes and dealing with the Spanish financial system.

Below we are going to help you navigate your way through Spain’s tax codes and their abbreviations and describe what they are and who may need to use them.

You will learn:-

  • Who needs a tax number in Spain
  • The different tax number abbreviations
  • Examples of the different tax numbers
  • How to apply for a tax number
  • Important links and associated resources

Let’s take a look!

NIE - Número de Identificación de Extranjero

As the name implies, the NIE is a foreigner’s tax identification number. It is the equivalent of an NIF number (see below) which is assigned to Spanish nationals.

Spaniards do not have an NIE number as these are only associated with foreign nationals. If you ever apply for Spanish citizenship, your NIE number will be revoked and replaced with an NIF number.
NIE numbers usually take the format of the letter X, Y or Z, followed by seven digits, followed by another letter. A typical example would be X-1234567-Y

If you are purchasing a property in Spain or conducting any form of business here, you will need to apply for an NIE number first.

Your NIE number is unique to you and helps the Spanish tax authorities to keep track of your fiscal activities and of course, your tax obligations.

There are many instances where you will need to provide an NIE number including to start a business, to register as self-employed, buy a property, get a mortgageopen a bank account, purchase a vehicle, rent a property, get a job, study, connect utilities or get a mobile phone contract.

The NIE number will also be used when filing your taxes.

It’s pretty safe to say you can’t do any economic transaction in Spain without one!

How you apply for your NIE will depend on whether you are currently in Spain or not. If you are outside of Spain and want to purchase a property or apply for residency or student visa, you will be able to make your application for an NIE at the Spanish consulate. In the UK these are based in London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

As a rule, the NIE will normally take around two weeks to be processed.

Find out more about NIE numbers in Spain and how to apply.

NIF - Numero de Identificacion Fiscal

Like the NIE, the NIF is a tax identification number which is assigned to all Spanish nationals, legal persons and non-legal entities.

The number is used to keep track of any financial procedures that may be of interest to the Spanish tax authorities.

Anyone liable to pay tax will need to disclose this number when completing self-assessments, tax declarations and any other form of communication with the tax administration.

The NIF number is made up of the Spanish national’s DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad) number plus an extra verification code.

Whereas the DNI is used to identify a Spanish citizen when undertaking any legal activity, the NIF is used when any operations are performed that have tax or customs implications.

It is worth noting that there are a few different categories of NIF number which are:-

  • NIF M - This is a temporary NIF for foreigners. They may be assigned one of these if they either are not obligated to use an NIE (will be in Spain for less than three months) or as a temporary measure until an NIE has been assigned.
  • NIF K - Children under 14 who are Spanish residents.
  • NIF L - Spanish citizens who are resident outside of Spain.
  • NIF N - This category may be assigned to any legal person non-resident in Spain who wishes to enter into financial transactions which are tax relevant in Spain. This can then be used in self-assessment, tax declarations and communications with the tax authorities.

You can apply for an NIF number either at your provincial tax office or online.

If you are a foreigner wishing to apply for an NIF N, or NIF M you will need to complete the form Modelo 030 and make an appointment at your nearest Spanish consulate or Embassy.

You can find out more about the NIF numbers here.

CIF - Código de Identificación Fiscal

The CIF number is an identification number used to identify a Spanish company or legal entity for tax purposes.

The CIF is composed of a letter plus eight digits with a total of nine alphanumeric characters.

The first letter denotes the type of business it is. The next two numbers identify the geographical region of the business. The following five digits are unique and are followed by a control digit which can be a letter or a digit.

Below you can see a list of the identities and their relevant codes.

A: Corporation
B: Limited liability company
C: Business partnership
D: Limited partnership
E: Joint ownership, inheritance in abeyance, or other entity lacking legal character not specifically included in another code
F: Cooperative society
G: Association
H: Residents' association under a horizontal property regime
J: Civil society
N: Foreign entity
P: Local corporation
Q: Public institution
R: Religious institution
S: State Administration or Autonomous Community Institution
U: Temporary consortium or joint venture
V: Other type undefined in another code
W: Branch entity

So an example CIF for a limited liability company could be B12345678. A limited partnership may be D87654321. So the first letter will denote the type of entity.

The CIF number also acts as the VAT number.

It is worth noting that the CIF has no longer been in use since 2008 and has now been merged with the NIF number which is used instead.

If you are going to be a sole trader or unincorporated partnership, you can use your DNI or NIE number.

On the other hand, if you will be setting up a limited company (S.L) or separate legal identity, you will need to apply for a separate NIF number for your business.

To apply for an NIF for a business, you will need to complete form Modelo 036 or 037. More details at the official link below.

https://sede.agenciatributaria.gob.es/Sede/procedimientoini/G322.shtml

Who needs a tax identification number?

Having a tax identification number is mandatory for anyone who wishes to undertake any form of business or economic activity within the Spanish territory.

Any foreigner who becomes a tax resident in Spain will need one.

Any non-residents who plan on buying a property in Spain will also need one. If the property is being purchased in both names then both will need their own NIE tax number.

Those from within the EU must apply for an NIE after three months of becoming resident in Spain.

Those from outside of the EU will get their NIE when applying for their residency visa.

How to apply for a Spanish tax identification number

There are three ways to apply for a tax number and will depend on whether you are resident in Spain or not. They are:-

You can find out more about applying for an NIE via our page How to get your NIE number.

If you will be undertaking any form of business or work in Spain, you will need to apply for a social security number.