Autónomo (Self employed) - Guide
Updated: Feb 18
Being self-employed in Spain
In Spain, being self-employed or an autónomo allows people to run their own business and pay into the Spanish Social Security scheme (equivalent to the UK National Insurance scheme).
Being an autónomo in Spain comes with a strict set of rules and legal responsibilities that must be adhered to in order to avoid mistakes and large fines for non-compliance. This introductory guide covers the basic steps on how to become self-employed in Spain and the basic reporting requirements for autónomos.
This guide is not a substitute for taking professional legal advice on your specific circumstances. Your needs as an autónomo may vary, depending on the type of business or economic activity that you run and its size. The fines for non compliance with the rules can be significant and there is no get out clause due to ignorance or being misinformed. So, this guide is only to be used as a general introduction to the self-employment system in Spain, before taking appropriate professional advice.
First, you need to obtain a digital certificate, as it is an essential tool in managing the administrative processes and tax payments electronically (whether you do it yourself with your own computer, or your accountant or representative does it using theirs). If you don’t yet have a digital certificate, check out our how to guide here.
Registering as a self-employed with the Social Security scheme (RETA)
To become an autónomo, you need to join the Social Security scheme for the self-employed, or Régimen Especial de Trabajadores Autónomos (RETA). Note that you will need a Social Security number in order to register as self-employed. You can register for the RETA (alta RETA) on this Social Security website.
Once on the site, choose the first option: Alta de trabajador en el régimen especial de trabajadores autónomos (RETA) and use your Digital Certificate to get you into the system. If you do not have a digital certificate, visit our guide on how to obtain one.
At the time of registration, you must state the organisation or insurance company that you have decided to use to provide insurance cover for occupational diseases and accidents (this has been a requirement since 2007).
If you are already registered with the Social Security scheme (for example, you have been employed in Spain before) you can update your new employment status here as well. For self-employment, you need to select Trabajador Autónomo. Then you choose your type of business or economic activity from a long list of options, each with a different code. You will have to select the code that corresponds with your activity. If you are not certain (and the definitions do not always directly correspond with what you might be used to in the UK) consult your professional advisor on the appropriate code to select.
Registering at the Tax Office (Agencia Tributaria, AEAT)
After registering with the RETA, you need to register at the Tax Office. You can do this online with a digital certificate at the AEAT (Agencia Tributaria) website. Depending on the type of business you plan to run, you need to complete Model 036 or the Model 037 and submit the form online. Once verified, you will receive a message confirming your registration as a self-employed worker.
Basic tax returns and compulsory processes
There are four tax returns that Autónomos need to complete in order to comply with the basic self-employment tax rules. They are:
Self-employed quota (Cuota de Autónomo)
Quarterly VAT payment (IVA Trimestral)
Annual VAT statement (Resumen Anual IVA)
Annual income tax (Declaración de la Renta)
Self-employed quota (Cuota de Autónomo)
The self-employed quota is a monthly contribution that the worker makes to the Social Security system. The level of payment is chosen by you as the self-employed worker, which directly affects the amount of your retirement pension long term. The minimum amount is 283,30 euros and the maximum is 1221,03 euros (2020). There is currently an introductory scheme to encourage more people to become self-employed, which starts at a reduced payment of 60 euros per month during their first year of self-employment and goes up incrementally over two years until it reaches the full basic amount.
Quarterly VAT (IVA Trimestral)
You pay your VAT every quarter. You calculate your VAT contribution from your invoices and payments which you pay to the Tax Agency (AEAT) using Model 303. You will need the digital certificate. You can present the Model 303 online here (make sure to choose the correct quarter for each return you make).
VAT - Annual Summary tax return (Resumen Anual IVA)
You have until 31 January in the year after your employment activity to present the Model 390, which consists of a summary of all the quarterly VAT payments from the previous tax year (January to December). You can present the Annual Summary tax return here.
Annual income tax
From April until the end of June, all tax residents, including self-employed, need to declare their annual income through the Declaración de la Renta campaign. Self employed/autónomos have to do it electronically with their digital certificate, because they have to manually insert their business income. It is advised to use a gestoría for this step, especially for the first year.
This guide outlines the process and main responsibilities of being an autónomo in Spain. It is not a substitute for professional advice and it is highly recommended to use a professional advisor such as a gestor or lawyer with experience in this field. Here is a link to a list of English speaking lawyers provided by the UK Government and the registry of gestorías in Spain.
*Age in Spain does not provide any legal or taxation advice