Black Clouds and Silver Linings

First published in the Costa del Sol Action Group magazine  2010.

With our expatriate retirees in mind

The rain in Spain is falling on just about everyone. It is apparent that the planet is suffering a crisis not experienced in many decades. For most of us our main concerns lie closer to home. Here in Spain, our families, homes, finances and of course, our health. These are the issues which have a direct impact on our everyday lives. For example, Sterling, which for many years has been a safe and stable currency has recently weakened against the euro and other currencies, raising the cost of living and has most expatriates wondering how they will cope. Let us find ways to adapt. Let us take a look at the black clouds and better still the silver linings.

It is now time to take the bull by the horns and take control of our lives and finances. Surely now is the time to bring to an end the “feeding of the fat cats” on the Costa del Sol. Let us stop paying extortionate and unfair fees for services provided. For example, the costs involved in buying or selling our properties, our yearly tax declarations, taxes due, making or changing a will, the additional expense of the unwarranted exchange of our European driving licences for the Spanish version. It is our obligation to inform ourselves and put an end to the misinformation which results in unnecessary tasks and expenditure. It is time to assess the present perturbing situation and start asking questions. When advising our members, I find myself constantly repeating “seek legal advice, and then double check that advice” Is it not enough that we have assisted in building up the economy in our adopted home without a few of the professionals on the Costa, both local and foreign alike seeing us as a way to make a quick shilling? I have listed a few things that we can do immediately to manage our finances and in turn take command of our lives.

We ought to insist that all Sterling transferred to our Spanish accounts be at a business or commercial rate. No charges or commissions whatsoever on the transfer on pensions. Further saving can be made by talking to your bank director. Tell him that you have been offered an account elsewhere free of charges. You require the same agreement otherwise you will transfer your account elsewhere. This will not be an empty threat; I personally know banks where this type of banking is a reality. Time to put behind us the loyalty we feel towards our service providers, your duty is to you and your families. Consider the possibility of increasing your income by moving your investments and opening a sterling account here in Spain where the interest rates are greater. Be wise in your choice of bank. Shop around as the interest offered on savings varies. Do not let the banks dictate to you, it is your money.

It has now become more expensive to shop. Look around there are bargains to be had. A number of restaurants are reducing the prices on their menus. If your favourite restaurant has no new offers, it is time for a change and to try out somewhere cheaper. You may enjoy the variation.

All resident pensioners sixty five and over are entitled to their tarjeta sesenta cinco. This card entitles you to cut price glasses, hearing aid equipment, free or reduced prices into museums theatres and places of interest, free travel, and reduced hotel prices in all areas of the Iberian Peninsula.

Home care by professional nursing staff is also available at no expenditure. Respite homes are set up for short stays to allow partners who are acting as carers to recharge their batteries. You can be assured that some of these homes are like hotels. This could be a lovely way to enjoy a free holiday.

The IBI (rates) have increased considerably due to the revaluation of the valor catastral. On paper this has increased the value of your property which means that all payments based on your house value will also increase. Some examples include our yearly tax, rates, rubbish, and capital gains charges when you sell your property. Not to mention the increases in inheritance tax. Now we should know how to scrutinise all the reductions possible. An example of this is the possibility of non-payment of the plus valia and the exemptions from inheritance tax. Unfortunately this tax is one of the most distressing, especially on what is a sad occasion with the loss of a partner. When you are at your lowest you trustingly follow the system and may find that you are either being overcharged or worse still not advised that you may be totally exempt from this costly tax. Costa Advice Bureau with the assistance of one of our reliable fiscal representative have recently had to deal with various inheritance tax cases and happily were able to advise the inheritors that there was no tax due. IF this issue is not handled with expertise, residents and non residents alike are handed a substantial bill from the tax authorities.

Some of the banks insist that you take on a life insurance with their branch when taking on a mortgage. This is not a legal requirement. Saying this check your home insurance and what it covers. We assisted a family to avoid a 1.300 euro bill given to them when the local Estepona fire brigade had to enter a property due to the owner having had a bad fall. which resulted in her death. Her insurance did not cover the expense of calling out the brigade. Consider giving a friendly neighbour a spare front door key. This will also avoid the expense of calling out a cerrajero when you accidentally lock yourself out. This is not the UK where the friendly fire brigades respond to a call out to bring down kitty from a willow tree.

Endesa the electricity board has recently increased their charges yet again and in the previous increase decided on monthly billing systems which as so many of us are aware has resulted in the miscalculation of invoices. This is sometimes to your advantage but more than often not. The bad news was that if we had been overcharged and had not made a claim to Endesa we would not be reimbursed. The silver lining; the autonomous government has ruled that everyone should be reimbursed whether or not a claim has been put forward to the company. So please keep and eye on your facturas and your meter readings.

With the high costs of telephone calls, pensioners have the right for reduction on their monthly bills.

In spite of all the advice given, should you be unfortunate enough to discover that after spending the last ten years as a resident, exhausted your savings and are considering returning to the UK because you do not have pension. Do not despair you may be entitled to a Spanish pension.

When you have to realise any new transactions be it paying a bill, taking a neighbour to court, accepting a quote. The writing up of documents, making a new will. Be aware when implementing these or any future transactions. To coin a catchphrase, “Look before you leap”.

Myra Cecilia.


Please note: The information provided is based upon our understanding of current legislation. It is not legal advice but is provided freely to enable you to be properly informed. We recommend that if you are considering taking action, you should seek professional advice.

How Can Citizens Advice Bureau Spain Benefit You?

As an expatriate living in Spain; do you find that the Spanish bureaucratic system can be disconcerting? Have you discovered that the simplest of transactions are difficult to conclude? Find yourself searching for answers to problems only to discover that there is nowhere where you could find a solution? I am assuming that the answer is yes and that is why should be a member of our web site if you arent already.
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