¿PERO QUÉS EL INTERCAMBIO?

SOL BRILLANTECiertamente el tiempo compartido apareció hace varias décadas como una fórmula idónea para facilitar la ocupación por turistas de alojamientos durante sus vacaciones.

 

Tuvo un gran éxito, ya que con un desembolso relativamente pequeño se lograba que varios miembros de una familia accedieran a disfrutaran sus vacaciones en el lugar de su elección.

Pero los usos turísticos evolucionaron rápidamente, ya que si bien los “turistas-unidad familiar” tenían como costumbre y preferencia la de repetir cada año el mismo lugar para sus vacaciones; hoy se prefiere un destino distinto cada año, y no sólo dentro del mismo país ni continente, sino a cualquier parte del mundo.

A esta necesidad la industria turística del tiempo compartido o aprovechamiento por turno respondió tempranamente con una nueva fórmula que viniera a responder a esa demanda y que no es otra que el llamado “intercambio”.

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De forma muy simple el “intercambio” consiste en facilitar o mejor proporcionar la posibilidad de que un titular de un derecho de ocupación por turno en un complejo concreto, pueda cada año, si lo desea, cambiar temporalmente el alojamiento inherente su derecho de ocupación por el de otra persona que en las mismas circunstancias lo desease.

Pero ese concepto tan básico no es real, es decir, no quiere decir que un intermediario ponga en contacto directo a dos titulares que quieren intercambiar entre si y en un momento determinado el alojamiento al que cada uno tiene derecho a disfrutar, sino que se hace a través de un sistema que permite que cientos de miles de esta clase de titulares de derechos accedan a un sistema que, si permite ese efectivo intercambio, pero entre cientos de miles de personas.

Todo lo anterior es cierto, como es también cierto que el sistema funciona desde hace décadas.

Pero es importante también conocer cuál es la naturaleza jurídica de este derecho de intercambio, que no pocas veces se ha malinterpretado, en muchos casos para conseguir otros objetivos que no son los propios que se derivan de esta figura jurídica.

Para conseguir esos otros objetivos algunas veces se ha pretendido reducir al absurdo el objeto del contrato, con formulaciones tan simples como “ que el sistema de intercambio obligaba de modo absoluto a proporcionar un nuevo destino de ocupación de alojamiento, en el momento en que el usuario del sistema de intercambio simplemente lo solicitase, al lugar único de su eleeción, y sin atenerse a siquiera a la reserva con suficiente anticipación y en concurrencia con otros solicitantes.

Ello no es sólo incierto, sino imposible, como lo es que cualquier titular de un derecho de ocupación pudiese cada año, hasta el mismo día anterior al comienzo de su turno, tener a su disposición y disponibilidad cientos de alojamientos en cientos de destinos y en cientos de países. Podrá pensarse en ello como una extrema exageración, pero en no pocos casos se ha entendido, incluso en los tribunales, que ese debía ser el caso y que normas como la que se contiene en la frase “sujeto a disponibilidad”, no era más que una especie de truco que en realidad justificaba un inexistente compromiso del prestador del servicio o incluso un fraude. A ello se añade la idiosincrasia de cada cliente que quiere intercambiar, ya que mientras en algunos países es muy común la reserva del intercambio a última hora, en otros lo común la reserva re realiza con mucha antelación y por lo tanto con tanto mayor éxito en la confirmación de sus preferencias.

En la primera Directiva de tiempo compartido de 1994 no se definía cual es el ámbito objetivo del contrato de intercambio, más allá de que se trataba de un contrato aparte (o distinto) del propio aprovechamiento por turno concertado con el promotor del complejo y de la exigencia de ciertos requisitos de información.

Todo ello cambia de forma radical cuando en la Directiva 2008/122/CE se regula de forma más amplia este contrato, comenzando por la propia definición de su objeto, cuando se dice expresamente:

            “Se entiende por contrato de intercambio aquel en virtud del cual un consumidor se afilia, a título oneroso a un sistema de intercambio que le permita disfrutar de un alojamiento o de otros servicios a cambio de conceder a otras personas un disfrute temporal de las ventajas que suponen los derechos derivados de su contrato de aprovechamiento por turno de bienes de uso turístico”.

            Decía el escritor del Siglo de Oro español Baltasar Gracián que “lo poco si breve dos veces bueno”. Está máxima la cumple la citada definición del intercambio, por cuanto en pocas palabras se viene a determinar el objeto del contrato, quiénes son las partes en esta relación contractual y cuáles son las obligaciones de cada una de ellas:

            1.- El objeto del contrato en si es la prestación de un servicio que corre a cargo de un comerciante (“la red de intercambio”).

      2.- La prestación del comerciante se concreta en poner a disposición del consumidor o usuario de aprovechamiento por turno el “sistema” que permita el intercambio. Es importante destacar la palabra “sistema” que se contiene en dicha definición legal de esta clase contratos, por lo que de concreción de la obligación de la red de intercambio supone. “Es decir que la obligación del comerciante es establecer y posibilitar el uso del “sistema” o “medio” para lograr el intercambio”

            3.-  La contraprestación que ha de percibir el comerciante –la red de intercambio- es el pago del precio acordado.

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¿Cuál es por tanto la obligación de la red de intercambio?

En la clásica dicotomía de las obligaciones que ya esbozaba el antiguo derecho romano y que impregna el derecho europeo se diferencian dos clases de obligaciones:

        –Obligación de resultado o determinada en la que el comerciante se obliga a producir un resultado a favor de su contraparte (consumidor o usuario en este caso). Por ello si el resultado no se produce, el comerciante incumple su obligación frente al consumidor. Ejemplo clásico de esta clase es la obligación de entregar un bien determinado.

     –Obligación de medios o actividad en la que el comerciante se obliga a poner los medios o a realizar la actividad necesaria para que el consumidor obtenga el resultado. En este caso el ejemplo clásico no sería la entrega de un bien sino la prestación de un servicio

Siendo el intercambio una “prestación de servicios”, no la entrega de una cosa “determinada o determinable”, la red gestora del sistema no tiene una obligación de resultado, deseado por el consumidor, sino que su obligación es de medios y actividad que en conjunto permita al cliente poder obtener un resultado.

Por ello la obligación de la red de intercambio se cumple con el establecimiento y mantenimiento del “sistema de intercambio”, que entre otras cosas le obliga también a clasificar los derechos de ocupación que se ceden por sus titulares para su intercambio en el sistema con criterios de equivalencia, lo que requiere una actividad empresarial muy compleja porque se ha de referir en común a miles de alojamientos, en temporadas equivalentes de uso más o menos solicitadas (por clima, por fiestas, por eventos culturales, deportivos, etc.).

A modo enunciativo estos medios y actividad (sistema), conlleva:

-Afiliar complejos turísticos, lo que significa que debe cerciorarse de su legalidad y operatividad.

            -Clasificar los diferentes complejos turísticos según parámetros de calidad, servicios, instalaciones, accesibilidad, etc., ya que no es bastante la calificación legal de un país (por estrellas de hotel, llaves de apartamentos, etc.), ya que en cada país existen, aun teniendo nombre común de clasificación, criterios diferentes para su otorgamiento.

            -Clasificación por temporadas, como antes se indica.

            -Mantenimiento del “sistema informático”, con programas de alta complejidad y en continua actualización.

            -Atención a los clientes en múltiples lenguas y con efecto en prácticamente todos los países del mundo.

            No se vea el ello algo tan simple como un “negocio redondo” que no garantiza un resultado, porque el resultado que debe satisfacer la red de intercambio es la operatividad del sistema que debe ofrecer la posibilidad de que los derechos de ocupación cedidos al sistema de intercambio por cientos de miles de personas que no se conocen ni nunca se conocerán entre sí, puedan ser intercambiados.

         Por todo ello si la red de intercambio presta el servicio, la actividad y el medio para obtener el resultado, el consumidor puede obtenerlo con la utilización del sistema según sus reglas y normas, fundamentalmente la reserva del alojamiento deseado que cumpla los parámetros de equivalencia del propio derecho cedido temporalmente por aquél al sistema para que a su vez este pueda ser utilizado por otro consumidor.

     Ciertamente la concreción del intercambio se sujeta al principio turístico conocido por “sujeto a disponibilidad”, que no es un concepto jurídico indeterminado, sino que se refiere a que reservar en una temporada y lugar concreto se conseguirá habitualmente si se realiza con tiempo suficiente y teniendo en cuenta que existe una competencia –como bien sabe al afiliado al sistema- con otros afiliados. Será muy difícil que si un afiliado quiere reservar el día 15 de julio un alojamiento en España para ser utilizado el día 15 de agosto siguiente lo consiga. –

Pero en todo caso y siempre además, por el propio volumen del sistema que incluye anualmente miles y miles de derechos que pueden ser intercambiados, nunca quedará el afiliado sin la posibilidad de elección alternativa de cientos de otros alojamientos. – “Sujeto a disponibilidad”, se refiere a uno o varios alojamientos pretendidos, pero siempre queda disponibilidad de cientos de otros derechos que se pueden reservar y utilizar.

 Es decir, que siendo la obligación exigible a la red de intercambio la operatividad del “medio” o “sistema” <<conforme dispone la definición del derecho de intercambio contenida en la Directiva 2088/122/CE, Ley española 4/2012 de 6 de julio y las equivalentes de los demás países de la UE>> si podemos decir que el resultado, aun no siendo obligatorio para aquel si se puede obtener siempre conforme al derecho español, como si se tratase de obligaciones “variables” o “alternativas (art. 1131 y concordantes del Código Civil).

         Para terminar y como reza el párrafo transcrito que se contiene en el contrato de intercambio a que se refiere la Sentencia  179/2014 del Juzgado de 1ª. Instancia nº 1 de Palma de Mallorca: “el intercambio se posibilita a través de un programa  de reservas, sometido a sus propias normas y que depende del número de  conjuntos afiliados (que varían de año en año), de los socios titulares de ese conjunto que sólo voluntariamente ceden ese derecho temporalmente y de la competencia de reservas entre ellos (en base a las normas del programa). El cometido a que viene obligada la entidad gestora de esta red- fundamentalmente informática- es la de tener operativo, con todos los medios materiales y humanos necesarios el sistema informático que posibilite el intercambio, pero que no asegura el resultado deseado. En otras palabras (dice el Juez) “no se garantiza el intercambio”. 

Esta última apostilla del Juzgador resulta tanto más importante cuando acogiendo las pretensiones de la red demandada, acepta que la garantía de confirmación de intercambio requerido no es parte del objeto del contrato u obligación del prestador de ese servicio.

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Francisco J. Lizarza

Abogado

Marbella a 6 de febrero de 2017

 

TAXATION OF DWELLING RENTALS AND CESSIONS

MANSION

 It is very difficult to summarise the content of an article in its title, particularly where it refers to various situations and various rights, whether from a common or general point of view or from a legal point of view.

Therefore, when in this article we say “dwelling”, this must be interpreted in a very general sense as meaning an “enclosed, covered place which has been built =building= to be inhabited by persons”. And when we say rental of dwellings, it very generally means handing over the right to use or enjoy (occupation) that building to another person, from whom a consideration will be received. And all this applies whether building refers to what we call a flat, apartment, villa, terraced house, room, studio, etc., and whether it is located in a residential building, an apartment-hotel building, a hotel or a combination thereof.

But what matters for the purposes of this article, namely to determine the taxes payable by the owner on the rent received for the cession of such a habitable building, is the kind of “dwelling” involved or, rather, the intended use of that dwelling or how it is going to be used by its occupier, whether by virtue of an agreement between the parties or because it must be legally used for a specific purpose and none other.

SUMMARY

I.- RENTAL OF DWELLINGS (HABITUAL RESIDENCE).

From a legal point of view, where the intended use of dwelling is to be ceded by a person for a price or a rent to another person, who will occupy it, normally with their family, for the essential purpose of fulfilling the need to have living accommodation, this will be what Spanish Law simply (basically) defines as the “rental of a dwelling”.

II.- SEASONAL RENTAL OF DWELLINGS.

Where the dwelling (as a building) is ceded by a person to another person to fulfil the latter’s need to live in it not permanently but during a specific season, be it the summer season, the ski season, a school year during which a person will be attending college or a period during which a person has to move to certain place to do a temporary job, this is legally classified as a “rental for use other than as habitual dwelling-residence”.

III.- RENTAL OF TOURIST ACCOMMODATION UNITS.

In this case, whether the dwelling is a villa, a room, a studio, etc., which is part of a building or group of buildings located on land classified as (i) touristic land, or (ii) residential land whose use for tourism-related purposes is permitted, it is legally mandatory for the property to be used for tourism-related purposes, which entails an obligation to comply with two kinds of requirements, i.e. those relating to the unit itself and those relating to the “standard services of the tourism industry”.

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IV.- RENTAL OF RESIDENTIAL DWELLINGS FOR TOURISM-RELATED PURPOSES.

This relates to dwellings located on “residential land” (not, therefore, on land earmarked for tourism-related purposes) which are used all year round or during specific periods as tourist accommodation units or for purposes relating thereto.

Consequently, this type of dwelling has to be operated as a tourist accommodation unit and is therefore required to include as an important element, in addition to the cession of the right to occupy the unit, the provision of other “standard services of the tourism industry”, even if these are minimum.

SUMMARY OF THE MAIN TAX OBLIGATIONS OF INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE NOT RESIDENT IN SPAIN BUT ARE RESIDENT IN THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU) AND, IN SOME CASES, IN THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA (EEA), IN RESPECT OF THE RENTS OBTAINED FROM THE RENTAL OR CESSION OF DWELLINGS OR UNITS TO THIRD PARTIES ACCORDING TO THEIR KIND OR INTENDED USE

I.- RENTAL OF DWELLINGS (HABITUAL RESIDENCE).

1.- Each quarter of the calendar year during which such dwellings are or remain rented out, the non-resident individual lessor will have to file a tax return with the State Treasury in respect of the rents thereby obtained.

In the case of taxpayers residing in the EU or in EEA countries with which an effective exchange of information is in place, certain expenses may be deductible against the rental income (with certain limitations), such as loan interest, insurance, preservation and repair costs, I.B.I. -local rates-, agents’ commissions, legal expenses, amortisation of the building, etc.

The tax rate in this case would be 19% on the gain thus calculated for residents of the EU, Iceland and Norway, and 24% for the remaining taxpayers.

On the other hand, a small tax known as Actos Jurídicos Documentados (Documented Legal Acts -Stamp Duty-) is also payable, and its amount will depend on the length of the lease and on the rent agreed.

2.- If the dwelling is only used by the non-resident owner or is available to them all rear round, then the non-resident owner will have to pay tax on the “deemed income”, namely a tax which is not payable on any actual income but on an estimated, supposedly received income.

3.- Deposit on the Lease: This is not a tax, but there is a legal obligation for the lessor to demand from the tenant an amount equivalent to one month’s agreed rent as security for any damage which may be caused by the tenant. Such a deposit will have to be fully lodged by the lessor, within one month of the lease contract being entered into, with the Agencia de Vivienda y Rehabilitación (Housing and Rehabilitation Agency) of, in this case, the Junta de Andalucía, commonly known as AVRA for its initials. On termination of the lease, AVRA will refund the full deposit, without interest, to the lessor, and the latter shall in turn refund it to the tenant unless any damage needing to be repaired has been caused to the dwelling (but not because of failure to pay any rents).

If the lessor fails to lodge this deposit, then the lessor themselves -not the tenant- will be liable to pay surcharges ranging from 5% to 20% depending on the delay in paying the deposit after the above legal period has passed. If the deposit fails to be lodged and AVRA makes an inspection, penalties ranging from 50% to 150% of that amount can be imposed.

Important:   As these rentals are meant to fulfil a permanent need of the tenant and the tenant’s family, the tenant will be obligated to respect the full period agreed on in the contract and to pay the rent for the whole period of the lease. Even if a dwelling of this nature has been rented out for a shorter period, the tenant may in their sole discretion extend the contract for up to three years -obviously provided that they pay the agreed rent- regardless of whether the lessor wishes to extend the contract for such a period or not.

II.- SEASONAL RENTAL OF DWELLINGS.

The taxes and tax obligations are fundamentally the same in the case of a dwelling for habitual use-residence and in the case of a seasonal rental of a dwelling, whether the latter is entered into for several months, for the whole year or for a longer period.

Therefore, the income actually obtained will be taxed during the rental period as described in paragraph 1 and the deemed income will be taxed in proportion to the period not being rented out as described in paragraph 2, both of SECTION I above.

DEPOSIT ON THE LEASE:

The amount of the Deposit in this case is not one month’s but two months’ rent, which in many cases is preposterous, disproportionate and unfair.

A seasonal lease can certainly last several months or over one year, but it is normally taken for a short period, often 15 to 20 days, one or two months, etc.

However, it will still be necessary in that case to lodge with the AVRA a deposit amounting to two months’ rent, to the point that the deposit will sometimes have to be refunded by reason of expiry of the lease before the legal period to lodge the deposit has expired.

Also payable in this case is the ‘Stamp Duty’ which, as mentioned, is normally a small amount, although it depends on the duration of the contract and on the rent agreed.

Important: The duration of the lease with this kind of rental is that agreed on by the parties, and neither party may demand an extension thereof.

III.- RENTAL OF TOURIST ACCOMMODATION UNITS.

Tourist accommodation establishments are those which offer accommodation to persons wishing to stay at them, normally for a certain number of days but also during longer periods. While their name and category vary slightly, they are normally classified in Spain as hotels, apartment-hotels, holiday apartment resorts, hostels, etc.

But the essential feature of tourist accommodation establishments is that, whatever the occupation period, the client is entitled to receive the “accommodation” service as such jointly with the services inherent in the tourism industry.

This introduction is intended to be of assistance in understanding the taxation of accommodation units which are individually owned by a person. An establishment -e.g. a hotel building with multiple accommodation units (apartments, villas, rooms)- may constitute one only property as a whole, but it may also be divided into various units by executing a Deed known as ‘Horizontal Division’ so that each resulting unit becomes an “independent” property from a legal point of view and, therefore, is registered as an independent property.

This is what has come to be known commercially as a “condo-hotel”, where a person can acquire ownership of a hotel room, an apartment of the apartment-hotel or a villa or a building such as a bungalow, which are accommodation units of the hotel, the apartment-hotel, the holiday apartment resort, etc. That is, from a legal point of view these units are not “dwellings” but tourist accommodation units.

The owner can obtain a rent from their accommodation unit in such tourist establishments, although they may under no circumstance do so directly by renting out or otherwise ceding the apartment to a third party, nor are they entitled, as owner, to simply occupy the unit.

A person who buys an accommodation unit which is part of a tourist establishment is not really a “consumer” but an “investor or business operator”.

What, then, can the owner of such an accommodation unit do?

The only thing they can do according to Law is to cede the unit to the hotel’s sole operating company, and the latter will pay the owner an agreed rent which will then de subject to tax on the profit thereby made in the form explained below.

When we say that the “accommodation unit” has to be fully ceded for each and every day of the year to the operating company, we say it because, according to Spanish Law, only one company is entitled to provide services to and operate the hotel or any other kind of tourist establishment.

This means that the sole operating company is the only company which can handle reservations for the units, accept guests, provide services to the latter and charge them a price for doing all this.

We must therefore reiterate that the owner of the accommodation unit may not admit anybody to occupy the unit and neither they nor their family may occupy the unit other than as guests who reserve, make a contract and pay the price charged for the occupation of that same unit. To give a graphic explanation: they will have to register as hotel guests, take the keys from the hotel receptionist and pay the unit price.

The consideration received by the owner of the unit is the rent they must receive from the sole operating company of the resort.

But the reader will have probably seen offers to purchase one of these units saying that they can “occupy their own unit for two or three months without paying anything and the operating company will pay them the agreed rent for the rest of the year”.

However, this not true from a legal or a taxation point of view, because the owner may occupy the unit as a guest for the maximum period allowed by Law “where the guest is also the owner” (not more than two months in the case of Andalucía) and they will also have to pay a rent, event it this is done by way of an offset payment.

Having made this long but necessary introduction, we must now go back to the purpose of this article, namely to know the taxes to be paid initially by a person who buys an “accommodation unit” and the taxes they will have to pay for using it personally during a certain period and, also, for obtaining a rent from the operating company in charge of marketing the unit.

1.- Taxes inherent in acquiring ownership of the “tourist accommodation unit”.

1.1.- IVA (VAT) is applicable in all of Spain except the Canary Islands, where this is replaced by a very similar tax albeit with much lower taxation rates.

The 21% I.V.A. payable on the selling price must be passed on by the seller of a tourist accommodation unit to the purchaser.

It is true, on the other hand, that as the purchaser does not purchase the unit for their personal use, they can apply for a refund of this I.V.A. the following year.

1.2.- Impuesto de Actos Jurídicos Documentados (Stamp Duty), the applicable rate of which depends on the part of Spain where the property is located and normally ranges from 0.75% to 2% (1.5% in Andalucía).

2.- Taxes inherent in the rental or other legal form of cession of the unit to the “sole operating company” against a consideration or, where applicable, to be offset in subsequent years.

2.1.- As the owner of the tourist accommodation unit cedes the unit, by virtue of a legal obligation, to the sole operator for the whole year, they must receive the rent agreed on with the operating company.

Such a rent received by a non-resident is subject to Income Tax at the rate of 19% in the case of taxpayers with residence in the European Union, Norway and Iceland and 24% for the remaining taxpayers. This tax must be filed and paid quarterly.

Normally, the payer of tax on the yield -operator- must make a withholding on account of the Non-Residents Income Tax (19% for residents on the EU and the EEA and 24% for the rest).

2.2.- On the other hand, the owner-lesser must pass on to the operating company I.V.A. at the general rate (21%) and they must file a VAT tax return -also quarterly-.

3.- Fiscal implications of occupation or use of the unit by its owner.

We mentioned earlier that the owner is not entitled to occupy the unit due to their holding title to the property as the owner thereof, as they have previously rented out or ceded the unit for “the whole year” to the operating company (article 42.2.2 LTA – Tourism Act of Andalucía -).

It is true, however, that the owner may occupy and use the unit during “not more than two months” (in the region of Andalucía, as per article 42.3.a LTA) as a guest, which entails an obligation on their part to pay the price of their stay, as any other guest, including in this case the obligation to add 10% I.V.A. as would be the case with any other guest. This I.V.A. is unrecoverable given that the owner is not in this case performing a professional or trading activity but merely acting as a consumer or user (guest).

But “payment” or “income” must not be confused with a transfer of money in one or other direction. It is possible, and very often the case, that the operating company which must pay an annual rent and I.V.A. to the owner for the cession of the unit during the whole year will only transfer to the owner the amount of the rent plus I.V.A. thereon albeit withholding the sum payable by the owner-guest for the time they have personally used the unit by way of an offset payment.

What happens if the tourist accommodation unit (often an apartment, bungalow or small villa) is used or occupied by, and available to, the owner of the unit during the whole year?

In this case, both the owner of the unit and the hotel operating company will be breaching very important rules relating to town planning, tourism and taxation. By way of an example:

1.- The operator of the tourist accommodation establishment may receive severe economic sanctions and the whole establishment may even be closed down.

2.- If no tax is paid on the cession -necessarily granted for valuable consideration- of the unit by the owner to the operating company and, inversely, if the hotel cedes a period of time (even on a de facto basis) for the owner to use gratuitously where a price should have been paid, both the operating company and the owner will be thereby failing to comply with their fiscal obligations.

3.- Finally, if the owner of the tourist accommodation unit lives in the unit or the unit remains available to the owner, it may well be considered that their unit has been transformed into a personal residence, which is a very serious breach of town planning regulations which may even result in the closure of the building. This is of the utmost importance, and the ‘Autonomous Communities’ (Regions) of Spain are going to great lengths in establishing legal regulations to crack down on the de facto conversion of tourist accommodation units into “residential homes”.

 IV.- RENTAL OF RESIDENTIAL DWELLINGS FOR TOURISM-RELATED PURPOSES.

HIPOTECA In another article published in this same blog http://wp.me/p2Zl8w-nI , we commented on the new regulations affecting private dwellings which, either permanently or during certain periods of the year only, were occupied by third parties against payment of a price and including the provision of some tourism-related services such as daily cleaning, meals, etc.

Such use of these dwellings (apartments, villas, etc.) located on residential land is regarded as a tourist services operation by reason of their including such ancillary services and, therefore, they must be registered with the Tourism Registry.

The operation of these dwellings for tourism-related purposes is certainly quite similar to the “seasonal rental” described in Section II above.

The taxation of the -actual or deemed- rents thereby obtained is as follows:

1.- If the property is operated all year round for tourism-related purposes, i.e. as tourist accommodation, then Income Tax will be payable by individuals residing in the EU, Norway and Iceland at the rate of 19% on the profit thereby obtained. The general rate for the remaining taxpayers will be 24%.

As this is a tourist accommodation activity, the owner must charge I.V.A. to the user at the reduced 10% rate which applies to the Tourism Industry.

In both cases, quarterly tax returns need to be filed in respect of these taxes.

2.- If the dwelling is only operated for tourism-related purposes during part of the year, the taxation (Income Tax on actual rent and I.V.A.) will be the same as that described in 1 above in proportion to the period of time during which the property has been used for such purpose.

As regards the periods during which the dwelling is not being operated, namely when it is being used by its owner, the only tax to be paid will be the tax we have referred to as “deemed income tax” (See Sections 1 and 2).

The above list of taxes is obviously a generalisation and will need to be specifically determined in each particular case.

This is an opinion article and is therefore subject to any better-founded opinion on the matter.

Francisco J. Lizarza – Lawyer

Rocio Lizarza – MBA

SPANISH TIMESHARE ACT 42/98: REAPING WHAT WAS SOWN

Many a draft came to light in the 1990s aiming to enact a law which would specifically regulate what was initially called timeshare (tiempo compartido in Spanish), and many seminars, conferences, etc. were held to make proposals, discuss what its scope should be and, especially, establish a reliable legal framework for both the consumers and the traders in the Sector.

Eventually, as has often been the case, the new Act was rushed as a result of the need to have a new law given the quantitative and qualitative importance of this phenomenon and, to no lesser extent, the media impact of the problems which had arisen between consumers and traders and the so-called abusive practices in its commercialisation.- But the fact is that, after many years of drafts, bills, etc., the urgent need or, rather, obligation, to enact a specific law for this economic activity arose, as has happened on many other occasions, from the adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of Directive 94/47/EC of 26 October. And, also as many times before, the Act which incorporated into the Spanish legal system the provisions of the Directive was enacted by the Kingdom of Spain well past the deadline thereby established; so late, in fact, that everything had to be done rather hastily.

Timeshare became popular in Spain under the name “multi-ownership”, in some cases meaning strict ownership of a certain share of a property but, ncreasingly so among Spaniards, as a term equivalent to the timeshare name, as a literal translation of ‘timeshare’

When the pressing need to implement the aforementioned Directive arose, the General Directorate of Public Registries and Notaries was tasked with drafting the Bill. It seemed quite surprising that the proposed regulation of this predominantly touristic phenomenon, which today is called “marketing of accommodation in tourism establishments” even in the relevant legal texts, should start and be developed by the management body of Notaries and Registrars of Property. That is, its structure or legal regulation had become a matter of ownership, or of rights directly related to ownership, despite the fact that this word was banned from the marketing process.

The drafters of the Bill acknowledged at all times that this was a (merely) touristic activity but, when it came down to it, the “touristic element” of the new regulation was the least important thing.

Directive 94/47/EC contained a clear mandate to the legislators of the EC member states to incorporate certain “consumer protection” rules, the fundamental purpose of which was to prevent the bad practices which doubtless existed. To do so, particular focus was put on the need to provide the consumer with truthful, detailed information, to establish a ten-day period of free withdrawal from the contract of acquisition of the right –which in certain cases could be extended for another three months- , to prohibit “advance payments” on account of the price during the withdrawal and termination period, to ensure that annual service fees may not be determined arbitrarily by either party, etc. But the Directive never required –quite simply because it did not fall within its competence– a civil or mercantile regulation of this economic activity. This was a faculty and discretion to be exercised by each State at its convenience.

And what the Spanish Administration did, through the General Directorate of Public Registries and Notaries, was consistent with the Body which had been tasked with this Bill: It chose to implement a full regulation of the timeshare phenomenon which included the mandatory rules laid down by the Directive but also a substantive regulation of the legal systems and contracts of “timeshare” and/or “multi-ownership”, which would thereby start to be known, exclusively, as aprovechamiento por turno de bienes inmuebles de uso turístico (rotational enjoyment of real property for tourist use).

The drafters of the Bill, without a doubt, in keeping with their background and convinced that it was the best option, chose to prohibit the future use of any other legal system for this kind of touristic rights and decided to establish an only, mandatory formula, outside of which there was no other option.

This new legal formula was called “limited right in rem of rotational enjoyment of real property”

Only very restrictively –and, as we now know given the interpretation of the Supreme Court, also insufficiently and confusingly– were the legal systems in existence before this Act “acknowledged” and allowed to maintain their pre-existing real or personal nature, albeit a formal requirement was imposed on them to give public status to the system without transforming its own legal nature by causing it to be registered at the Land Registry. Other than that, there was nothing but restrictions and safeguard clauses to prevent any leak through the wall of the dam which had been designed to “stem the tide”.

And based on what economic studies, what studies in the reality of this phenomenon and its level of compliance, what studies on a tourism level, what comparative report on these systems and what the consequences would be… did the drafters of the bill reach that conclusion?

RDO 2

The Spanish Association of Timeshare Traders (A.N.E.T.C.), currently the Spanish Chapter of the European Trade Organisation RDO, conveyed to the General Directorate of Public Registries and Notaries the opinion of this trading sector on the matter, which included the following views:

  • The exclusive limited right in rem of rotational enjoyment could be a valuable instrument to configure the timeshare sector, but it could not be the only configuration once the Act came into force. It was pointed out to the Directorate that this was a touristic product and a changing touristic activity, and that such a tight confinement within the boundaries of a purely property-related right would be counterproductive to both the traders and the consumers.

Not much success was achieved other than an alternative formula which was almost identical to the former, albeit configured as a leasehold right of rotational enjoyment which had to be formally established by public deed and whose registration with the Land Registry was mandatory so that determinable units of the same type and determinable occupation periods within the same season could exist in one only resort.

A prohibition was thus established on flexible systems which related to various resorts in Spain or in several countries, or the already incipient “points systems”.

The A.N.E.T.C. also argued that the intended prohibition of any other system of personal or binding rights (article 1.7 of the Spanish Timeshare Act 42/1998) was contrary to a rule of Spanish Law which prevailed over this new rule, i.e. the 1980 Rome Convention, and, despite this qualification being known, the matter was left in limbo. Hence the title of this article.

To avoid the confusion which the former Timeshare Act 42/1998 had created in this regard, the new Spanish Timeshare Act 42/2012 made specific mention of timeshare (aprovechamiento por turno) contracts in accordance with the Rome I Regulation, which had replaced the former EU rule known as the 1980 Rome Convention.

Not being in agreement with the Bill, A.N.E.T.C. made a formal request to the Council of State to ask that its observations be taken on board (which, on the other hand, were the only observations submitted to it as no other organisation made a similar request).

 The traditonal & central building of the Spanish State Council in Madrid

Without a doubt, such observations of this trade organisation were partly embraced by the Council of State in its report, some of whose points we would like to highlight –the full text can be found in Spanish on the following link:

https://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=CE-D-1997-1123&lang=es

One of the considerations of the Council of State in its Report refers to the “Conclusions of the Special Commission for the determination, study and proposed solution to the problems posed by the application of the Legal and Economic System, in which I was invited as “interlocutor”

I  believe that the Report of the Council of State shows the shortcomings of the process which led to the enactment of the Timeshare Act 42/1998, one of which is, without a doubt, a deficient regulation of legal systems of personal rights which can doubtless be used for the configuration of “timeshare” or “rotational enjoyment” rights.

It would have sufficed to be aware of what the reality of timeshare was back then based not on personal opinions but on a deep, serious study of its circumstances.

I would like to finalize this article taking the following paragraph from the Report of the Council of State

All these loopholes determine that this opinion – the Report says – must be given without knowing a very important group of circumstances of particular relevance. Thus, with proper account being taken of such a reservation and considering the eminently touristic and vacational spirit of this sector and its very relevant projection to non-residents, the Council of State feels that the regulation “ex novo” of a special system of rotational enjoyment of real property should include the dual possibility of following legal-in rem or legal-personal formulas. 

 

This article only intends to express the undersigned’s opinion.

Franciso J Lizazarza – Lizarza Abogados –February 2016