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Autónomo or AutónoNO? Do You Know I’m No Good? [Freelancing in Spain 2017 and 2018]

Is it Worth Being Autónomo/a in Spain in 2017?23634367_10100381844335458_1269468209_o

Mention that you’re autónomo/autónoma to a Spanish friend and await their wince-infused, anxiety-inducing grimace.  It’s hard work, expensive and risky.  It’s also liberating, empowering and perfectly achievable… at least in the short term.

Almost everyone I spoke to when considering to ‘dar de alta’ tried to put me off.  I also had numerous offers from friends of friends to act as my gestor (accountant) if I did decide on doing it.

A few weeks after moving to Spain I decided to take the plunge and go freelance, taking advantage of discounted rates and avoiding having to earn money under the table.  I’d never been self-employed before; I’d always had the security of a somewhat fixed salary in a system with which I didn’t necessarily agree but at least one that I felt I understood.  So now I find myself working freelance in Spain – preparing invoices, juggling spreadsheets, discussing tax rates in castellano and declining 1$ lesson requests on italki.  I mean, a girl’s got to eat!

I’m not claiming to understand the intricacies of this system but by giving a brief of account of my personal experience hopefully it will give prospective autónomos an insight into this ‘el Revés’ (The Upside Down).  If you’re not a Stranger Things fan, then get on it now before Netflix tighten up their password sharing and multiple user protocol.  If Eleven (aka Once or Ce in Spanish) isn’t the new Emma Watson, I’ll eat my hat.  Or perhaps that of Jim ‘Indiana Jones’ Hopper.

Just to reiterate, this is my own opinion based upon my personal experiences and you should always seek legal/financial advice from experts before making any serious decisions or commitments.  TANGENT: as a little sidenote, perhaps don’t go ‘autónoma’ with your hair.  I decided to dye my own and the process was, let’s say, interesting.  It went from balayage with mega roots (which I kind of liked) to blorange in the picture below the song lyrics.  After using what felt like litres of purple shampoo, I then tried the Schwarzkopf Reaviva Color for rubio claros and it worked a treat.  It was more of a grey than purple colour and was much more effective in ridding my locks of the yellow tones than any blue or purple shampoo. There is even enough product for 5-7 applications too, at least on my fine hair, and it’s only around 6€ in Carrefour Campanar!

Back to ‘autónoma’.  So, the bottom line is that you pay a lot of money for the privilege of working for yourself.  There are different categories of autónomo/a which can be found here in English http://www.ine.es/daco/daco42/clasificaciones/cnae09/estructura_en.pdf.

In terms of Social Security, basically you must pay whether or not you are earning money, but the government have made some recent changes to the law which come into force in January 2018 to make self-employment and freelancing a little less detrimental to your bolsillos.  The flat rate is around 285€/month, whether your income is 500€ or 5000€ and everyone must join the RETA scheme.  Everyone who contributes (and earners have to – you can’t legally opt out of the system) is entitled to the same unemployment and sickness benefits. You can’t get around this by setting up a one-person company.  You can, of course, offer to pay more to increase pension contributions etc.  The only people who can avoid SS contributions are those who are legally recognised as neither employed nor self-employed.  For example, academics or lawyers who are on a salary but are then also paid additional money very occasionally by a different company or employed for one-off conferences.  If you’re emigrating from the UK, it’s almost certain that in terms of SS you’ll be worse off in Spain.  Thankfully, the cost of living is significantly lower in most areas and it’s sunny in Valencia so don’t worry too much about leaving Brexit Britain!

New autónomos* get discounts of 80% for 6 months (12 months if you become autónomo from 1.1.18). This is the flat rate (tarifa plana).  ‘New’ means those who haven’t been autónomo in Spain in the last five years but the meaning of ‘new’ is changing from 1.1.18 to ‘those who haven’t been autónomo for 2 years’.  If you’ve used the tarifa plana before you must wait until three years have passed before doing so again once the new laws come into effect.  To explain, for me this means that I pay around 70€ a month social security at the moment and after six months it’ll go up to 150€ because I stupidly registered before the new laws come into effect.  My discount is roughly 80% for 6 months, then 50%, then 30%.  There is little clarity at the moment about how new autónomos (say those who registered in 2017) will be treated in light of the new laws.  As far as I can gather, they won’t be affected by many of said new laws.

Advice: wait until January to register!

From 2018 female autónomos who already took prolonged maternity leave or leave to care for another dependent will also be entitled to the 12-month 50€ tarifa plana too.

There are many other benefits regarding multiple job holders, pensions, work-related accidents, maternity/paternity and fines coming into force with the new laws as of 1.1.18.  Read this for reasonably up-to-date accurate information in English https://www.citizensadvice.org.es/wp-content/uploads/NEW-AUTONOMO-SELF-EMPLOYED-LAW-2017-2018-A-SUMMARY-10.pdf and this in Spanish https://infoautonomos.eleconomista.es/seguridad-social/cuota-de-autonomos-cuanto-se-paga/.

Now for tax.  Once you’ve ‘dado de alta’ with the Hacienda (no, not the Manchester nightclub but the Spanish Tax Office), you’ll be paying your tax quarterly at a rate of 20% in most Comunidades Autónomas in Spain (this is roughly half to the central government and half to the regional one for local services etc.) You have to invoice companies you work for in order to get paid and they actually pay some of your tax for you through the retention system by effectively withholding some of your gross pay.  The rate is usually 15% but for new autónomos it’s 7%.  That means that if I earn 200€ a month from one company, they will pay me 186€ and keep 14€ to pay to the Agencia Tributaria.  At the end of the month, I’ll have to pay the remaining tax (13% / 26€) to the Agencia Tributaria via my gestor minus any tax reductions I may have earnt (electricity, fuel for business, equipment, etc.)  Warning: don’t live month-to-month in Spain.  You need a little cushion in case you miscalculate outgoings or if someone doesn’t pay you on time for example. Also, certain types of workers including those outside of Spain aren’t part of the retention system so you will have to keep this in mind during the quarter.

I haven’t touched on IVA (VAT) as teaching is exempt so please check this out if applicable. http://www.agenciatributaria.es/AEAT.internet/en_gb/Inicio/_Segmentos_/Empresas_y_profesionales/Empresas/IVA/El_NIF_en_el_IVA.shtml

In short, get a gestor (accountant) for between 40 and 80€ a month but check him/her out beforehand as many aren’t up to date with the new laws and some have been known to run off with all the money!

Did you guess the song?  Autónomo or AutónoNO? Do You Know I’m No Good

Scroll to find out and, if you dare, scroll further to see the state of my ‘autónomo’ hair…!

 

Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good

 

Useful websites:

http://www.advoco.es/hot-topics/43-guide-to-spains-autonomo-system.html

https://www.serautonomo.net/cuota-de-autonomos-2018.html

http://www.seg-social.es/Internet_1/Trabajadores/CotizacionRecaudaci10777/benefCotiz/index.htm 

 

 

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