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Guide to the Types of Companies in Spain for Entrepreneurs

types of companies in spain

Spain, with its vibrant culture, dynamic economy, and favorable climate for entrepreneurship, presents a world of opportunities for aspiring business owners. This guide aims to navigate the diverse and rich landscape of the Spanish business environment, offering insights into why Spain stands as a premier destination for entrepreneurs.

From the bustling streets of Madrid to the innovative hubs in Barcelona, Spain’s entrepreneurial spirit is palpable. Its strategic location serves as a gateway to European and Latin American markets, making it an attractive location for starting a business. Moreover, Spain’s economic reforms and supportive policies for startups have further enhanced its appeal to global entrepreneurs.

Spain offers a robust legal framework that governs the establishment and operation of businesses within its borders. Understanding the legal landscape is essential for entrepreneurs looking to start a venture in Spain. In this section, we will provide an overview of the key aspects of the legal framework for businesses in Spain.

Overview of Business Laws

Commercial Code (Código de Comercio): The Commercial Code of Spain outlines the general legal framework for commercial activities in the country. It covers various aspects, including contracts, partnerships, and commercial transactions.

Corporate Law (Ley de Sociedades de Capital): The Corporate Law governs the formation and operation of companies in Spain. It provides details about different types of companies and their characteristics, such as limited liability companies (Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada – SRL) and public limited companies (Sociedad Anónima – SA).

Anti-Money Laundering Laws (Ley de Prevención de Blanqueo de Capitales): This Law regulates anti-money laundering and financial crimes that can affect the financial system. To combat these illicit practices, a series of obligations are established for obliged parties, which are the companies in these cases. 

Taxation Laws: Spain has a complex tax system, and understanding tax laws is crucial for businesses. This includes corporate income tax, value-added tax (VAT), and other regional taxes.

Key Regulatory Bodies

Spanish Commercial Registry (Registro Mercantil): The Commercial Registry is responsible for maintaining records of all commercial activities and companies operating in Spain. Registering your company is a mandatory step as it provides legal recognition. It enables entrepreneurs to carry out commercial activities and allows them to access key information in order to expand their business. 

Spanish Tax Agency (Agencia Tributaria): This agency oversees taxation matters, including corporate taxes and VAT. When setting up the company, the NIF number must be requested with the Tax Agency. Entrepreneurs need to comply with tax regulations and file their returns through this agency.

Spanish Data Protection Agency (Agencia Española de Protección de Datos – AEPD): If your business deals with personal data, compliance with data protection laws, as regulated by the AEPD, is essential. This is particularly important in the digital age.

Labor Inspectorate (Inspección de Trabajo y Seguridad Social): If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need to adhere to labor laws. The Labor Inspectorate ensures compliance with labor regulations, including employment contracts, working conditions, and employee rights. We count with a Labour Lawyer in our team who is an expert in the area and will better guide you in the right steps to hiring employees.

Common Types of Companies in Spain

Spain offers a variety of company structures to suit the needs of entrepreneurs, each with its own advantages and considerations. Choosing the right type of company is a crucial decision that can impact your business operations and legal responsibilities. In this section, we will explore some of the most common types of companies in Spain.

Sole Proprietorship (Empresario Individual)

Description: A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of business structure in Spain. It’s owned and operated by a single individual who is fully responsible for the company’s debts and liabilities.

Advantages: Easy and cost-effective to establish, complete control over business decisions, and straightforward taxation.

Considerations: Unlimited personal liability, limited access to capital, and potential challenges in raising funds.

Partnership (Sociedad Civil)

Description: Partnerships involve two or more individuals who share ownership and management responsibilities. There are two main types: general partnerships (Sociedad Civil) and limited partnerships (Sociedad en Comandita).

Advantages: Shared responsibilities and resources, flexibility in management, and potential for diverse skill sets among partners.

Considerations: Partners’ personal assets may be at risk, and decision-making can be complex with multiple stakeholders.

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Limited Liability Company (Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada – SRL)

Description: The Limited Liability Company (SRL) is one of the most popular business structures in Spain. It offers limited liability to its shareholders and can have one or multiple owners.

Advantages: Limited personal liability, flexibility in management, and easy transfer of shares.

Considerations: Administrative requirements, mandatory registration, and potential for higher taxation compared to sole proprietorships.

Public Limited Company (Sociedad Anónima – SA)

Description: The Public Limited Company (SA) is suitable for larger enterprises. It requires a minimum share capital and can be listed on the stock exchange.

Advantages: Access to capital markets, limited liability for shareholders, and credibility in the business world.

Considerations: Complex administrative procedures, higher capital requirements (60.000 euro), and greater regulatory oversight.

Cooperative (Sociedad Cooperativa)

Description: Cooperatives are owned and operated by their members, who share in the decision-making and profits. They are often formed to meet specific social or economic objectives.

Advantages: Member-driven, equitable distribution of profits, and a sense of community and shared purpose.

Considerations: Limited access to external capital, democratic decision-making can be time-consuming, and regulatory compliance.

Branch Office (Sucursal)

Description: A branch office is an extension of a foreign company in Spain. It operates under the parent company’s name and is subject to Spanish regulations. It does not have an independent legal personality, as it depends directly on its parent company. 

Advantages: Utilizes the parent company’s brand and resources, access to the Spanish market without establishing a separate entity.

Considerations: Limited autonomy, legal and administrative complexities, and taxation may apply.

Association (Asociación)

Description: It is a legal entity formed by several persons or groups, with a shared interest, meaning that it is created for a particular or general purpose. The main aspect being that it is a non-profit, meaning all profits, assets, money that it possesses must be used to fulfil the purpose of the association. 

Advantages: No minimum capital required, 

Considerations: Must be made up of at least 3 people (President, Vice-President,Secretary), not registered in the Commercial Registry but in the Registry of Associations. 

Representative Office (Oficina de Representación)

Description: It is an entity without its own legal personality, administrative body and activity. It’s purpose is to have a physical presence in the country.  The non-resident company operates in which ancillary or preparatory activities are carried out to add value to the business.

Advantages: It is taxed on its profits in the country of origin, VAT is recoverable from the country of origin as long as it is a EU country or a country with which there are agreements to that effect.

Considerations: Must make sure that the functions performed by the Representative Office do not exceed those of its auxiliary functions, as the Tax Agency could interpret that the foreign company has a permanent establishment in Spain, implying the need to pay tax in Spain in accordance with its economic activity. 

Subsidiary (Filial)

Description: The establishment of a subsidiary in Spain entails the creation of an independent entity with its own legal personality. It is incorporated with capital contributed by its foreign parent company and being directly controlled by it, the parent company is its shareholder. For all purposes it is considered to be resident in Spain and therefore subject to local regulations. 

Advantages: Can be an SL or SA, has its own legal personality, has its parent company’s resources

Considerations: Subject to Spanish Corporate Income Tax, more documentation needed, elevate costs. 

Choosing the Right Company Structure

Selecting the appropriate company structure for your entrepreneurial venture in Spain is a critical decision that can shape the future of your business. Each type of company structure comes with its own set of advantages, disadvantages, and legal requirements. In this section, we will guide you through the process of choosing the right company structure based on your specific needs and goals.

Factors to Consider

Business Goals: Start by defining your business objectives. Are you looking to operate as a solo entrepreneur, collaborate with partners, or raise capital from investors? Your goals will influence the type of structure that suits you best.

Liability: Consider the level of personal liability you are comfortable with. Sole proprietorships and partnerships may expose your personal assets to business debts, while limited liability companies (SRL) and public limited companies (SA) offer protection for your personal assets.

Capital Requirements: Evaluate your financial resources and capital needs. The SL capital requirement can be as little as € 1, however the recommended amount is € 3.000, while the SA requires a minimum capital of € 60.000, sole proprietorships for example have minimal initial costs. 

Management Style: Think about how you want to manage your business. If setting up an SL you can choose between Sole Director, Joint & Several, Joint, or Board of Directors, all which have different ways of issuing company decisions. Assess your management preferences.

Tax Considerations: Research the tax implications of each company structure. Taxation can vary significantly between structures, impacting your profitability and compliance requirements.

Licenses and Regulations: Depending on the type of activity you want to develop, it is important to know if a license or permission is required. This varies depending on the Autonomous Community you want to operate in. 

Pros and Cons of Each Type

Sole Proprietorship (Empresario Individual)

Pros: Complete control, minimal initial costs, straightforward taxation.

Cons: Unlimited personal liability, limited access to capital, sole responsibility for decision-making.

Partnership (Sociedad Civil)

Pros: Shared responsibilities and resources, potential for diverse skill sets among partners.

Cons: Partners’ personal assets may be at risk, complex decision-making.

Limited Liability Company (SRL)

Pros: Limited personal liability, flexibility in management, minimum share capital. 

Cons: Administrative requirements, potential for higher taxation, transferring of shares to third parties can be complex. 

Public Limited Company (SA)

Pros: Access to capital markets, limited liability for shareholders, credibility, easy transfer of shares.

Cons: Complex administrative procedures, higher capital requirements, greater regulatory oversight,

Cooperative (Sociedad Cooperativa)

Pros: Member-driven, equitable profit distribution, a sense of community and shared purpose.

Cons: Limited access to external capital, democratic decision-making can be time-consuming.

Branch Office (Sucursal)

Pros: Utilizes the parent company’s brand and resources, access to the Spanish market without a separate entity.

Cons: Limited autonomy, legal and administrative complexities, taxation may apply, legal representatives must reside in Spain.

Association (Asociación)

Pros: No minimum capital requirements, members can decide to leave the association at any time, 

Cons: Registered in a different registry, minimum 3 months to register, must be made up of three members 

Representative Office (Oficina de Representación)

Pros: Not subject to Spanish taxation, less costly, 

Cons: Can only do ancillary activities for the company, complications to open bank account

Seek Expert Guidance

Choosing the right company structure is a significant decision, and it’s advisable to seek expert guidance. Consult with legal and financial professionals who can provide tailored advice based on your business plan and objectives.

Ultimately, the choice of company structure should align with your vision, risk tolerance, and long-term strategy. It’s a pivotal step towards establishing a successful and legally compliant business in Spain.

Registering Your Business

Once you’ve determined the ideal company structure for your entrepreneurial venture in Spain, the next crucial step is registering your business. Registering a company in Spain involves several administrative procedures and document submissions. In this section, we will provide a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process effectively.

Step-by-Step Guide to Company Registration

Obtain a Foreigner Identification Number (NIE)

If you are a foreigner and do not have a Spanish National Identification Number (NIF), you’ll need to obtain an NIE from the Spanish authorities. This is a crucial document for business registration. 

Choose a Business Name

Select a unique and suitable name for your company. We must request this name with the Commercial Registry to ensure that it is available to use. 

Draft Company Bylaws

If you’re establishing a Limited Liability Company (SRL) or Public Limited Company (SA), you’ll need to draft company bylaws (estatutos sociales). These bylaws outline the company’s internal rules and regulations. Normally the company name, address, activity, share capital and fiscal year is outlined in the address.  

Appoint Company Directors

Designate individuals who will serve as company directors. Their responsibilities and roles within the company should be clearly defined. It is important to note that Directors, if foreigners, must obtain an NIE number.

Open a Business Bank Account

You’ll need to open a bank account in Spain for your company, even for a Representative Office. For foreigners, it is most likely that you will have to travel to Spain to sign the opening of the account.

Notary Public Visit

Depending on the type of company, you may need to visit a notary public to formalize the company’s constitution. This step is particularly important for SRLs and SAs.At Lexidy, we provide the opportunity for us to do everything on your behalf, therefore a Power of Attorney would be necessary so that we can open the company on your behalf.

Registration with the Commercial Registry

Submit the necessary documentation to the Spanish Commercial Registry (Registro Mercantil) in the region where your business will operate. This documentation typically includes the company bylaws, identification documents of directors, and proof of share capital deposit.

Obtain a Tax Identification Number (CIF)

After registering with the Commercial Registry, you will receive a Tax Identification Number (CIF) for your company from the Spanish Tax Agency (Agencia Tributaria).

Obtaining Digital Certificates

This Digital Certificate is a digital filed issued by a Certified Authority that guarantees the link between the identity of the person / entity and its public key, thus allowing the holder to be unequivocally identified.

Register for Social Security

If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need to register with the Spanish Social Security system (Seguridad Social) to fulfill your obligations as an employer.

Local Business Licenses

Depending on your business activities and location, you may need to obtain specific licenses or permits from local authorities.

VAT Registration

If your business meets certain criteria, you may need to register for Value Added Tax (VAT) with the Spanish Tax Agency.

Annual Filings and Compliance

Stay informed about annual reporting requirements and compliance obligations. Fulfilling these obligations is essential to maintain your company’s legal status.

Taxation in Spain

Understanding the taxation system is essential for entrepreneurs operating businesses in Spain. Spain has a complex tax framework that encompasses various taxes at the national, regional, and local levels. In this section, we will provide an overview of the key aspects of taxation that business owners should be aware of.

Overview of Business Taxes

Corporate Income Tax (Impuesto sobre Sociedades): Corporate income tax applies to the profits earned by companies in Spain. The standard corporate income tax rate is 25%. However, reduced rates may apply to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups during their initial years of operation.

Value Added Tax (Impuesto sobre el Valor Añadido – VAT): VAT is a consumption tax that applies to most goods and services. The standard VAT rate in Spain is 21%, with reduced rates of 10% and 4% for certain goods and services.

Personal Income Tax (Impuesto sobre la Renta de las Personas Físicas – IRPF): Business owners who receive income from their businesses may be subject to personal income tax. The rate varies depending on income levels and personal circumstances.

Wealth Tax (Impuesto sobre el Patrimonio): Spain imposes a wealth tax on individuals with significant assets. The tax rates are progressive and vary by region.

Local Taxes: Depending on your business location, you may be subject to various local taxes, including property tax (Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles – IBI) and economic activities tax (Impuesto sobre Actividades Económicas – IAE).

Tax Benefits and Incentives for Entrepreneurs

Startup Tax Deductions: Startups and innovative companies may benefit from tax deductions for research and development (R&D) expenses, as well as for investments in technological assets.

Holding Company Regime: Spain has a favorable holding company regime, which allows companies to benefit from reduced taxation on dividends and capital gains from qualifying subsidiaries.

Special Economic Zones: Certain regions in Spain offer tax incentives to attract businesses, including reduced corporate income tax rates and exemptions from VAT.

Venture Capital Incentives: Investors in startups and innovative companies may enjoy tax incentives, such as reduced capital gains tax rates.

International Tax Treaties: Spain has double taxation treaties with many countries, helping to prevent double taxation of income earned abroad.

Compliance and Reporting in Spain

Ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements is a critical aspect of running a business in Spain. From financial reporting to labor laws, entrepreneurs must adhere to a range of obligations to operate legally and efficiently. This section outlines key compliance and reporting requirements for businesses in Spain.

Key Compliance Areas

Financial Reporting: Companies in Spain are required to maintain accurate financial records and prepare annual financial statements, including balance sheets, profit and loss accounts, and cash flow statements. These documents must be filed with the Commercial Registry.

Tax Compliance: Timely filing and payment of various taxes are mandatory. This includes corporate income tax,

Conclusion

Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey in Spain is a thrilling endeavor filled with opportunities and potential for growth. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve navigated the intricate landscape of starting and running a business in Spain, offering insights into essential aspects that can shape your entrepreneurial success.

From choosing the right company structure that aligns with your goals to understanding the complexities of taxation and compliance, we’ve covered the foundational elements that every entrepreneur in Spain should be well-versed in. We’ve emphasized the importance of protecting your intellectual property and trademarks and explored diverse funding and financing options to fuel your business’s growth.

As you embark on your entrepreneurial journey in Spain, remember that knowledge, preparation, and networking are your allies. Continuously seek opportunities to connect with fellow entrepreneurs, tap into support programs, and stay updated on the ever-evolving business landscape.

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