During the recent State of the Nation Debate, the President of the Government announced the creation of a tax on banking with which it intends to collect 3 billion in 2023 and 2024.
While it is not yet known how it will be implemented, it must respect the constitutional principles that govern our tax law, in particular the principle of equality and economic capacity.
Regardless of the inappropriateness of establishing this tax in the current economic climate, I would like to refer to some figures on the tax burden borne by CECA financial institutions and the tax peculiarities borne by the entire Spanish financial sector in general.
If we take into account the results published in the studies conducted by the consultancy firms PwC and KPMG on the tax contribution of the CECA Sector in the financial years 2016 to 2020, we can see that the taxes borne (those that represent a cost for the entities and affect their income statement) have evolved from 2.255 billion in 2016 to 2.619 billion in 2020 (an increase of 16%).
Precisely, these taxes account for 53.32% of the results obtained by these entities, i.e., 53.32 out of every 100 euros of profit went directly to paying taxes. This percentage rises to 60.82% if you take into account the contributions to the regulatory funds to which I will refer later.
In addition, banking has its own tax system. Since 2015, there has already been a surcharge on corporate income tax for banks, as they are subject to a higher rate of 30%, while the general rate applicable to other sectors is 25%.
However, the tax-related peculiarities of the sector are not limited to corporate income tax alone. Specific reference must be made to VAT — a non-recoverable cost for the sector — and other charges that are borne by the banking sector.
More on specific taxes
Since 2013, the financial sector has been to subject to a specific tax, the Tax on Deposits, which places a tax of 0.03% on deposits established in credit institutions throughout Spain. This tax has been upheld in recent years, despite the paradox of negative interest rates in Europe.
In 2018, after several judicial fluctuations of the Supreme Court over who should assume what is commonly known as the "mortgage tax", the Government resolved by means of a Decree-Law that the credit institutions should assume the aforementioned tax. This regulatory change was accompanied by a corporate tax measure limiting the deductibility of the tax paid, even though it was clearly a necessary expense in the exercise of its activity.
In 2020, Spain decided to unilaterally establish a domestic Financial Transaction Tax of 0.02% on purchases of listed Spanish securities with a capitalisation of more than 1 billion, even though the European push for establishing such a tax has not been successful.
Apart from these taxes, from a regulatory point of view, the financial sector has to face other types of contributions to manage the risks of the financial system with minimum costs for taxpayers, investors and the real economy (Deposit Guarantee Fund and Single Resolution Fund) which, although not a tax per se, constitute a cost of carrying out its activity that does not exist in other sectors.
At a disadvantage compared to Europe
Finally, it should be noted that the principle of legal certainty in tax matters requires that the rules should not be subject to constant revision, so that economic operators and investors have a minimum of certainty when deciding on their resources.
Experience has shown that the establishment of such measures generates insecurity among international investors, causing capital movements to other jurisdictions with greater legal certainty.
This situation would make it difficult to finance Spanish companies at a time like the present, especially when the establishment of such measures is not standardised at the European level, which would put our financial sector at a clear disadvantage with respect to European competitors in a context of a single banking market.