Spain’s Large Socimis are not Perturbed by Podemos’s Proposed Tax Legislation

14 October 2018 – La Información

The Socimis, one of the great tax regimes currently booming in our country, suffered a serious blow on Thursday after an agreement was published between PSOE and Podemos to push ahead with the State’s General Budgets. As a result, the Socimis are going to have to pay tax (at a rate of 15%) on any profits that they do not distribute as dividends, in other words, the funds that remain in the companies to increase their capitalisation. But, which companies are going to be most affected? Only the smallest ones.

In recent months, the large real estate companies on the Ibex and the Continuous Stock Market have been distributing significant dividends, in some cases even exceeding their accounting profits by two or three times. Therefore, the new measure will not affect them, given that only undistributed profits will be taxed. By contrast, the small entities that are listed on the Alternative Investment Market – where they have their own segment – barely exceeded the obligatory dividend distribution of 80% of the profits for that type of company in most cases.

If we take Merlin – a giant in the tertiary sector –by way of example. Last year, it obtained a profit of €114.5 million (after discounting the appreciation of its assets) and it dedicated 205% of its profits to dividends. Even high figures were recorded by Colonial, which distributed 267% of its profits to its shareholders, and Lar España, which is listed on the main stock market, and which distributed 236% of its results after taxes to the owners of its shares.

By contrast, the small companies on the MAB complied with the law in a comprehensive way but without distributing such significant figures. Such was the case of AP67, a Socimi whose assets are primarily residential, commercial and office-based, which distributed just over €240,000 of its total profits of €300,000.

Why do the small companies only distribute the legal minimum? Most of the companies listed on this market are owned by a small number of shareholders, normally those who have been with the entity since the beginning and, therefore, they have no commitment to the owners of those shares. In fact, the movement in shares is so small in the majority of cases that the volume is almost nil.

By distributing 80% of their profits as dividends, they pay tax of up to 25% on those earnings, whilst the remaining 20% is posted to reserves and, previously, there was no requirement to pay any tax on that. With this proposal, the money that is not distributed to the shareholders (in other words, that 20%) would be subject to a tax rate of 15%.

For tax experts, these measures may scare off foreign investors, especially funds, which regard Spain as a good opportunity for investing after the framework for Socimis was brought into line with those governing REITs in countries such as France and Germany. Moreover, “other countries have an advantage over Spain going back many years and they offer more beneficial tax frameworks”, something that the new tax will only serve to dent in the Spanish system.

In light of the possible approval of the draft presented on Thursday by Unidos Podemos and PSOE, the Socimis “will distribute all of their profits as dividends to avoid the double taxation of the same money”, said a high-profile tax advisor consulted by La Información.

Original story: La Información (by Lucía Gómez)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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