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EFFECTS OF THE CRISIS

Despite the economic crisis, Spain has more multimillionaires than ever

Uneven impact of the downturn and a 2012 tax amnesty could explain rise in large fortunes

A shopper in Marbella, a hotspot for Spanish and international fortunes.
A shopper in Marbella, a hotspot for Spanish and international fortunes.

In the aftermath of a crippling economic crisis that sent unemployment in Spain soaring to over 27%, it has emerged that the country now has more multimillionaires than ever before.

But it is hard to determine whether this is mostly due to the uneven impact of the crisis, or to the 2012 tax amnesty that encouraged many wealthy individuals to declare their previously concealed fortunes.

New figures released on Tuesday by the Tax Agency show that 471 individuals declared assets of over €30 million in 2013, more than twice as many as were on record in 2007, right before the economic downturn.

The 2012 tax amnesty shed light on approximately €40 billion that the state had been unaware of

There is an additional consideration when analyzing the Tax Agency figures: they only reflect the wealth that is being lawfully declared. Taking fraud, tax avoidance and non-taxable assets into account, the real number of multi-millionaire Spaniards could be even higher.

Earlier reports by Eurostat and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had already established that the crisis has significantly widened the gap between rich and poor in Spain.

This inequality rose on a par with the rise in joblessness and the number of families at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

Tax amnesty

In 2012, the Popular Party (PP) government offered a tax amnesty that allowed individuals to start declaring previously concealed fortunes in exchange for low fines and very few explanations. The initiative shed light on approximately €40 billion that the state had been unaware of.

In 2013, there was a significant rise in the number of taxpayers who declared more than €6 million. There were 471 individuals who declared assets worth more than €30 million.

There was also a record number of taxpayers declaring between €6 million and €30 million (5,469 people) and those declaring between €1.5 million and €6 million (48,742).

But these figures only reflect individuals’ taxable income after deducting debt and non-taxable assets, such as part of the value of their primary residence as well as many other deductible items.

Amancio Ortega, founder of Zara, is Spain's wealthiest man.
Amancio Ortega, founder of Zara, is Spain's wealthiest man. EFE

Madrid attracts the wealthy

Madrid residents top the list of wealthy taxpayers with an average fortune of €8.17 million, compared with the national average of €3.01 million (this figure does not include Navarre and the Basque Country, whose residents do not directly pay taxes to the state, but to their regional governments instead).

The second position is claimed by Galicia with €4.1 million. This might be influenced by the fact that Galicia is home to Amancio Ortega, founder of the Zara clothing empire and the richest man in Spain (although many of his assets are, in fact, non-taxable).

English version by Susana Urra.