Limited Company or Sole Trader in Spain?

Limited Company or Sole Trader in Spain? This post covers a key question when starting business: learn pros and cons for each option.
Article Last Updated: 17 May, 2024 under Traspaso

So, you have decided that you are starting business in Spain, you know what type of business you want to run and where in Spain you wish to locate it, then the main decision you will need to make is whether you should set it up as a limited company or as a sole trader. 

This can be extremely important as you can save a considerable amount of money depending on which option you choose. Both have benefits and drawbacks. Here we will look at the differences between the two so that you can decide on which is the most appropriate - and cost effective - for your business in Spain.

1. Sole Trader v Limited Company

Sole trader in Spain are known as autonomos and those who are just starting-out and where the income is likely to be low tend to choose this route. Why? Mainly because it is less complex and more economical to both set-up and run. For example, setting-up as an autonomo does not require €3000 of capital as would be the case with a limited company in Spain.

2. Fiscal Obligations

As in other countries, whether your business is classed as autonomo or as a limited company, there are a number of fiscal obligations that the owner of a business in Spain will have. Most businesses will have an obligation to make VAT (in Spain this is called IVA) and Income Tax returns. 

Of course if you decide to create a limited company then you will also have to make a company tax return (impuesto de sociedades) as well as file the annual accounts with the Company's Register. A company will need to retain up to 15% of any invoice presented to it by a professional/autonomo and file a return. These extra obligations mean that the cost of maintaining the company are higher than where a sole trader is concerned.

3. Social Security Obligations

As an autonomo or sole trader, you will need to register with the local social security office and pay contributions each month. These contributions tend to be significantly higher than in other northern European countries, with a current minimum of approximately €250 per month payment, regardless of income. 

There are some reductions for those under 30 years of age or a temporary discount for example where the person has been unemployed and has decided to become self-employed. 

In the case of a limited company, there is an obligation to make social security contributions on behalf of an employee of 24% of their income. Where there are no employees of the company, i.e. a single director company, then that director must register as an autonomo and pay those social security contributions.

4. Liability

Just as elsewhere, one of the major differences between the two forms of business is that creating a limited company ensures limited liability to the owner of the company. If as a result of the operation of the company a financial liability should arise, then often this is limited to the amount of capital in the company. 

As a matter of law in Spain the minimum level of capital that any company can have at any time is set at €3000 though this is sometimes disregarded by less scrupulous business owners. 

One of the major drawbacks of registering as an autonomo is that you will be personally liable for any debts or losses incurred by your business and any personal assets could be at risk if your business is in financial trouble - either as a result of damages owed to a client or failure to pay due taxes and social security contributions. 

Once the most appropriate structure for your business in Spain has been determined, you can review the components of each service:

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