The procedure to incorporate a foreign owned company in Spain is, in principle, easy and straight forward, however it is necessary to take into account certain new requirements derived from the tax and the anti-money laundering regulations, which could cause long delays in the incorporation process, even to EU and US companies, if they are not well advised and managed from the beginning of the procedure.
The first step consist in collecting information about the foreign shareholder, in order to be able to prove its legal existence and activities: the foreign shareholder(s) will have to grant before a Notary Public in its country of residence a power of attorney authorising somebody in Spain to obtain its tax identification number (“NIE”), and also represent it before the Spanish notary when signing the deed of incorporation. In case the foreign shareholder is an individual person, the NIE should be applied for before the Spanish police or the Spanish Consulate at the country where the investor lives.
If the shareholder is a corporation, apart from the Power of Attorney, it will have to obtain a certificate from its Companies’ Registry or Chamber of Commerce, stating its legal existence and main characteristics. This document is called “good standing certificate” (in the UK and US), “K-bis” (in France), “KvK” (in the Netherlands) or “visura” (in Italy). These two documents, the Power of Attorney mentioned in the above paragraph and the certificate from the Companies’ Registry, will have to be Apostilled or legalized by the correspondent Ministry, and Sworn translated into Spanish. Please note that we use to draft bilingual powers of attorney in order to avoid its sworn translation.
The foreign shareholder will have to prove that its income is obtained from legal activities in order to be able to open a bank account in the name of the new company. The main document to prove this could be the Corporate or the Personal Income Tax return filed in its country of residence, but there could be other means, especially in case of individual persons.
In case of a corporate shareholder, it will be necessary as well to declare, in principle through a public deed granted in Spain, who are the individual persons who, directly or through other companies, will hold more than a 25% interest in the new company to be incorporated. In case nobody holds more than a 25% (i.e. because there are 5 individual shareholders, holding each of them a 20%), it is declared that the effective control of the new company corresponds to its director.
At this stage, it is also necessary to mention that the person(s) who will be the director(s) of the new company, in case they are foreigners, will also need to obtain their personal “NIE”. The NIE should be applied for before the Spanish police (this could be done by a proxy duly authorised though a Power of Attorney granted by the foreign director) or before the Spanish Consulate nearest to the city where the investor lives. In order to be a director of a Spanish company it is not necessary to be a shareholder, nor to have residence and work permit in Spain (provided the foreign director does not live in Spain).
Meanwhile the necessary documents (Powers of Attorney, Companies’ Registry certificate, etc.) are being prepared by the foreign shareholder, the lawyer in Spain will apply for the new company’s name. It is advisable to point out that generic or usual names are not available quite often, therefore it is necessary to think in original names. Three different names could be applied for simultaneously.
The drafting of the company’s Articles of Association or By Laws could be very quick, except if the company is going to have several shareholders and they wish specific clauses. In this case, it is also advisable to draft a Shareholders Agreement. The Shareholders’ Agreement could just contain some basic rules on dedication, compensation, non-competition, etc. and some more sophisticated rules on the sale of shares (tag along and drag along rights). As regards the By-Laws, they should mention the company’s name, its activity or activities, address in Spain –which cannot be just a P.O. Box-, share capital, number of shares and its face value, and starting date for the fiscal year, among other standard clauses.
The management of the company could be organized through a sole director, two directors who could act jointly or separately, and in case there are more than three directors, they should organize themselves through a Board of Directors, being usual in this case to appoint a C.E.O. In order to be a director it is not necessary to be a shareholder. Under Spanish laws, the director(s) could be held liable for some company’s debts under certain circumstances which are legally defined. For this reason, it is necessary that the directors formally accept their appointment (personally appearing before the Notary or through a Power of Attorney).
Before the incorporation, it will be necessary that either the new company’s director (the person to be appointed) or the representative of the corporate shareholder appears personally before the bank where the company will have its first bank account and signs the correspondent documents (KYC regulation). Once the bank account is opened, the shareholder will have to send a bank transfer for the new company’s share capital. In Spain, the minimum share capital for a limited company (S.L.) is Euros 3.000, while for a “Sociedad Anónima” (S.A.) it is Euros 60.000, but only 25% should be paid off at the incorporation moment. It is interesting to note that contributions to the share capital could be made in cash – which is the most common operation, especially at the incorporation – or in kind, with any type of assets: real estate, machinery, goods, trademarks, etc. The money for the share capital should be sent to the new company’s bank account from an account owned by the shareholder (or from each account owned by each shareholder, should they be several ones), not by any other different person. Once the Spanish bank receives the transfer, it will issue a certificate, which is necessary in order to incorporate the company.
Once all the documents are ready, it is possible within very few days (almost immediately) to make the appointment with the Notary and sign the public deed of incorporation. This can be done at any notary in Spain, not being necessary that the notary practises at the same city where the company will have its corporate address. In order to summarize, the list of the necessary documents is:
- Power(s) of Attorney granted by the foreign shareholder(s), apostilled and sworn translated.
- Certificate regarding the legal existence of the foreign shareholder (only if it is a corporation), apostilled and sworn translated.
- Statement on who are the last individual shareholders holding more than 25% interest in the new company, directly or indirectly (only in case of corporate shareholders).
- NIE of the foreign shareholder(s).
- NIE of the new company’s director(s), should they be a foreigners.
- Certificate for the new company’s name.
- Articles of Association.
- Bank certificate regarding the contribution to the new company’s share capital.
The deed of incorporation is signed by the proxy (or the individual shareholder(s), should they prefer to personally appear before the notary) before the chosen public notary, being also necessary to sign an official form to report the foreign investment to a public registry depending on the Spanish Ministry of Finance.
Once the deed of incorporation is signed, the next steps consist in applying before the tax authorities to obtain the new company’s tax number (NIF / CIF) and filing the deed of incorporation before the Companies’ Registry. Some banks do allow new companies to operate once they have the NIF (which could be 2-3 days after the incorporation), while others request to wait until the deed of incorporation is filed at the Companies’ Registry (2-3 weeks).
An estimation of the necessary time to complete all the procedure is 30-45 days, but of course the main delay is related to speed of the foreign investor in obtaining the necessary documents.
Please note that if you wish to incorporate a foreign owned company in Spain it is always necessary to seek specific professional advice, as each case is different and regulations and the application of such regulations vary from time to time. The above article just explains the main steps and requirements for the incorporation of a company.