When I was told I would need to become a Freelancer or autónomo in Spain, I was not too worried. I have been self-employed in the UK and France and believed that if I could deal with French bureaucracy, then anything else would be a dawdle. I could not have been more wrong. I don’t care what anyone else says, Spanish bureaucracy is the worst and most nonsensical bureaucracy in the whole of Europe and gives a whole new meaning to the word chaotic. Getting my autónomo in Madrid was a whole horror story which I hope that you can avoid with this little guide. Beware, you may follow all the rules and bring all the correct paperwork but yet find the process was still not smooth...that is incredibly normal and indeed, you should expect a rocky road ahead.
Step 1 Weighing up your options
So first of all, you have to decide whether becoming autónomo is actually worth your while. Being self-employed in Spain is quite an expensive ordeal and you are charged every month for the privilege. I am not talking about normal taxes (which you obviously also have to pay, like everyone else) but quite a substantial monthly fee, which can be anything from 50euros (for certain people, for a period of time if you are under 30) to up to as much as 250 euros a month- and this is all just to claim the status of self-employment. With this status, you do not get any more rights than those who have an employer, actually, you get slightly fewer rights (especially when it comes to claiming unemployment benefits). With unemployment so high in Spain (Don't just take my word for it) it is rather nonsensical to demotivate and charge people who are trying to create work by going Freelance thus creating their own job in a very saturated job market. Alas, that is the situation in Spain, and if you want to be legal and correct, paying is the only way to be self-employed. So with that firmly in mind, you have to weigh up whether this type of work is worth your while, and whether at the end of the month you will still be making enough money with these additional costs.
Step 2: Getting your paperwork prepared
What you will need:
1. Your Passport and/or your Visa- (If you are a European Citizen, then your passport will suffice).
2. Your NIE or NIF – If you do not have this you cannot survive in Spain for very long and so find out how to get it here.
3. Your bank details- so they know how to take away all your money on the first of the month.
4. Modelo 30 which proves that you have registered with Social security but I will explain this also.
I would also strongly advise that you bring someone along that has either done the process before or speaks Spanish well, as the funcionarios in the Hacienda are infamous for being as unhelpful and as unpleasant as they possibly can be- I think it is all part of the training of having to work there. They have no patience, very little English and are paid in human tears…probably.
Step 3: Where you need to go
To get your Autonomo, you will need to visit the Hacienda and also the Social Security office. However, be aware, it can’t just be any Social Security or Hacienda, it has to be the right office for your particular need. Finding the correct offices to go to, was actually the part of the process that I found most challenging because Google does not seem to have the answers and neither does anybody else. I asked Spanish friends, I asked funcionarios that were working in other offices and I even phoned a multitude of numbers before finally getting the addresses of the places I needed to visit. Life is not made easy for you in this process- see it as a test of will and character. Look up this particular type of Hacienda to make life easier - Censo de Empresarios, Profesionales y Retenedores. Simply me giving you this name, has saved you about 40 hours of your time (40 hours that you can never get back), so you are welcome!
Top Tip: Obviously it will be different everywhere but, if you are in Madrid, the building is just behind the Palacio de Cibeles (Seguridad Social is on Calle Cruz, which is not too far away).
Just 785,987,032 more pointless boxes to cross...
Step 4: Getting the paperwork done.
Seguridad Social 1
First, you will need to go to Seguridad Social to register with them and get your Modelo 30 if you haven’t already got it. This is a relatively quick and painless process which does not require an appointment or more than an hour of your time (depending on the queues of course). Simply fill in the form and wait for your number to be called. I was surprised how friendly and helpful the workers were in Seguridad Social, though this opinion may be in comparison to the downright rudeness I was faced with in the Hacienda.
Usually you will need an appointment with the Hacienda. This can sometimes be made online or on the phone though sometimes you just have to book at reception. This will depend on which city you are in but mainly the mood of the particular worker you speak to at that precise moment. In my experience, it is always better to go in and ask which way is best (however, painful that may be to your soul), because when you finally burst into tears of frustration at the ridiculousness and incompetence of the process, someone might take pity on you and actually offer you some useful advice. operative word here being 'might'. If you do not require an appointment, then arriving slightly before opening hours is a good shout, to make sure you are not the last one in the queue of very glum-looking civilians. With an appointment or without, you will still most likely need to wait, so this process has to be done when you have time to spare. You will eventually speak to someone who will stamp all your documents, scowl at you and bark directions to you in Spanish. Expect hiccups along the way. As I mentioned before, there is most likely going to be some vital piece of paperwork that you’re missing but don’t worry, eventually you will quench the thirst of the Spanish state for useless documentation.
Seguridad Social 2
After you have managed that, the worst is over and you need to head back to the chirpier people at Seguridad Social to hand in your paper work so they can start withdrawing money out your bank account.
I can’t explain the mystery of why the government would make it so difficult for people to declare their taxes and work legally within a country, especially in Spain where the economy is not the best at the moment but that it a different question for a different article. Hopefully, these tips can be used and passed on to make the process a little less tedious.
Note: Deregistering to be self-employed is much easier. You will simply need an appointment at the Hacienda and then back to Seguridad Social to make sure the payments are stopping as well.