EDITION: October - December 2022

Do You Need an Electronic Signature?

By Armin Gutschick & Anja Sämann-Gutschick
The electronic signature (firma electrónica or certificado electrónico/digital in Spanish) has gained importance in recent years as a way for private people and businesses to make contact with Spanish authorities. Spain is quite advanced in the use of electronic communication, and a private individual can take care of almost all administrative procedures online without ever going to an office in person.

For cost reasons, the authorities are increasingly pushing for all necessary correspondence and deliveries to be carried out digitally. Companies have been legally obliged to communicate with the authorities exclusively by electronic means for several years. Even the self-employed are now being forced to use the electronic signature to contact the tax office and other authorities. So far this is not mandatory for private individuals, but it is an option for them.

In order to connect directly online with Spanish agencies you need clear proof of identification. One way to do this is through an authentication procedure that uses a password and a PIN (Cl@ve). This works roughly like online banking, where you first enter a password, and then you have to enter a PIN that is sent to you by SMS. Obviously, you will need a mobile phone to receive the SMS.  

The other way to prove identification is with the electronic signature. This is a certificate that is installed on your computer‘s Internet browser. It can be requested through the Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre: https://www.fnmt.es/ceres. This method of authentification is typically used by companies and professionals such as accountants and lawyers. 

In order to receive the electronic signature and the Cl@ve (PIN), an applicant must make an appointment with the tax office or social security office.  However, you can save yourself the red tape and a trip to the authorities if you pay a service provider to request the digital certificate for you. A number of tax consultants and gestorias in Ibiza offer this service.

 There are many possible for uses the electronic signature when you need to connect with a government agency. You can file tax returns from your computer, submit applications to the authorities and lodge complaints (for example at the town halls). It can be used to register with the municipal registration office and to view records in the land register office. The electronic signature also facilitates communication with the tax office, to generate your reference number for income tax, and to submit many types of tax returns. In addition, the signature is suitable for authorizing a third party or for signing a power of attorney online. This list of possible uses is not exhaustive, and each authority handles registration procedures somewhat differently.

Private individuals, especially non-residents who own a property in Ibiza, can easily identify themselves by using an electronic signature. This is convenient because property owners have a number of tax procedures that need to be taken care of over the course of the year (payment of property taxes, vehicle taxes, etc.). However there is a downside because, once you are registered with an electronic signature, it is your responsibility to regularly check whether you have received any electronic messages from a government agency. These are usually announced to you by e-mail. One should be aware that the tax office and other authorities regard this digital form as a confirmed delivery, and thus deadlines start to run from the date it is sent. 

This can be complicated, so if a non-resident property owner does not want to be responsible for checking these communications, they can hire a tax consultant or lawyer to do it for them.