Global Business GuideSpain

From Global Connections

This is one of a series of Global Business Guides designed for businesses wishing to expand into another country/territory. This Global Business Guide was produced in January 2016. The materials contained in this document provide a snapshot at that time and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.


According to UNCTAD's 2015 World Investment Report, Spain is ranked 12th in the world for foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows. Spain received FDI inflows of USD23 billion in 2014.

Spain ranked 33rd in the World Bank's 2016 Doing Business rankings, moving up one place from 34th in the year prior. The ranking recognised reforms enacted by Spain to make doing business easier in the country. This included strengthening minority investor protection by requiring major sales of company assets to be subject to shareholder approval. Spain also made paying taxes less costly by reducing rates for corporate income, capital gains and environment taxes and made it easier by introducing an online system for filing VAT returns.

Key facts about starting a business in Spain:

  • It takes approximately 14 days and seven procedures to start a new business in Spain; this process is detailed in the Doing Business in chapter
  • The minimum wage in Spain for 2016 is EUR655.20 per calendar month; employment regulations are discussed in detail in the Labour chapter
  • It takes approximately 45 days and costs EUR44,835 to obtain a building permit
  • Spain was ranked 14th in a comparison of 36 countries' intellectual property systems that assesses cost, speed, quality of judges/tribunals, quality of advice and the fairness and predictability of decisions; intellectual property rights are discussed in the Legal overview chapter
  • Companies that wish to list equity securities can choose from the Stock Markets of Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona or Valencia; this is discussed further in the Finance chapter

While investing in Spain is a transparent and largely straightforward process, it is important to understand the nuances of any local regime. The manner in which people conduct business in Spain may differ from the home countries of investors. Furthermore, variations on these distinctions may exist in different regions of Spain and the industry in which a company operates.

Spain's official language is Spanish. However, Basque, Catalan, Galician and Occitan are recognised as co-official languages in certain regions.

In Spain, hierarchy and status are valued. The Spanish also place high importance on appearance. Business attire is typically conservative; nevertheless, this may vary across different industries.

A handshake is the typical greeting for a new introduction and business cards may be exchanged after initial introductions. Gift giving is not expected in Spanish business culture.

Those looking to establish a business in Spain will often look to countries across the European Union (EU) as alternative options. While membership of the EU ensures parity in many aspects of the legal, Tax and Audit regimes, Spain can be differentiated on the following factors:

  • Spain is the fifth largest economy in the EU and one of the fastest growing in the Eurozone
  • Spain is strategically located to provide access to almost 1,900 million potential consumers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa
  • Amongst others, the Government provides financial aid and tax benefits for activities pursued in certain industries which are considered to be priority industries; discussed further in the Trade chapter
  • Highly qualified workforce, with 41.5 per cent of those aged 25-34 year olds having tertiary education
  • Spain was ranked sixth in the world for the quality of its transport infrastructure; further details in the Infrastructure chapter

Although there are many benefits of investing in Spain, foreign investors should remain aware of potential challenges. There is a high degree of devolution of powers to the country's 17 autonomous regions. This contributes to a complexity in regulation and can be a hindrance to foreign investment.

This guide has been developed to provide businesses with an overview of Spain, its legal regime, start-up and market entry considerations, tax and customs requirements and a general summary of the factors that may affect the decision to do business in Spain. However, the information contained in this document is generic in nature and you should not act or rely on it without obtaining specific professional advice.

Please note that the Global Business Guides may only be available in English.

Useful Links


Central Mercantile Register


Tax Agency


Agency of Data protection


Immigration Office


Spanish Patent and Trademark Office


Invest in Spain


Ministry of Employment and Social Security


1 UNCTAD World Investment Report
2 Doing Business Rankings
3 IP Index
4 Access to 1,900 consumers
5 Tertiary Education

Download Global Business Guide - Spain (2.9MB, PDF)


This document is issued by by HSBC Bank plc, Sucursal en España (the Bank).  This guide is a joint project with Grant Thornton. It is not intended as an offer or solicitation for business to anyone in any jurisdiction. It is not intended for distribution to anyone located in or resident in jurisdictions which restrict the distribution of this document. It shall not be copied, reproduced, transmitted or further distributed by any recipient. The information contained in this document is of a general nature only. It is not meant to be comprehensive and does not constitute financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this document without obtaining specific professional advice. Whilst every care has been taken in preparing this document, the Bank and Grant Thornton makes no guarantee, representation or warranty (express or implied) as to its accuracy or completeness, and under no circumstances will the Bank or Grant Thornton be liable for any loss caused by reliance on any opinion or statement made in this document. Except as specifically indicated, the expressions of opinion are those of the Bank and are subject to change without notice. The materials contained in this document were assembled in January 2016 and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.

Grant Thornton refers to the brand under which the Grant Thornton member firms provide assurance, tax and advisory services to their clients and/or refers to one or more member firms, as the context requires. Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL) and its member firms are not a worldwide partnership. GTIL and each member firm is a separate legal entity. Services are delivered by the member firms. GTIL does not provide services to clients. GTIL and its member firms are not agents of, and do not obligate, one another and are not liable for one another’s acts or omissions. This publication has been prepared only as a guide. No responsibility can be accepted by GTIL for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this publication.

HSBC retains all responsibility for the translation of the content of this guide. In the event of any discrepancy or inconsistency between the English and translated versions of this Guide, the English version shall apply and prevail.

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