Vehicles driven on public roads in Spain, are subject to road tax, Impuesto Sobre Vehiculos de Traccion Mecanica, referred to as IVTM. This road tax has a rate set by the municipal authorities, and will vary from area to area. IVTM is paid to the local authority and can be paid in person at the relevant Town Hall office (Ayuntamiento), at a bank or by direct debit.
The amount of road tax payable on a vehicle also varies according to the fiscal horsepower (potencia fiscal / caballos fiscales), which is a nominal amount not necessarily related to the actual engine power of a vehicle.
In the past, many people in Spain got away without paying IVTM for considerable periods of time. However, many municipalities are now manage collection of this road tax a lot more effectively, and have clamped down on non-payment. Avoiders may find their Spanish bank account embargoed, or the vehicle can be impounded by local police. This can result in costly fines and payment of the outstanding amount of road tax to be made, before the car is released.
All Spanish-registered car’s are now automatically logged by the local municipality when ownership of the vehicle is registered with the provincial traffic department, and it is not possible to complete a change of ownership unless all road tax is up to date.
When you purchase a car in Spain, ask to see the receipts for the paid road tax, because, unpaid road tax is passed onto the new owner during vehicle transfer. This can leave you liable for any unpaid tax on that vehicle, relating to the previous owners.
If you own a foreign registered vehicle in Spain, Spanish road tax doesn’t apply. However if your vehicle doesn’t have the equivalent tax paid in the country where it’s registered, e.g. UK vehicle tax, it cannot legally be driven on roads in Spain, and the vehicle will be impounded if the authorities find it in an untaxed state on a public road.
Read our article Foreign Cars in Spain & Road Tax, to find out more.