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General Living Information


The state health service, called Insalud, has improved enormously in recent years. Spanish residents making regular payments to the Seguridad Social (approximately 6% of your total earnings) are entitled to free treatment, but this only covers basics. For dentistry, glasses etc. you will have to pay. (The only thing covered on the Insalud, is extractions.) Waiting lists at hospitals are nowhere near as bad as in Britain. Over the period 1996 – 2000 (the last period we have statistics for) the average waiting time for operations fell from 210 to 61 days. Most patients praise the standard of care and attention they receive. Anyone who receives a UK pension is entitled to state medical cover, even if you don't make contributions to the Spanish social security system. You can also choose to obtain private medical insurance. If you pay Spanish Social Security contributions, you & your family are entitled to free or subsidised medical treatment on the same terms as the Spaniards.


When you receive your social security card, you will be assigned a GP. Those operating under the state health scheme are free, but you will need to produce your social security card if you have one, or your E121. There is no guarantee that any Spanish doctor assigned to you will speak English, so it may be prudent to find a translator, or it is one of the reasons why many British ex-pats choose to pay for private medical insurance.


British nationals are entitled to draw their pensions in Spain. It can be paid directly into a Spanish bank account, usually on a monthly basis. The UK government's Pension Service International Pension Centre can provide further information. Consult your pension provider if you have a private pension.


Hacienda, as the Spanish inland revenue is known, is an efficient & up-to-date collection agency. You are defined as a resident for tax purposes if you spend more than 183 days in Spain during any given tax year. You need not make a tax declaration if your annual earnings are less than €7,800.

Owners of businesses and self-employed professionals are obliged to declare their earnings however low.

IVA (the Spanish VAT) is 21% on most items, but 10% on food & housing and 0% on books, water & medicines.

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