Spain’s Social Security Ministry has proposed a new version of its social security payment quota system for the self-employed after their initial proposals in January were roundly criticised.
Spain’s self-employed workers – known as autonomós in Spanish – already pay the highest monthly social security fees in the EU and have complained for years that the system is unfair. These monthly fees, which currently run up to a maximum of €294 a month after two years as self-employed, are separate from income tax.
The new contributions system proposed in mid-January by Minister of Social Security José Luis Escrivá has been rejected by self-employed unions and many autónomos, as it could see them paying double the amount that freelancers in France and Germany pay and triple that of those in the UK.
Escrivá had suggested a system consisting of 13 different tax contribution brackets based on ‘real earnings’, from those who earn less than €600 a month to those who make more than €4,050 a month.
The new model would have introduced a minimum monthly contribution of €184 for low-earning autónomos and up to €1,267 for the top earners.
This would be done gradually over a period of eight years, so from 2023 to 2031 minimum earners would see their monthly tax contributions drop year after year, whereas high earners would see them rise year on year.
Escrivá said on Friday that after studying the negative response from self-employed unions, “substantial modifications have been made with respect to the latest proposals, in response to the different requests of the social partners”.
The new proposals
Hoping to get unions onside, the Ministry for Social Security have promised – verbally, but not yet in writing – that net income will be redefined, and that some of the costly expenses many self-employed workers face will now be allowed as deductions.
As for social security contributions, the new plans have already been criticised as they modify contributions at the lower and upper end of the income spectrum in what is perceived to be a non-progressive way: it now proposes a €30 increase to €214 a month for the lowest self-employed earners, those earning under €700 a month, and a €276 reduction to €991 a month for the highest earners.
So the tweaked proposal is slightly better for higher earners (but still very high) and slightly worse for the lowest earners.
Cuts for high earners
The latest plans lower the monthly social security contribution for high earners to €991.44 from €1,267 as initially proposed.
The bulk of the reductions, however, will come in the middle earners bracket (those who earn between €900 and €1,500 a month) where a large portion of Spain’s self-employed workforce sits.
It is believed that the full details of the new proposals, including the rejigging of the contributions, will be shared with self-employed organisations next Monday but sources say it is believed self-employed workers with a “real income” below €1,125 per month will contribute €264; those earning up to €1,300 per month will contribute €316 monthly (€36 less than originally proposed), and workers with a real income of €1,500 per month will face a €392 monthly fee (€21 less than previously thought).
Lower earners and first-timers
It is believed those who fall in the €700 – €900 per month quota section will maintain a monthly fee of €245, and that some exceptions for new self-employed workers will be kept: if you are a first-time freelancer, for example, there are some reductions – €60 per month for the first year, €143.10 per month from months 13 to 18, €200.30 per month from 19 months to 2 years, and the same amount up until 3 years.
Unions still not happy
Yet unions are reportedly unhappy that lowest earners will, under the tweaked proposals, see an increase in contributions, whereas the very top earners will see a decrease. “It is an insufficient proposal”, said Eduardo Abad, president of UPTA. “We want there to be substantial savings for the self-employed… the upper brackets are the ones that have to make a greater contribution effort so that the lower brackets can reduce theirs,” he added.
The junior coalition government partner, Unidas Podemos, has also questioned Escrivá’s revised proposal. Party spokesperson in the Congress of Deputies, Pablo Echenique, said on Twitter: “The initial proposal was already unacceptable. Now they want to lower the fee for the self-employed who earn the most and raise it for the most precarious?”
Self-employed’s social security contributions are a story that seems set to rumble on into 2022.