About Sabrina L. Williams

Although I was born in the UK, I moved to the Canary Islands, Spain at a young age and I haven't looked back. The Canaries is a fantastic place to live, I mean you can do all types of outdoor activities practically all year round because of the great weather. Horses are my poison but the islands are also a superb spot for water sports so they do attract a lot of attention from people around the world. Anyway, enough about that. Back in 2011, I made one of the biggest, scariest yet best decisions I'd ever made and set-up my own business in the middle of a recession. I love what I do as no two days are the same, plus Spanish law keeps me on my toes as it is constantly changing (often without warning!) so there is always something new to learn. As I've branched out in the world of Administrative Consultancy, I decided to create a blog to discuss topics of interest to others in my industry and my clients, share tips and experiences, to see what new ideas people have for improving their businesses and the like so I hope you'll find the time to join me on this venture...

After the fiasco that was this week in La Oliva after our Mayor, Pilar González Segura issued an authorized increase from alert level II to level III of the municipality only to revoke it a day and a half later, there are more changes to the island’s status, only this time from the correct source.

Following on from the temporary measures decreed throughout the Canary Islands last week, yesterday, Fuerteventura has officially gone from Alert Level I to Level II due to increased cases that are no doubt a result from illegal mass gatherings and parties since Christmas and especially over New Year’s where standard security measures have not been properly observed.

A Plenary Session of the Canarian Government was held on Thursday 14th January 2021 to amend the alert levels of Lanzarote (increased to Level III), Fuerteventura (increased to Level II) and La Gomera (reduced to Level I) and came into effect yesterday, Friday 15th January until Thursday 28th January inclusive as can be seen on the released Announcement.

Restrictions for Alert Level II are:

  • Curfew: Freedom of movement is limited between 11pm and 6am every day
  • Limitations of groups of people in public and private areas: This is restricted to a maximum of FOUR persons except in the cases of co-habitants. If the group is a mixture of both co-habitants and non co-habitants, the maximum is still FOUR.
  • Specific measures for the Hotel and Restaurant Sector (terraces, bars and cafes): The maximum number of persons permitted per table is reduced from six to FOUR and the establishment must close to the public by 11pm. Activities that do not allow the required 2 metre safety distance are not permitted in terraces or other open-air spaces attached to the establishment, i.e., dancing, karaoke and similar
  • Sport Activities: Group or team sports practiced in indoor installations and sports centres that do not allow a permanent safety distance of 2 metres between persons is restricted to a maximum of FOUR persons per group including the instructor. In open-air areas, team sports that do not guarantee a permanent safety distance between participants at all times are not permitted. Group activities where it is not possible to maintain a permanent 2 metre security distance are restricted to a maximum of FOUR persons per group including the instructor (Personal Note: This last part for open-air activities seems contradictory because it is either not permitted or restricted so use discretion here)
  • Hospitals and Public Health Centres: Visitation is limited and must be supervised by health care specialists within the centres. Proper clinical face masks must be used otherwise entry will be refused.
  • Public Transport: In regular public road transport, the maximum capacity has been reduced to 50%. Police forces will be extra vigilant during peak times/ rush hour to prevent crowds from gathering at bus stops etc., and request only essential travel at these times. The frequency of bus routes will be increased and as before, food and drink may not be consumed on board and masks must be used correctly (not under the nose or chin)

These measures will be reviewed again around 28th January to see whether they have been successful or not and if the number of cases decrease, Fuerteventura may return to Alert Level I.

Personally, I am not one for checking the daily statistics of the Canary Islands as I find it too depressing to be so immersed in everything COVID-19, but since we are on the subject, the latest report of the last 24 hours shows the following:

There have been 368 new cases which takes the total number of accumulated cases in the Canary Islands to 30.946 of which there are 7.825 active cases (55 remain in Intensive Care; 300 are hospitalized and the remainder are quarantining at home). There have been four deaths (two males from Tenerife and two from Gran Canaria) aged between 49 and 82 and all with pre-existing medical conditions.

In a plenary session at the Town Hall of La Oliva held on 11th November 2020, they approved requirements to help business owners overcome financial difficulties caused by COVID-19.

The local government has set 405.000 euros aside for this line of financial aid knowing that La Oliva is principally a tourist destination and travel restrictions have hampered business owners’ ability to operate as normal. There are other possibilities lined up for 2021 to provide “real solutions to real problems”.

The grant amounts to 800 euros per applicant, but preference will be given to those who are struggling the most (and can prove it). The net income for 2019 for those who are interested in applying must not exceed 50.000 euros and they must have continued their busines activity throughout the pandemic showing more than a 20% loss since the State of Emergency began, their activity must take place in the municipality of La Oliva and their registered tax address must also be in La Oliva.

This agreement must be published in the Provincial Bulletin of Las Palmas to allow the Town Hall to officially launch the grant around the 15th December 2020. More information will hopefully become available at that time.

TERRACE TAX: The same Plenary Session unanimously approved the suspension of Terrace Tax (commercial use of public areas) during 2021. The new government in power says they were unable to reduce the charge for 2020 so instead they adjusted it for the months the premises were closed.

INSUFFICIENT HELP DURING THE PANDEMIC’S SECOND WAVE: According to information released by ATA (Association for Sole Traders), each day there are 500 small businesses that close doors forever and these business owners as well as those who perhaps continue to struggle amidst the crisis feel that not enough is being done EIGHT MONTHS into the pandemic.

Although I’m sure the government has done and continues to do everything in its power to provide assistant to individuals and business owners alike, if you think about it, the measures in place allow for employees to be placed on furlough and for the business owners to receive a maximum of 661 euros per month, but is this enough? I could not imagine being in the hot seat and being responsible for passing legislation and making the tough decisions to ensure Spain’s stability at this uncertain time, but maybe it is time for further measures to be agreed…

The critics feel it is time to reraise the question about whether it is plausible for sole traders to contribute at Social Security in accordance to their income instead of a standardized rate calculated by the Administration as it is now. At present, the 661 euros per month financial aid is based on a general calculation that has nothing to do with each individual’s standard of life.

What does this mean? Sole Traders contribute each month as per a Base Rate calculated by Social Security, whereas other European countries contribute in accordance to their income. In this current scenario, those who requested financial aid because the government initially shut down their business activity or because of decreased revenue receive monthly benefits based on the Base Rate and not on their income. So, whether your business generates a monthly profit of 500 euros or 10.000 euros, the benefits received are the same.

This method has affected people at the top end of the spectrum because it is not the same to have monthly outgoings of 5.000 euros as opposed to somebody else’s outgoings of 2.000 euros and only receive 661 euros per month as this would not cover their living expenses. If however, they contribute every month according to their real income, their finacial aid could perhaps be calculated on the average over the past 12 months and the monthly benefits received would allow them to cover their expenses in line with their lifestyle.

Contributions based on real income is a double-edged sword. Even I can see the logistical issues with this and I have commented on this many times over the past few years. Sole Trader Associations have raised this problem on numerous occasions and although Social Security has agreed to consider the possibility, nothing has come of it. The only reason I can think of is that they cannot trust business owners to be honest and decare their real income. If the majority were to underdeclare, I believe we could effectively say “adiós” to the Spanish Social Security system as it exists now because there would not be sufficient funds available to cover unemployment, sick pay, not to mention pensions.

In light of the pandemic and how people have been forced to cope over the last eight months with limited resources, I feel it is only logical for this subject to be reopened and discussed in real terms, but I am not optimistic about a positive outcome simply because of the millions that have been spent from the budget this year alone. Yet, it must also be said that if the majority could be responsible and honest in their declarations, there is no reason why this couldn’t be a way forward and it may even encourage thousands more to register their businesses legally without the pressure of a minimum 286-euro monthly contribution before getting a chance to earn for themselves.

These past few days have been quite busy on the business owner front, whether it has been to do with Social Security or financial aid authorized by the Spanish Government, but I’m going to give you insights into what has been going on lately.

As you must be aware, Social Security increased monthly contributions on 30th October 2020 as per Royal Decree 28/2018, 28th December that outlined progressive increases from 2019 to 2021 that incorporate obligatory payment of Professional Accidents, Business Closure (Sole Trader Unemployment) and Professional Training which up until that point were voluntary.

Due to the pandemic, the annual increase, that usually takes place in January, was delayed until October. According to statistics, 77% of sole traders contribute the minimum base rate, which means an increase from 283,30 euros per month to 286,15 euros per month. The increase applied varies from approximately 2,84 euros to 12,12 euros depending on age and applicable base rate.

Tomorrow, Monday 30th November 2020, Social Security will implement two important matters in relation to governmental financial aid:

  1. Those who requested a continuance for sole trader financial aid will receive payment and this will extend until 31st January 2021. Depending on your circumstances, you will either receive 472 euros (50% of the base rate) or 661 euros (70% of the base rate). The number of applicants has almost doubled since the last count. In October 256.000 sole traders requested financial aid, however, it would seem that this has risen to around 500.000 beneficiaries.
  2. Those sole traders who requested deferment on their monthly contribution will begin to pay back their debt to Social Security from Monday 30th November 2020. At the start of the pandemic, the Government permitted this option to certain collectives to temporarily alleviate financial pressures by not charging fees for May, June and July, but now it is time to pay back the piper, so the back payments will be added onto the usual monthly contribution (a minimum of 572,30 euros). Statistics do show though that not many business owners requested this form of financial aid.

Although these measures have proved invaluable to those who have been affected economically by this health crisis, there is an outcry from those who feel that not enough is being done. Please take a read of the following article for more information, https://www.canaryadminservices.com/will-the-pandemic-restart-conversations-about-social-security-contributions/

As the month of September comes to a close, so does the financial aid some sole traders are still receiving from the Central Government via their Mutuas. What plans are in place for sole traders after the 30th September?

Well, there has been a lot of chatter over recent weeks from associations that represent sole trader interests about extending financial aid, but nothing definitive has been confirmed so far. This of course is of great concern to affected business owners because we are still nowhere near anything that resembles “normal”. In fact, the situation has not progressed much over the past few months; although lockdown as we experienced it is over, travel is still restricted with many countries implementing quarantine periods after returning from Spain which does not help our tourism dependent islands.

Two of Spain’s most prominent sole trader associations, UPTA and ATA were given a seat at the table to ensure the plight of business owners was not overlooked in government discussions, and they were the main force behind the extension of financial aid that was approved in June. However, this was based on the premise that more than 90% of sole traders would restart their business activity after the state of emergency concluded when experts predicted the pandemic would “wind down” until at least October, giving us a chance to recoup summer losses. As we know, this prediction did not come true. With this in mind, the associations have made the following proposals for the Government to consider:

  1. To extend employees on furlough to 1st April 2021
  2. To extend sole trader special financial aid (the version that is compatible with continuing their business activity) until 1st April 2021
  3. Re-estabishing extraordinary financial aid for those businesses whose activity has been impacted by current limitations or by new outbreaks
  4. To reduce Social Security contributions until 1st April 2021 for those sole traders who have suffered losses equal or superior to 50% in the 3rd Quarter 2020 compared to the 3rd Quarter 2019
  5. To extend ICO line of credit until 1st April 2021 as well as a grace period up to 24 months
  6. To temporarily reduce IVA (mainland Spain equivalent of IGIC) up to 50% for hospitality, tourism and culture sectors plus hairdressers and gyms
  7. To increase deferment of taxes until 1st April 2021
  8. Tax relief for sole traders (personal tax) and companies (corporate tax) who have maintained the same level of employment in 2020
  9. To extend limits of those business that operate under the fixed-tax system (módulos) until 2022
  10. To create a network of business mentors to help prevent the risk of bankruptcy and advisory services geared towards digitalizing businesses

The presidents of both associations are adamant their negotiations with the government will be successful resulting in new lines of financial aid and credit to struggling business owners, deeming it “inconceivable” to question that assistance will be made available during these difficult times, especially since some regions have returned to a lockdown state.

According to Social Security, more than 140.000 sole traders have received financial aid and that more than 154 million euros have been spent in this concept so far.

We can only hope that within the next few days, more information comes to light and definitive agreements are reached to provide business owners with the assistance they need and deserve to keep their businesses afloat. I wish you all the best and as always, stay safe.

If you would like to receive advice for your own business or if you are looking to change asesoría, please contact me for further information to arrange a personalized consult.

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