Spain's government is looking at introducing a nationwide tourist tax to be charged by individual municipalities as part of a revamp of local financing - both municipal and regional.
A commission of advisors, made up of representatives of the national government and the federation of municipalities and provinces, has presented a recommendation to the national finance ministry which, were it to be adopted, would allow any municipality in Spain to levy a tourist tax. At present, there are only regional tourist taxes - two of them: one in Catalonia and the other in the Balearics.
The tourist tax proposal has been made with town hall financing in mind, and the report given to the government argues that it is "reasonable" for tourists to contribute to the financing of local public services. It goes hand in hand with negotiations for changes to regional financing, with the Balearic government to the fore in wanting changes. These, as Madrid has been saying for some months, will have to be agreed by the regions. The national government is willing to amend the financing system, but it is looking for some consensus before going ahead.
The conference of presidents is the mechanism for arriving at consensus, though the national government could introduce changes even if there isn't consensus. Two regions - Andalusia and Madrid - are opposed to municipal tourist taxes, and there may be others, so the government could find itself clashing with them. Andalusia is obstructing Seville's wish for a tax, while the Madrid regional government vetoed one in the city of Madrid. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that the municipal tourist tax could be approved by the end of the year for implementation at a time yet to be established.
The recommendation makes clear that the tax would not be obligatory. Town halls would therefore be able to decide to implement it or not. In Majorca there are bound to be town halls which would want to be able to, and certain mayors have already expressed their support. The town halls were distinctly put out when they didn't receive any direct funding from last year's tourist tax revenue.
The report also advises that there shouldn't be duplication, while it also deals with harmonisation. In order to avoid discrepancies and indeed confusion, the tourist tax should be much the same everywhere. This therefore raises two issues. One is that the rate of the tax should be similar or the same wherever it applied. The second is that a municipal tax would be given precedence over a regional one, which would have to go in order to prevent duplication. In fact, the advisors say that administration of the tourist tax should be handed to the town halls. The Balearic government would fight tooth and nail against this, arguing - with some justification - that it would be an invasion of autonomous powers.
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