Benefits and Incentives for Freelancers in Spain: A Comprehensive Guide

James McKenna
Written by James McKenna
on abril 28, 2023 9 min of reading

In amongst the maze of paperwork and admin that we self-employed workers enjoy 🙄, it’s easy to lose sight of the great benefits and incentives for freelancers in Spain. Added to that are the mixed messages about never getting unemployment benefits and having no sick leave.

At Xolo, we want to put all the myths and whispers to bed by giving you a comprehensive guide to the benefits on offer for solos like you. 

We’ll cover tax deductions, maternity and paternity leave, as well as some lesser-known tips and tricks for professional development and access to grants and funding. You’ll also find eligibility requirements, tips to apply for each benefit, and the level of help you can qualify for.

But to take advantage of these special deals, expats will need to know some of the key local lingo:

Glossary of terms: Benefits and incentives for freelancers in Spain

  • Autónomo/a: A self-employed worker
  • RETA (Régimen Especial de Trabajadores Autónomos): Special Scheme for Self-Employed Workers
  • Seguridad Social: Social Security
  • Prestación por desempleo: Unemployment benefit
  • Pensión: Pension
  • Deducciones fiscales: Tax deductions
  • Incentivos fiscales: Tax incentives
  • Subvenciones: Grants
  • Baja por enfermedad: Sick leave
  • Jubilación: Retirement
  • Edad de jubilación: Retirement age
  • Jubilación anticipada: Early retirement
  • Permiso de maternidad: Maternity leave
  • Permiso de paternidad: Paternity leave
  • Formación: Training
  • Desarrollo profesional: Professional development
  • Emprendedor/a: Entrepreneur

Unemployment benefits for freelancers in Spain

To kick off our list, we’ll look at unemployment benefits — one of the most misunderstood areas of self-employed life. Technically, there is no traditional unemployment benefit for freelancers in Spain, but if you meet a stringent list of requirements, you can qualify for a financial boost. Beware that it is relatively uncommon for these benefits to be granted to self-employed workers, so we’d recommend running your case by a legal expert first. 

Who is eligible for unemployment benefits?

To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must be registered as a freelancer with Social Security and be up to date on your contributions — also known as the freelance quota — for at least the past 12 months. Unemployment benefits are also only available to those who haven’t reached the regular retirement age.

Clearly, the reason for your application must be non-voluntary. You can’t just shut up shop and ask for help. Typical issues include losing a professional license or force majeure, but special attention is given to cases of divorce or gender violence. 

How to apply for unemployment benefit

To apply for unemployment benefits as a freelancer in Spain, you'll need to visit your local Public State Employment Service (SEPE) office, but make sure to book an appointment first. SEPE offers a pre-appointment form that you should take, along with the following documentation:

  • Proof of social security payments
  • Proof of cessation of activities and the reasons for it
  • Your foreign identity (NIE) card.

As another top tip — you must apply within 30 days of stopping work, so don't wait too long!

Amount and duration of unemployment benefits

Spain is remarkably generous in the amount of unemployment benefits it offers, but it depends on your previous social security contributions. Generally, the benefit is calculated as 70% of the average monthly contribution base over the last 12 months

The duration of the benefit is a maximum of 24 months, which is awarded to those who have been contributing for 48 months or longer. The golden rule is the more you've contributed, the longer your benefit will last.

Retirement and pensions for freelancers in Spain

Even if you’re still a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed twenty-something, planning for your retirement is always a smart move. Like its unemployment benefits, retirement in Spain is among the best in Europe, with relatively high pensions and a low cost of living. However, the case is slightly different for freelancers, so let’s take a closer look.

Retirement age

In Spain, the legal retirement age for self-employed workers is currently 67, or 65 if you've contributed to social security for at least 38 years and 6 months. Keep in mind that these requirements may change in the future, so it's a good idea to stay up-to-date on the latest regulations.

Early retirement options

Feeling eager to start your retirement adventures? Spain offers early retirement options for self-employed workers, allowing you to stop working up to two years before the legal retirement age. To be eligible for early retirement, you'll need to have contributed to social security for at least 35 years and meet certain age and contribution requirements. Be aware, though, that early retirement usually results in a reduced pension, so weigh your options carefully!

Contributory pensions

Just like with the unemployment benefits we discussed earlier, you need to be registered with Social Security and make regular contributions to be eligible for a contributory pension. Keep in mind that the more you contribute, the higher your pension will be. So, it's a good idea to plan and contribute accordingly!

Non-contributory pensions

If you haven't contributed enough to social security or aren't eligible for a contributory pension, don't worry. Spain also offers non-contributory pensions for those who are in financial need and meet certain requirements. These pensions are meant to ensure that everyone has a minimum income during retirement.

Eligibility and pension calculation

To receive a pension in Spain, you must meet the minimum contribution period, currently 15 years. The amount of your pension is calculated based on your average contributions over the last 25 years before retirement. So, the more you've contributed during that time, the higher your pension will be.

Tax deductions and incentives for freelancers in Spain

If you’re a frequent visitor to our blog for expat freelancers in Spain, you might already have a good idea about tax deductions and incentives. There are a bunch of benefits that make for enticing reading if you’re a freelancer in Spain looking to save some dolla dolla bills 💰(or euros, whatever).

General tax deductions

All freelancers in Spain qualify for a bunch of tax deductions that can help you lower your tax bill. Common deductions include:

  • Expenses directly related to your business (e.g., office supplies, equipment, and rent)
  • Vehicle expenses (if used for business purposes)
  • Professional insurance premiums
  • Training and professional development expenses
  • Social security contributions

Remember, to claim these deductions, you'll need to keep accurate records and receipts and submit them every quarter — so make sure you stay organized!

Industry-specific deductions

Depending on your line of work, you might be eligible for additional tax deductions specific to your industry. For example, artists, writers, and performers can deduct certain expenses related to their creative endeavors. Make sure to research the specific deductions available for your industry and keep track of any expenses that qualify.

Incentives for new self-employed workers

If you're new to the freelance game, Spain has some cool incentives to help you get started. For example, during your first year of being self-employed, you can enjoy a reduced flat rate for your social security contributions. Additionally, new self-employed men under 30 and women under 35 get a juicy 30% reduction in their social security contributions for an additional 12 months after the initial reduced flat rate period ends. Pretty sweet, huh?

How to claim tax deductions and social security incentives

To claim tax deductions and take advantage of incentives, you'll need to include them on your income tax return. Make sure you're familiar with the tax forms and deadlines, as missing them can result in fines or losing out on valuable deductions. 

To claim social security incentives, you’ll need to apply for them when you register as a freelancer with the Social Security team.

Sick leave for freelancers in Spain

We know you're a tough bunch, but sometimes even the strongest of us need a break to recover from illness or injury. To be prepared in advance, read on.

Eligibility for sick leave

As with all benefits and incentives for freelancers in Spain, to be eligible for sick leave (la baja laboral), you’ve got to be registered with social security and up to date on your contributions. You'll also need a medical certificate from your doctor to confirm that you're unable to work due to illness or injury.

How to apply for sick leave

Applying for sick leave is pretty straightforward. Once you have your medical certificate, you'll need to submit it to your local Social Security office within 15 days of the start of your leave. If your illness or injury is work-related, you'll also need to notify your insurance company, which is responsible for covering occupational risks.

Duration and amount of sick leave benefits

The duration of your sick leave benefits depends on your recovery time, as determined by your doctor. Generally, you can receive benefits for up to 365 days, with a possible extension of 180 days if needed.

As for the amount you'll receive, it depends on your social security contributions. For common illnesses or non-work-related injuries, you'll get 60% of your contribution base from day 21 to day 365, and 75% if your leave is extended beyond 365 days. 

For work-related injuries or occupational diseases, you'll receive 75% of your contribution base starting from day one of your leave.

Maternity or paternity leave for freelancers in Spain

Bringing a new little human into the world is an exciting adventure, but it takes up even more time than your Netflix addiction (I know, right?). Therefore, the government will help you through the teething stage (literally) of having a baby. 

Eligibility for maternity or paternity leave

Firstly, the obvious: You’ve got to be up to date on your social security payments and, you know, you’ve got to have a newborn baby.

Additionally, you’ll need a minimum contribution period depending on your age: 

  • For under 21s: 90 days within the last 7 years, or 180 days throughout your working life.
  • Between 21 and 26: 180 days within the last 7 years, or 360 days throughout your working life
  • Over 26: 360 days within the last 7 years, or 1,080 days throughout your working life.

How to apply for maternity paternity leave

To apply for maternity or paternity leave, you'll need to submit an application to your local Social Security office, along with a medical certificate (in the case of maternity leave) or the child's birth or adoption certificate (for paternity leave). Make sure you apply within 15 days to take advantage of this benefit!

Duration of maternity or paternity leave

In Spain, maternity leave for freelancers lasts 16 weeks, while paternity leave is 8 weeks. Both types of leave can be extended under certain circumstances, like multiple births, adoption, or if your baby has special needs. Plus, if you're expecting a new addition to the family and have a partner who's also self-employed, you can share your leave to balance your personal and professional lives better.

The amount received for maternity or paternity leave

During your maternity or paternity leave, you'll receive a cash injection equal to 100% of your average daily contribution base during the last six months before your leave. In layman’s terms, if you’ve been paying the minimum fee of €230 per month for the past 12 months, your minimum contribution base will be €751.63, and that is what you will receive each month.

Maternity and paternity leave is one of the most supportive benefits and incentives for freelancers in Spain, so be sure not to miss out! 

Advantages for freelance parents in Spain

In addition to Spain’s family-focused maternity and paternity leave, there are a bunch of extra advantages to freelance work for parents juggling childcare and freelance work at the same time. 

Flexibility and work-life balance

One of the greatest perks of being a freelancer is the flexibility it offers. You can create your own schedule, work from home, and adjust your workload to suit your family's needs. This can be a game-changer for parents, who can be present for their children while still pursuing their professional goals.

Freelance quota discounts

You can get a 100% discount on your social security contributions for up to 12 months for the following reasons:

  • You’re caring for a child under 12.
  • You’re caring for a family member with cerebral palsy, a mental illness or intellectual disability greater than 33%, or a physical disability above 65%.

However, you have to hire somebody to replace you for the entire period and stay registered with social security for the six months following the end of the benefit.

Similarly, freelance women can request an 80% discount on the freelance quota for 24 months after returning to work after maternity leave. 

Finally, you’re also eligible for a 75% discount when caring for a minor with cancer or another serious illness. 

Tax deductions

You can get some welcome tax deductions during parenthood, including:

  • Deductions up to €1200 per year for nursery and education centers for children up to three.
  • Deductions between €1200 and €2400 per year for large families, with the amount corresponding to the size of the family.
  • Deductions up to €1200 per year for caregivers and personal assistants to disabled children.

Regional benefits

On a more local level, many regions offer a variety of benefits and incentives for freelancers in Spain, such as extended flat-rate contributions for mothers and smooth pathways for women in tech to set up businesses. 

Training and professional development for self-employed workers in Spain

We freelancers are an ambitious bunch, and to stay ahead, we have to keep our skills fresh. Luckily for you, there are some nice provisions for you to take advantage of.

Access to training programs

Spain has numerous government-led and private training programs designed for self-employed workers and entrepreneurs. These programs are often subsidized or offered at a reduced cost, making them accessible and affordable. You can find courses covering a wide range of topics, from business management and digital marketing to industry-specific skills and certifications. Whether it’s training workshops, conferences, or even online courses, freelancers can deduct the costs from their taxable income

Xolo, keeping you on top of the benefits and incentives for freelancers in Spain

We hope this guide has settled some of the fears you’ve had about kicking off your freelance life. 

Clearly, providing every tiny detail of the benefits and incentives for freelancers in Spain would take an encyclopedia (remember those?), so we’d always recommend taking advice from experts when claiming. 

That's where Xolo comes in!

Our team of experts can answer any questions you may have about the ins and outs of freelance benefits in Spain, but that’s not all.

Xolo’s all-in-one platform simplifies all the nitty-gritty of solo life so you can concentrate on building your business. 

✍️Registration as a freelancer

📤Invoicing and expense tracking 

🆓Free quarterly tax returns

Of course, you could struggle through a month of work before coming back to us. But ain’t nobody got time for that. 

Sign up for Xolo today and take full advantage of all the benefits and incentives for freelancers in Spain!

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About James

James McKenna has been a freelancer since 2017, working in subtitling, translation, and his main passion — writing. He loves nothing more than falling down a rabbit hole, a habit that has helped him specialize in areas as diverse as biotech, climate change, higher education, and business strategy.

Based in Barcelona, James learned the ropes the hard way, making mistakes that turned into valuable learning experiences. After working hard to establish himself, he is now working smart, and is always on the lookout for ways to streamline his business.

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