The TEFL Iberia guide to becoming autónomo


You’ve weighed up the pros and cons of going autónomo and you’ve decided you’re going to go for it. Making that decision is just the first step – the process of becoming autónomo can seem bewilderingly complicated, so we’ve put together a rough guide to going autónomo – the forms you need, the offices where you have to hand them in and the details of some English-speaking gestors.

Registering as autónomo

In order to register as autónomo, you need to have a NIE, a social security number and a bank account to pay the social security charges.

Getting an appointment with Hacienda

Hacienda/Agencia Tributaria is the Spanish tax agency, and as autónomo you’ll use their website to pay your income tax (IRPF).

To get an appointment, you need to go to their website and fill out the form. (A heads up – the website isn’t secure for some reason so you might get a warning message.) You’ll be asked for your name and NIE. Once you’re signed in, you need to select a procedure – Selección Procedimiento. Choose the option of Gestión Censal y acreditación certificado digital and then 036/037 IAE NIF Etiquetas y cambio de domicilio.

Once you’ve completed these steps, you need to enter your postcode. It’s always a five digit code, and Barcelona starts with 08. Then you can confirm your appointment – just pick a time and date and click on confirmación. The office in Barcelona is on Passeig de Josep Carner, 27, just opposite the Maritime Museum.

At your appointment

You need to bring your NIE, social security number and bank account number to the appointment.  The funcionario (civil servant) will ask you when you plan to start freelancing and what you’ll be doing. Once you’ve told them that you’re planning to teach they’ll give you a code for teaching. Each profession has a code, which determines whether or not you pay IVA (sales tax). Educational services are exempt from this, which is good news. You’ll then fill out Modelo 036 / 037, a form which registers you as autónomo with Hacienda.

Getting your Electronic Certificate (Certificado Digital)

This will let you identify yourself legally and do things such as sign documents and pay your taxes to Hacienda. You can fill out the form here. Then you need to install the FRMT certificates. Once you’ve applied for your User Certificate, they’ll send you an email with your code. You need go to one of the Seguridad Social offices (check here for a list of their Barcelona offices) with your ID to prove you are who you say you are. After that you’ll be able to download your Certificado Digital.

Register at Seguridad Social 

The social security offices are all over Barcelona. Head along there and let the person on reception know that you’d like to become autónomo. They’ll give you the Modelo TA0521 form to fill out and a number. Once you’ve been called up, you need to provide your social security number, your ID, a copy of Modelo 036/037 (the form you got from Hacienda) and the FNMT-RCM code that you got online. Once you’re registered there, that’s you done – you are now officially autónomo. The monthly fee is 260€, though discounts are offered for the first 18 months of being autónomo for men under 30 and women under 35. This means you’re now paying for your healthcare and putting money towards a pension – better get out there and starting working!

Finding a gestor

Some freelancers do their own paperwork, but given the labyrinthine nature and constant shifting goalposts of Spanish bureaucracy most people choose to spend money over time and hire a gestor. Language teaching isn’t subject to IVA (the Spanish version of VAT) which simplifies things, but you still need to pay income tax (IRPF) on account of your annual income tax liability, determined in the annual “Declaración de Renta” and file a quarterly return. You can also reduce your tax bill by writing off expenses for things like your laptop, metro tickets, books and other teaching materials, your mobile, some of your electricity and water, your wifi – basically anything that can be viewed as necessary for work.

Gestor fees can vary but teaching English is relatively simple, paperwork-wise. Spain Accounting, an English-speaking company on Rambla Catalunya, charges 70€ plus IVA per quarter to prepare tax returns (though they may charge more if your data is complicated). Guillermo Lovera is another English-speaking gestor who charges between 25€ and 60€ a month, again depending on how complicated your details are. You’ll pay more if you’re after fiscal advice, but if you just want someone to file the paperwork with Hacienda the fees are quite reasonable. There’s even online gestors which charge very small fees.

Are you considering going autónomo? Or, if you already are, how has your experience been? Is there anything else you’d like to see included in this guide? If so, let us know!

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