Money in inactive bank account after 20 years of Spanish State ownership

by Lorraine Williamson
forgotten money

MADRID – If someone does not use a bank account for yearsthe tax authorities of Spain will claim this money and it will become the full property of the Spanish State. The State annually collects around €12 million in forgotten money’. 

That well-known children’s account that was opened after birth to save for a study or own house, an account that you open when you go to college to which the scholarship is deposited… Everyone has such an account that was opened years ago and where little happens. 

Money after 20 years of inactivity to Spanish State 

Financial institutions consider a bank account inactive when 20 years have passed without the account holder making changes or transactions. You may think; “the money is safe there” but that is not the case. After the expiry of these 20 years, the account holder no longer owns the money in the account; the amount present then becomes the property of the State. 

Regulated by law in Spain 

This is not something temporary made up in between; this is laid down in Article 18 of Law 33/2003 on State Assets and Liabilities. Before the amount of an inactive account is transferred to the State, the financial institution must inform the account holder at least three months in advance by registered letter. 

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However, this method is far from foolproof. Such a letter will not be sent if the shipping costs are higher than what is on the invoice. Furthermore, the letter is also sent to the last known address. So the letter often does not reach the correct owner, for example in the case of a move. After a publication in the Official Gazette BOE of Spain, the remaining money is transferred to the State. 

Spanish treasury filled with €12 million annually thanks to ‘forgotten money’ 

The fact that this occurs quite often is apparent from the data from the Ministry of Finance. In 2019, the Ministry collected €12.57 million from inactive bank accounts. In 2018 that was a total of €11.13 million and a year earlier it was €11.25 million. 

How to prevent ‘forgotten money’ from going to the Spanish State? 

If people in Spain want to prevent this, it is important that the bank is always aware of the current address details. However, it is always important to check whether there are still lost accounts somewhere. If that is the case, it is advisable to transfer the amount to an account in use and cancel the old account by writing to the institution itself. 

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