On January 23, 2018, the Spanish Newspaper based in Madrid “El País” broke the news that the Colombian Singer Shakira (full name Shakira Isabel Mebarak) is being reportedly investigated by the Spanish tax authorities for tax evasion. Let’s explore the alleged Shakira tax evasion investigation in more detail.
Alleged Shakira Tax Evasion Investigation is Centered Around Spanish Tax Residency
At the core of the alleged investigation of potential Shakira tax evasion lies the concept of tax residency. Under the tax laws of Spain, a person who resides in Spain for at least 183 days during a calendar tax year may generally be considered a Spanish tax resident. As such, he would be required to disclose his worldwide income on a Spanish tax return.
It should be noted (as Sherayzen Law Office has pointed out in the past) that Spain is a very strict tax jurisdiction in many aspects, especially when it comes to tax evasion. In fact, it is the only country in the European Union which has a form similar to the IRS Form 8938 – Spanish Modelo 720.
Alleged Shakira Tax Evasion Investigation: 2011-2014 Tax Residency of Shakira in Question
El País reported that the Spanish tax authorities focused their investigation of Shakira on tax years 2011 through 2014. The singer has claimed that she was resident of the Bahamas at that time. Shakira’s lawyer stated that Shakira lived in several places over the years due to her lifestyle as an international singer and has been in full compliance with tax laws of all relevant jurisdictions.
The tax authorities reportedly reached a different conclusion – that Shakira was a Spanish tax resident during the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. It is not clear whether the alleged conclusion was arrived at using direct evidence or indirect evidence. El País, for example, stated that the Spanish Tax Agency investigators went to her hairdresser in Spain to establish that Shakira lived in Spain.
It should be pointed out that Shakira officially declared herself as a Spanish tax resident in 2015 due to her marriage with the Spanish soccer player Gerard Pique.
Paradise Papers Could Have Prompted the Investigation of Potential Shakira Tax Evasion
The alleged Shakira Tax Evasion investigation also has an interesting twist. It appears that it could have been prompted by the famous Paradise Papers in November of 2017.
The Paradise Papers is a collection of 13.4 million of files that were stolen from the client files of Appleby law firm, a Singapore-based trust company, as well as company registries of nineteen different jurisdictions.
According to the Paradise Papers, Shakira transferred some or all of her intellectual property and trademarks to Tournesol, Ltd., (“Tournesol”) a company registered in Malta in 2009. Shakira is the sole shareholder of this company. Tournesol increased its capital by 31 million euros through an interest-free loan agreement with ACER Entertainment, a related company owned by Shakira and registered in Luxembourg.
Alleged Shakira Tax Evasion Investigation: Potential Penalties
Shakira’s estimated net worth is $200 million. This means that her tax fraud case will involve large numbers, possibly in the millions of dollars.
It appears that if Shakira is found guilty of tax fraud that is in excess of 600,000 euros, she could be facing from two to six years in prison for each count of tax fraud. Moreover, she could be facing a fine of six times the amount of underpaid tax. It should be pointed out that the charges will most likely focus on the years 2012-2014, because 2011 appears to be barred by the Spanish statute of limitations.
Shakira’s celebrity status will not have any impact on the Spanish tax authorities. In fact, she now joined a list of many celebrities who have been investigated by the Spanish Tax Agency, including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.