The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Spain ( Hammond )

No. 439

Sir: The Department refers to a despatch of January 31, 1928, addressed to it by the American Consulate General at Barcelona, Spain,33 a copy of which despatch is understood to have been transmitted to your Embassy, relative to the taxation in Spain of motor vehicles owned by American consular officers.

Since it appears from the despatch above referred to that the automobile tax in Spain is a substantial one, there would seem to be little doubt that it should be considered rather in the light of a tax than that of a fee.

Article XV of the Treaty of 1902 between the United States and Spain34 provides in part that:

“All consular officers, citizens or subjects of the country which has appointed them,… shall … be exempt from all National, State, Provincial and Municipal taxes except on real estate situated in, or capital invested in the country to which they are commissioned. …”

The Department considers that under the above mentioned Treaty provisions American consular officers in Spain should properly be exempt from taxation on automobiles owned by them. From the despatch under reference, it would seem that the Spanish Government [Page 799] does not take the stand that exemption should not be granted but insists on reciprocity as a requisite for granting it.

In bringing this matter to the attention of the Spanish Foreign Office you will advert to the foregoing considerations, adding that should any cases in which Spanish consular officers in the United States are taxed on automobiles owned by them be brought to the attention of this Government it will endeavor to uphold the right of Spanish consular officers to be exempt from taxation on account of their ownership of automobiles.

A copy of this instruction has been transmitted to the Consulate General and you are requested to advise it, as well as the Department as to the result of your representations to the Spanish authorities.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
W. R. Castle, Jr.