More than a million (1,026,000) Spanish businesspeople visited a notary in 2015 to execute nearly 700,000 acts connected with the world of business and the different moments in the lifespan of an enterprise. Phases ranging from incorporation to winding-up, along with transformation, changes to the board of directors, modifications to articles of association, capital increases and reductions, to name but a few.
In fact, incorporation of companies (102,173 in 2015), and dissolution and winding-up procedures (41,058 acts) account for 15% and 5.6%, respectively, of all services performed. Appointments of members of executive bodies amounted to 31%, while 13.7% were terminations and resignations (94,080 acts), according to figures from the General Council of the Spanish Notariat.
Since 2014, the number of companies incorporated in Spain has once again climbed above the hundred thousand mark (100,052 in 2014, 102,383 in 2015), while still remaining well below the figure of 149,107 of 2007. A slight increase, but growth nonetheless. What has changed over the years is the time required to start an enterprise. As José Manuel García Collantes, President of the General Council of the Notariat, explains: "An enterprise can be incorporated via remote electronic channels in 24 hours at any Spanish notary office, receiving a very positive evaluation in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2015 report".
The fact of the matter is that Spanish notaries can perform online all the steps required in the process, such as securing the company name, the tax ID, payment of taxes, presentation of an electronic copy to the Register, etc., most of which had to be performed separately by the citizen involved, entailing greater travel time, worry and expense. Out of all the companies set up in 2015, nearly 22%, some 22,000, were express and simplified express companies (with the procedures being performed electronically from the notary office), representing an increase of more than 8% compared with 2014.
The swiftness that the technological development of the Notariat has brought to the founding of enterprises is emphasised in the Doing Business 2015 report, which had already in previous editions indicated the effectiveness of the work performed by notaries in the online incorporation of companies, asserting in this latest edition that "among the most important agents in promoting the use of the CIRCE (Information Centre and Enterprise Creation Network) are notaries, as they have the required knowledge and work in close partnership with entrepreneurs".
In 2009, the US passed an Act (which is still in force) known as Levin-Grassley-McCaskill, which focused on the notarial model to provide transparency and legal protection in the process of setting up a company. The Act indicates that "in the United States the incorporation of around two million corporations and limited liability companies is permitted each year, without knowing - or even without asking - who the beneficial owners of these companies are". As a result, "criminals are exploiting this weakness in our incorporation practices in the US. They set up new corporations and limited liability companies, using these entities to commit offences such as drugs trafficking, money laundering, tax evasion, financial fraud and corruption". In Spain, and in most EU countries, notaries are responsible for the incorporation of companies. Their function provides entrepreneurs and society at large with legal certainty and peace of mind, since they oversee the legality of the whole process.