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Differences between CNAE and IAE


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Is the CNAE the same as the IAE?

No, the IAE (Tax on Economic Activities) is a tributewhile the CNAE is only one classification of enterprises for statistical purposes.

It is often confuses because the IAE is also a numerical code where the specifies the economic activity we carry outbut in order to tax. In fact, The two need not necessarily coincide.

The National Code of Economic Activities (CNAE) and the Tax on Economic Activities (IAE) are two concepts related with the economic activity of companies in Spainbut they have different purposes and applications.

Here are some of their similarities and differences:


  • Classification of Activities: Both systems seek to classify the economic activities of enterprises.
  • Code structure: Both the CNAE and the IAE use numerical codes to identify the economic activity.
  • Scope of application: Both are used in Spain and are required for various administrative and fiscal formalities.


  1. Objective:
    1. CNAE: Its main purpose is statistical. It is used to homogenise and standardise the classification of economic activities at national and European level.
    2. IAE: Its purpose is fiscal. It is a tax levied on the exercise of economic activities in Spanish territory.
  2. Mandatory:
    1. CNAE: All companies must assign a CNAE to their main activities (at least one main activity) when they are created. Companies in their articles of incorporation and the self-employed when they register with the special social security scheme.
    2. IAE: All companies are obliged to register in all IAE eipifrices where they are going to start an activity. The start date indicates when the activity will start.
  3. Number of Codes:
    1. CNAE: Generally, more than one CNAE can be assigned if the enterprise has multiple activities. The obligation is only with the main one
    2. IAE: Several IAE headings can be assigned depending on the activities to be carried out, and this may influence the tax payable.
    3. Although the codes and headings are different, there is an equivalence that you can see in this one
  4. Start date of activities
    1. CNAE no start date to be marked
    2. IAE in forms 036 or 036, the date of commencement of activity must be marked.
  5. Depth of Detail:
    1. CNAE: It tends to be more general and less detailed.
    2. IAE: It has a more specific level of detail, reflected in the headings, which can be more precise about the company's activity.
  6. Fiscal Impact:
    1. CNAE: No direct impact on company taxation.
    2. IAE: The IAE code may determine the amount of tax payable and may require different formal obligations.
  7. Updates and Changes:
    1. CNAE: Less frequent changes, more stable because only the main activity is required to be shown
    2. IAE: There may be more frequent changes as the company undertakes new activities.
  8. International use:
    1. CNAE: It is an adaptation of the European NACE system , so it has equivalences in other EU countries.
    2. IAE: It is specific to Spain.





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Jaime Cavero

Presidente de la Aceleradora mentorDay. Inversor en startups e impulsor de nuevas empresas a través de Dyrecto, DreaperB1 y mentorDay.
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