To declare or not to declare?
By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: common reporting standards, Exchange of Information, Italy, Residency
This article is published on: 20th September 2017
That was the question of the summer 2017!
During the long hot summer of 2017 I had a number of people calling me for advice on when and which assets to declare which to date had not been declared in Italy. A troubling question indeed.
A number of people who have been living in Italy for many years had recently received letters from their banks, mainly in the UK. This letter had been asking the individuals to inform them of their TIN number: tax Identification Number (codice fiscale or National Insurance to you and I). The main question was why would they need this and what would the consequences be of not providing it.
THE COMMON REPORTING STANDARD
If you are one of those people who read my E-zines, you will know that I have written about this subject over the last few years on numerous occasions, but its worth going over the detail again now, since an automatic sharing of financial information across borders (of which the UK/USA/Italy and most developed countries are party to) will take place before the end of September 2017, if it has not happened already. The information they will receive will be backdated to 1st January 2016.
WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE?
In short, the idea behind the CPS was modelled on a similar idea which the USA put into force before it. That was FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and was designed to circumnavigate the individual to whom any tax liability may be incurred and for the banks and financial institutions with which we hold out money/assets etc, to declare these holdings directly to the relevant tax authorities.
So it no longer became the responsibility of the individual to report their money ‘correctly and honestly’. Now, this information would be reported directly.
The rest of the world has now pretty much followed suit (except notable offshore jurisdictions which are also coming under Governmental pressure to fall in line) and hence the need to get clarification on your country of tax residence and your TIN (Tax Identification Number).
WHAT INFORMATION WILL THEY SHARE ABOUT ME?
Under the Common Reporting Standard the financial information to be reported includes the name, address and tax identification number (where applicable) of the asset owner; the balance/value, interest and dividend payments and gross proceeds from the sale of financial assets.
The financial institutions that need to report include banks, custodian financial institutions, investment entities such as investment funds, certain insurance companies, trusts and foundations.
The tax authority will receive much more information than ever before. Even information it does not need. For example, there is no wealth tax in countries like the UK, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta, but the tax authorities will still receive bank account balances. If this raises any red flags they may investigate where the money came from in the first place.
IS THIS NEW?
Exchange of financial information across Europe has been going on for a long time now and can be traced back to the introduction of the European Savings Tax Directive 2005. The Common Reporting Standard is an enhancement of this.
I explain the Common Reporting Standard as follows:
Imagine a normal spreadsheet in which all tax authorities have been entering information regarding us for years. The Italian, Spanish, French and British authorities all created their own spreadsheets with their own column headings and rows. When this was exchanged with another tax authority it would first have to be interpreted before the information could be used. The CRS went one step further. In effect, all countries are now using the same spreadsheet with the same column headings and rows and the data is much easier to interpret. With the help of computers they can identify discrepancies very easily. (This is clearly a simple explanation, but helps understand the concept)
I remember well in 2012 when I was contacted by a number of UK rental property owners who had been legitimately declaring their UK property income in the UK for tax purposes. However, as residents in Italy they had not declared anything. A clear exchange of information took place and the Guardia di Finanza did a significant number of visits to these people to fine them.
SHOULD I TELL THEM?
A logical question would be, what if I don’t tell the bank or financial institution of my TIN?
The banks would refer to the country in which they have the most information about you. It logically concludes that if you have a UK address on a UK bank account, but live in Italy, and have received a letter to confirm your TIN then the bank already suspects that your tax residency has not been correctly declared. It would be up to you to prove otherwise were you subject to an investigation.
What would happen if I gave my TIN in my country of origin?
If, for example, you gave your National Insurance number in the UK, but were living in Italy, then the UK authorities would consider you a UK tax resident and tax you there. That may be your preference, but should any institution or Government suspect that this is being declared falsely then the consequences could be severe. The logical conclusion here is that if you are making payments in Italy on a regular basis and/or sending money to an Italian bank account then this information would be red flagged.
So what should you do if you are NOT ‘in regola’ yet?
From the people that I spoke with this summer, it seemed that a number were afraid of giving this information because it would highlight any money/assets which have not been declared correctly to date. The sad news is that you are probably too late. They know already, hence why you received the letter.
My advice is always the same. The past cannot be corrected but you can change your future. Hiding and hoping the problem will go away is no longer an option. The only solution is to get your financial situation ‘in regola’.
WHAT WILL I PAY?
How you declare your money and how much you will pay is another question and one that can only be calculated by a commercialista, but it does make sense to have a look at your whole financial situation and see what damage limitation you can do by planning efficiently as a tax resident in Italy. That is my specialty and I always recommend you contact me before going directly to the commercialista because there may be ways to mitigate any tax burden before you make that first tax declaration. Once the first tax declaration is in, any subsequent changes can be difficult and costly to rectify.
“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way”
What’s next for GBP versus EURO
By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, Inflation, Italy
This article is published on: 29th March 2017
Whatever you think about Brexit and the effects it is having and the effects it will have I can’t think of a more sudden and bigger impact on most people’s lives than the depreciation of Sterling.
An approximate 20% fall in the currency since the heights of 2015.
Most people I know are able to accommodate this in some way, cutting back on the non-essentials and saving in other areas. However, if it falls further how will that affect us?
So, I thought I would do some digging around and contact some financial institutions to find out their opinion on the future of Sterling.
Let me start with a caveat to this article: Currencies are notoriously unpredictable. Most industry professionals accept that they can’t control them and have little ability to predict them. Predictions are about as effective as looking at ‘Il Meteo’ to see what the days weather is going to be!
HEDGE FUND MANAGERS
Whilst it is impossible to predict currency movements you can guarantee that behind the scenes there is plenty of activity and big positions being taken. I avidly remember when I spoke with someone in the financial markets the morning of Brexit vote +1. The person on the other end of the line told me that he had no idea how the markets were going to react but that fortunes had been made the morning of 24th June 2016 with currency speculators betting against GBP v EUR and USD.
These same speculators love uncertainty as it gives them more influence over the market…in theory. However, given the fact that recent key announcements don’t really seem to be devaluing Sterling any further it gives you the impression that it may have found a level of equilibrium that prices in any current uncertainty…for now.
FAST FORWARD TO MARCH 29TH – BREXIT DAY
I think it is safe to say that post Brexit day Sterling is likely to suffer marginally, purely due to the negative economic notions associated with it. The news flow during this period is, in the main, likely to be negative (unless you read the Daily Express or Daily Mail) and therefore it is reasonable to assume this will have an impact on Sterling and push it further down.
LONG DRAWN OUT NEGOTIATIONS
The negative news is probably already being prepared as I write and therefore we can expect a gush of it next week. However, stretching the time horizon out further into the process the news flow will probably slow to a trickle with occasional floods, dependent on political news on any given day. It is absolutely clear that an advanced economy which has been involved in an economic union for the last 56 years cannot extract itself from this same union in only 2 years and therefore the negotiations ‘could’ continue a lot longer than expected. A long drawn out negotiation with the EU could work in Sterling’s favour and we could see a significant rally.
I think it is also useful to never forget the psychology of people and our cumulative tendency to be over anxious in times of stress and over confident when times are good. This is a classic investment bias and no one is immune to it, not even the greatest minds. Our currency biases are no different. We can easily anchor to an exchange rate that we feel is a ‘natural level’ based on our own experience, but on what basis are we making these assumptions? Are we seeking out all opinion, even that which is contradictory to our own thinking or are we making these assumptions based on information that we seek out to confirm our own opinion?
Maybe Sterling is overly devalued merely on the preconceived notion that its choice to leave the EU is a bad thing. Unfortunately for us we are about to enter uncharted territory and our biases will soon be tested.
LONG TERM FUNDAMENTALS
In reality, it is good to look at the facts, even though understanding our own psychological processes around exchange rates is probably more important. But BEWARE:
What I am about to write may just allow you to ‘anchor’ your perceived idea of where Sterling should be valued based on what you already think. I would encourage you to not let my musings influence your thoughts!
Using long term macro-economic modelling, Sterling looks very undervalued versus the Euro. Without Brexit, you could easily argue that fair value should be around 1.4 euros to the pound, taking into account structural economics only. Assuming Brexit, we can work on the basis of c.1.25 but it could take years to get there.
Productivity is the key driver of this long term model – particularly productivity in the tradable goods sectors. This is likely to suffer after Brexit due to non-tariff barriers to trade (think about the additional overseas regulation and customs regimes that need to be implemented post Brexit). That said productivity growth in the EU is and has been weak and it is unlikely to surge ahead whilst the UK economy recalibrates, which should ultimately limit the damage to Sterling.
Over the medium term, the exchange rate trades within a range of values where 2 or 3 year interest rate expectations would imply it should be.
So the next time you speak with someone and you hear yourself quoting a post Brexit level of 1.25 or a long term rate of 1.4. Make sure you remember where you heard it first and pinch yourself. It’s all theory. The rate is what it is on any given day and there is nothing you can do to influence it!
Currency swings have a major impact on people’s lives. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the rest of your financial affairs: investments, pensions, tax planning etc., are working to maximum effect. If you would like to ensure that all your other financial affairs are in perfect working order then don’t hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on +39 333 649 2356 for a FREE consultation.
Taxation of UK rental income in Italy
By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Exchange of Information, Income Tax, Italy, Property, Tax, taxation of rental property, UK property
This article is published on: 19th March 2017
Since the recent exchange of information between HMRC and the Italian tax authorities on UK rental property owners, I have been asked the question whether rental income (when taxed principally in the UK) will be taxed again in Italy as an Italian resident.
Rental income from properties is dealt with according to the law of the state where the property is situated. This means that you can deduct your expenses in the UK, in entirety and in line with UK law, and then the NET income is declared to HMRC in the UK.
When it comes to the Italian tax declaration the NET UK rental income needs to be declared, along with the tax paid in the UK.
This income is put together with any other income you may have for the year, to be declared in Italy,and a credit is given for the tax already paid in the UK, and the tax is calculated on the normal IRPEF rates (income tax rates in Italy).
In short the NET UK rental income position is what needs to be declared in Italy.
Given the recent clampdown on people who are not declaring their UK rental income in Italy, as Italian residents, this information should help to ease any thoughts of having to pay tax twice.
Of course, all this applies to properties held in other countries as well and not just the UK.
The bottom line is get your affairs ‘in regola’ because it is unlikely to cost you any more than it would in the UK, and you can sleep easy knowing you have done the right thing.
UK PUBLIC SECTOR PENSIONS, BREXIT AND ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP
By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, Italy, Pensions, public sector pensions, QROPS, Retirement, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 1st March 2017
I was watching a nature documentary with my son the other day and we were watching the foraging activities of grizzly bears in North America.
It was interesting from the perspective that they will forage across huge distances in search of different food types to ensure they get the proteins, minerals and vitamins they need to stock up for the long winter ahead of them.
In some ways this behaviour reminded me of the foraging that I sometimes embark upon, across the internet, to ensure that you have all the information you need to weather the seasons ahead. We have lived through some spring and summer seasons, metaphorically speaking, but politically we seem to be entering autumn and possibly winter, depending on your point of view of course. I imagine for those people I know who voted BREXIT, that this is a new dawn. However, I will stick with my view for the purposes of this blog.
I was foraging through the internet last week in search of some information on UK pensions and happened to stumble across an Italian fiscal website which had a summary of the Italian tax treatment of pensions from around the world.
To my surprise, my eyes fell across the following statement in relation to pensions paid from Argentina, UK, Spain, the USA and Venezuela:
‘Le pensioni private sono assoggettate a tassazione solo in Italia, mentre le pensioni pubbliche sono assoggettate a tassazione solo in Italia, se il contribuente ha la nazionalità italiana.’
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
In short, and what caught my eyes was specifically in relation to the tax treatment of public section pensions in Italy.
…….le pensioni pubbliche sono assoggettate a tassazione solo in Italia, se il contribuente ha la nazionalità italiana.’
(Public sector pensions would be those defined as local Government, doctors, nurses, police, firemen, armed forces, teacher etc).
If you are a holder of one of these types of pensions and are resident in Italy, you will likely know that under the double taxation treaty with the UK, in this case, that public sector pensions are only taxed in the UK, for those who are no longer UK resident and are therefore not subjected to taxation in Italy.
However, the above statement implies that if you are an Italian national then this pension would be taxed in Italy. (Taking into account any double taxation credit that would need to be applied). Therefore, Italian tax rates would apply and the pension would not benefit from the application of the UK personal allowance, in Italy, either.
This is clearly important, given BREXIT, and the number of people who were considering or making application for Italian citizenship as a means of resolving the issue of residency. Italian citizenship would define you as an Italian national and tax would apply to a UK public service pension.
DOUBLE TAXATION TREATY
Without wanting to take the words of a website as hard evidence, I did some more foraging and can confirm the words of the double taxation treaty (UK/Italy) as follows:
(2) (a) Any pension paid by, or out of funds created by, a Contracting State or a political or an administrative subdivision or a local authority thereof to any individual in respect of services rendered to that State or subdivision or local authority thereof shall be taxable only in that State.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of sub-paragraph (2)(a) of this Article, such pension shall be taxable only in the other Contracting State if the individual is a national of and a resident of that State.
THE BREXIT PROBLEM JUST KEEPS GETTING BIGGER
So, here we have another BREXIT problem which has now arisen as part of further investigation. I would suggest that Italian citizenship, for those with UK civil service pensions, needs to be thought out carefully and planned financially, before any action is taken.
Italy – Thinking about taxes?
By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Banking, BREXIT, EU Select committee, Italy, Tax
This article is published on: 14th February 2017
Tax in Italy can seem complicated but with careful financial planning it needn’t be.
As a fiscally resident individual in Italy you are subject to taxation on your worldwide income (from employment, pensions or investments), assets, realised capital gains and the capital itself. The rates depend on the types of income you generate and which assets you hold. This means you are required to declare all your financial affairs no matter where they might be located or generated in the world.
Tax on Income
If you are in receipt of a pension income and it is being paid from a private pension or occupational pension provider overseas or you are in receipt of a state pension then that income has to be declared on your Italian tax return. Certain exemptions apply for Government service pensions.
It is a similar picture for income generated from employment. This is a slightly more complicated issue that depends on many factors. If you have any questions in this area you can contact Gareth Horsfall on email@example.com
Investment income and capital gains
Interest from savings, income from investments in the form of dividends and other non-earned income payments are taxed at a flat percentage rate. The same applies to realised capital gains.
Some wealth tax may apply on the value of your investments each year as well. This is charged on the capital value as at the 31st December each year
Property which is located overseas is taxed in 2 ways. Firstly, there is the tax on the income itself and, secondly, a tax on the value of the property.
1. The income from property overseas.
Overseas net property income (after allowable expenses) is added to your other income for the year and taxed at your highest rate of income tax in Italy.
2. The other tax is on the value of the property itself.
The value on which this is calculated is the equivalent of the Italian cadastral value of the overseas property. The value, on which the tax is charged, depends on whether the property is located inside the EU or not. A credit may be applicable depending on where your property is located.
Taxes on Assets
1. Banks accounts and deposits
A fixed charge is applied, per annum, per bank account, held overseas. Minimum balances apply.
2. Other financial assets
The wealth tax on other foreign-owned assets (IVAFE), covers shares, bonds, funds, cryptocurrencies, gold, art or other portfolio assets that you may hold. The tax is charged on the value as of 31st December each year.
Placing your assets in a suitably compliant Italian investment structure can help reduce taxes and adminstrative burden and aid in your financial planning in Italy.
You might pay more than you need to?
This is a general list of the taxes that could affect you when resident in Italy. If you haven’t conducted a financial planning exercise before moving to or since moving to Italy, you could be paying more than you need to. Our experience is that most people are.
We can, in most cases, identify a number of financial planning opportunities for individuals looking to move to, or already living in Italy, to protect, reduce, and avoid certain taxes.
The Spectrum IFA Group representing Expats in the ‘Exiting the EU Select Committee’
By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, EU Select committee, europe-news, Italy, Spectrum-IFA Group, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 2nd January 2017
Gareth Horsfall from The Spectrum IFA Group in Rome, Italy, will be one of four UK citizens living in the EU who will be representing us at the House of Commons, Westminster, in the ‘Exiting the EU Select committee’, which will be broadcast live on the BBC Parliament and also streamed live over the internet on January 18th between 9am and 12pm. GMT
What is this?
The ‘UK Exiting the EU Committee’ (consisting of 20 MP’s) is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Exiting the European Union and matters falling within the responsibilities of associated public bodies.
Why have I been considered as a witness?
I have been involved with a few people in Italy who have been taking a very active part in working behind the scenes to try and safeguard our present rights as UK citizens residing in Europe. A couple of these people thought that because of my particular situation: Italian wife, Italian child, providing financial advice to, mostly, British people living in Italy, being the legal representative of an Italian Ltd company and passporting my UK qualifications into Italy on an equivalence basis, that I might be a good candidate to sit before the select committee and explain the problems that I will face when the UK exits from the EU. I agreed!
It is also an opportunity to explain some of the problems that you will also be facing.
This will be quite an experience and an opportunity for me at the same time. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little overwhelming. However, there are human and economic rights that I feel we must make an effort to try and retain as part of the UK divorce from the EU. On that basis I was willing to put myself forward.
So with this in mind, I would invite you to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what your worries are about the UK’s exit from the EU. I will read everything before I leave next Tuesday (I may not get chance to reply to everyone, but thank you in advance for any views/opinions you have) and I will use whatever information I can to present a strong case for everyone in Italy and all other British citizens living in Europe.
Time to Unite……
….and Wish me luck!
Pensions Time Bomb
By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Final Salary Pension, final salary schemes, Italy, Pensions, QROPS, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 3rd November 2016
It could be said that uncertainty is the nemesis of good long term financial planning and living in today’s world you could be forgiven for throwing your hat in and tucking yourself away for a few years: Hard Brexit, Soft Brexit, Donald Trump, Italian Constitutional Referendum, German and French elections, the rise of nationalism, and the list goes on.
However, time always marches on and we either get left behind or plan forward. No one has ever complained to me (yet) about finding ways to legally save tax, finding ways to save money, getting better investment returns, or having more money then they had planned for.
So with this in mind I want to return to a subject which I have touched on a few times before but which has been hurled back to the top of the financial planning priority charts: UK Final Salary Pension Schemes.
This article is specifically for anyone who holds any type of corporate final salary pension plan. (It does not relate to the UK state pension or UK government pension schemes, eg Teacher, Doctor, Army etc).
Starting with the bad news
I want to break some bad news to holders of those historically ‘gold plated’, final salary pensions schemes. The schemes that promise you a certain level of income based on your last few years salary level with your employer.
They are no longer gold plated!
This is quite a complex area to try and explain, but let me try and sum it up in a nutshell.
When the population starts living longer and the pension scheme can’t ask anymore contributions from the new members (without crippling them financially), then the cost of looking after the existing retirees for a much longer time than the scheme had anticipated (due to medical advances), becomes much greater than the net new money being put into the scheme.
If this were a family, it would be in debt. A mortgage, it would have defaulted. A company, it would have gone bankrupt.
Another problem is that these pension schemes need such a secure income stream to pay the retirement incomes of the retirees that they have to invest the scheme assets in safe, but incredibly low yielding asset such as Government Bonds.
And there you have the problem. If you make very attractive promises to retirees, based on your calculations many years ago, but the financial landscape changes dramatically during that time, then your original calculations are now totally obsolete. More money out than coming in spells TROUBLE!
If you want to know how bad this situation is, then take a look at these figures. (These show the market value of the company in billions, versus the liability of their long term pension obligations, ‘IN BILLIONS’. The figures are staggering)
|| PENSION LIABILITY
These are the worst in the UK. If these companies had to legally honour their pension liabilities, they would be bankrupt.
But, let’s not be silly about things. The Government would never let companies like this go bankrupt, so they allow them to continue to operate the pension funds off their balance sheets.
And, to make it even more enticing they allow them another ‘get out clause’…outright default!, right into the UK Pension Protection Fund. A UK Government run scheme which guarantees to pay the pensions (up to certain limits) in the event that the company says it can no longer do so.
The burden moves to the taxpayer!
However, as low interest rates and retirees living longer wreck their long term calculations, more and more pension schemes are opting to close down and place their members under the Pension Protection Fund. As more and more members apply, the burden becomes greater on the UK public purse. Do they cut the maximum amount of pension you could receive? What about the benefits you might lose?
These are all very serious questions for people who are currently members of final salary pensions.
However, there is some potential light at the end of the tunnel. A transfer away from the scheme, with a lump sum from which you can invest and take income from, as though you had your own personal pension.
The advantages and disadvantages have to be weighed up but with more schemes in financial difficulty there is a distinct possibility that it might be worth your while.
NOW! is the time to find out the value of your pension
Low interest rates and stress on the pension fund means that transfer values out are at historical highs. The companies are happy to rid themselves of you and will pay handsomely to do so, and the low interest environment means the transfer out values are much higher than you might imagine.
But low interest rates will not continue forever. Brexit and the fall of GBP will create inflation and that means interest rates will have to rise.
Get the information now before it is too late
Lastly, let’s leave things on a good note. If the benefit of transfer out is clear and present after an analysis of the situation, then you can also pass your income onto your spouse/partner, and/or leave the asset to your family on death. The benefits are not lost when you die.
There are benefits on both sides of the argument and we provide a FREE analysis to advise our client whether to transfer or not. If you want to look into this area of your retirement plans and potentially secure your long term income stream, then you can contact me