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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

01.03.17

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.

FORAGING
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

14.02.17

Tax in Italy can seem complicated but with careful financial planning it needn’t be.

A summary

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 gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.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 Overseas

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.

Theresa May addresses Brexit

By Chris Burke - Topics: BREXIT, Spain, Theresa May, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 25th January 2017

25.01.17

Theresa May, given one of the hardest Prime ministerial assignments perhaps of all time, gave her anticipated speech of the UK’s plans to leave the EU.

Why was it so hard?

When you have a referendum vote decided by only 2%, you have almost two equal sides to please. Those who voted to leave the EU, and those who were against it. Rather than alienate them and make them feel bad that the UK is going to leave the EU, like any good leader she had to try and get them feeling positive that, although they didn’t want it, perhaps there is lots to feel optimistic about leaving the Euro. A tough job in anyone’s book.

What did she say?

It was more of a case of what she didn’t say. Like a poker player, there was no way Theresa was going to give away to the other ‘Players’ what cards she was holding, how she was going to play them and perhaps most importantly which were her ‘Trump’ cards. What she did though was tell everyone what Britain was and wasn’t going to accept and how it would be done.

What information did she give away?

She will not settle for a bad deal for Britain, and she is prepared to walk away from the negotiations if she feels the deal is not right for the UK. Indication was also given that any agreement that was reached would be voted on by UK Parliament. She also confirmed that Britain will leave the EU’s single market – despite backing membership less than a year ago – to regain control of immigration policy and said she wants to renegotiate the UK’s customs agreement and seek a transition period to phase in changes. Her 12 point plan which starts with confirming leaving the EU and ending in a smooth, orderly Brexit, had recollections of a speech Hugh Grant gave in the film shown at every Christmas, ‘Love Actually’. It was very strong, very direct with clarity and highlighting the fact that Britain will not be bullied or pushed around. It is perhaps a strange comparison but it was arousing, just like the film, nonetheless.

How did it go down?

In essence very well. Theresa gave an assured, strong performance which the markets reacted to and she made it credible that Britain can still be a ‘Great’ force outside the EU. Whether this is the case has to be seen, but 50% of the reason why people react in life is their perception. And on this evidence, the people’s perception was good. Both from inside the UK and in the EU, most interestingly.

What will happen in 2017?

By John Hayward - Topics: Automatic Exchange of Information, BREXIT, Estate Planning, QROPS, Spain, Tax, tax tips
This article is published on: 23rd January 2017

23.01.17

There cannot be many people who were able to answer this question accurately in 2016. There were many “shocks” most notably the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA. There were several celebrities who died in 2016 but, more importantly, we may have lost loved ones which had financial implications, aside from the grief.

There are many events already planned for 2017 but I suggest that in December our conversations will focus on aspects that are not already known by the vast majority of people.

How do we cope with the unknown?
Our role, at The Spectrum IFA Group, is to help people cope with all things financial. With interest rates at such a low level, banks have little to offer, especially to the cautious investor. In fact, Spanish banks have an additional problem since the European Court of Justice ruling in December. They could face billions of euros in refunds due to inequitable “floor clauses” they had in their mortgage agreements.

Here are some of the ways we help:-

Improved exchange rates – banks may not charge for currency exchange but often offer poor rates. We can help you protect your income today as well your capital in the future.

Higher income/returns on investments – Whether a cautious or speculative investor, we have access to some of the top investment companies. With their expertise, they are able to make financial decisions prior to an event. Most people will react to an event when it is too late.

Tax friendly and compliant investments – We specialise in providing access to products that are tax efficient in the country of tax residence and which are portable within the European Union. This means an investment, whether this is a personal arrangement or a QROPS/ROPS (Overseas pension scheme), is tax efficient wherever the policyholder lives.

Registered and regulated in Spain – With the upcoming Brexit, it is possible that companies, who are not registered in Spain, or in other EU countries, will not be able to function. The Spectrum IFA Group has a Spanish company that holds a licence in Spain. Once the UK leaves the EU, companies based in the UK and Gibraltar may no longer be able to operate and service their clients in Spain.

Back to the question. We deal with the unknown by being prepared. This generally means applying caution and care. It means having access to experts who can react much quicker to events, if not predict them. We live where you live and so, if something needs dealing with urgently, we are available

Residency rights in Brexit negotiations examined

By Spectrum-IFA - Topics: BREXIT, EU Select committee, europe-news, Exiting The EU Select Committee, Italy, Spectrum-IFA Group, The Exiting the European Union Committee, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 19th January 2017

19.01.17

Yesterday on 18th January The Exiting the European Union Committee met in the ‘Boothroyd Room’, Portcullis House, London. The committee looks at the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in EU member states as part of the negotiations for exiting the EU.

Witnesses in attendance included Gareth Horsfall from The Spectrum IFA Group, representing Expats living in Italy.

The Purpose of the session

The questioning focuses on the terms of reference for the inquiry, in addition to:
The concerns of EU citizens currently living in the UK, and UK nationals currently living in the EU
What approach the UK Government should take in the negotiations to safeguard the rights of both EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals resident in the EU
The process for identifying and clarifying the status of EU nationals in the UK

Witnesses in attendance

  • Nicolas Hatton, Founding Co-chair, the3million
  • Anne-Laure Donskoy, Co-chair, the 3million
  • Barbara Drozdowicz, Chief Executive Officer, East European Resource Centre
  • Florina Tudose, Information and Outreach Coordinator, East European Resource Centre
  • Debbie Williams, British citizen resident of Belgium
  • Gareth Horsfall, British citizen resident of Italy (The Spectrum IFA Group)
  • Sue Wilson, British citizen resident of Spain
  • Christopher Chantrey, British citizen resident of France

The session was broadcast on Wednesday 18 January 2017, from the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.
The recording can be viewed here

A full commentary from the session can be viewed on the Guardian Newspapers website here

Investing in turbulent times

By Sue Regan - Topics: BREXIT, Elections, sterling, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 12th January 2017

12.01.17

In the words of Bob Dylan….The Times They Are a-Changin’

Well, 2016 certainly saw its fair share of change on a global scale, both politically and economically. A few notable events in the year’s calendar being:

  • A slump in Chinese economic growth and heavy selling-off of stock causing its stock market to close for 3 days in January and wider global market turbulence
  • The oil price crash early in the year which, although a welcome bonus at the petrol pumps, had a largely negative effect on the global economy which now relies far more on emerging economies that are oil and commodity rich than it did 15 or 25 years ago – the last periods of ultra low oil prices
  • Interest rates are at an all time low and could go even lower, even though inflation is on the up. Whilst this is a good thing if you are a borrower, it’s not good news for savers
  • BREXIT – as well as the political chaos left in its wake the vote to leave the EU sent sterling into a downward spiral taking it to its lowest level against the US dollar in over 30 years. Although the UK stock market rallied initially because UK exports looked cheap, and the fall of the pound against the Euro has been a little softer, it has dramatically reduced the income for anyone transferring their pensions from sterling to euros
  • Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election took most by surprise, but the president-elect continues to defy expectations. Contrary to the predictions of many experts, stock markets have rallied strongly since his victory, with the three major US indices reaching record highs while the dollar has soared. What effect this will have on the longer term outlook for the US and the rest of the world is yet to be seen but a hike in US interest rates now seems very likely

Sometimes change is positive and sometimes it is negative. When things appear to be bad it is often tempting to allow emotion to intervene and bad investment decisions can be made. To say that the future is uncertain is an understatement, but when is the future ever certain? As the old adage goes “the only things certain in life are death and taxes”. During times of increased uncertainty, it feels “safe” to leave your hard earned cash to sit in a bank account where it won’t be affected by market falls and “at least it will earn a bit of interest” – and that is very often the case BUT that isn’t to say that it won’t lose any value. With interest rates at an all time low and inflation on the rise you don’t need to be a mathematician to work out that if the rate of inflation is higher than the rate of interest your cash is earning then the real value of your capital is falling, not to mention the Income tax payable on savings interest. The thing most investors want above all else is to grow their capital.

Market timing is difficult at best – even the professionals can get it wrong. Every market cycle has days when it rises and days when it falls, known as market volatility. The herd instinct as well as our emotions can sometimes lead us to buy when markets are on the rise or, as is often the case, when they are at a peak, and sell when they are low. Often a few good days account for a large part of the total return on an investment but trying to predict when these days will be is virtually impossible. By staying in the market you ensure that your investments will benefit from the good days.

The key to reducing market volatility is diversification. Although it does not guarantee against loss, diversification is the most important component to achieving your long-term financial goals whilst minimising risk. A well diversified portfolio will include investments across a broad range of asset classes (e.g. cash, bonds, property and equities) and investing in several different industries; sectors; geographical regions; and incorporating different fund managers.

Good portfolio managers will monitor and analyse closely the changes and trends going on in all aspects of the investment universe and will find opportunities even when things are generally perceived to be “bad”. Choosing the right fund manager(s) to manage your money is crucial. Although The Spectrum IFA Group is completely independent and is free to recommend any and all investment providers out there – we don’t. We place huge importance on our rigorous selection process before adding a fund to our Preferred Funds List, considering such things as the strength and security of the fund house; its regulatory environment; the experience and track record of the fund manager(s); the team and resources available; the investment process and the fund mandate. After undertaking the detailed selection process our specialist Investment Committee put together a comprehensive list of funds and investments to suit different risk profiles, time horizons and financial objectives.

Financial Review

It is at times like this that people need financial advice more than ever. If you would like to have a confidential discussion about your situation, or any other aspect of retirement or inheritance planning, you can contact me by e-mail at sue.regan@spectrum-ifa.com or by telephone on 04 67 24 90 95 to make an appointment. We adopt a highly-personalised approach to expat financial planning. We are here for the long term, and will continue to guide you through all types of financial issues. The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter at www.spectrum-ifa.com/spectrum-ifa-client-charter/

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

02.01.17

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 gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com 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!

Brexit, US Election & Exchange Rates

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: BREXIT, Currencies, France, sterling, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 7th November 2016

07.11.16

There are so many things that I could write about this month and it’s difficult to choose one above the others. So a quick summary of what’s topical might help.

BREXIT

What an interesting conundrum that the UK government is faced with now! Actually not just the government, but the MPs who personally wanted to remain in – or leave – the EU, before the Referendum took place, but represent constituencies that voted in a different way to those MPs personally want.

Will MPs put their personal feeling aside and vote according to what their constituents want? Would this effectively change the result of the Referendum. At the very least, MPs should ensure that their constituents are provided with sufficient information on all of the issues that can arise if the UK leaves the EU. Constituents can then make an informed decision, if given the opportunity to express their opinion to their MP.

It’s interesting that the Court’s decision was based on the argument that the government cannot use executive powers to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty because it would effectively mean overturning an act of Parliament. However, Parliament is sovereign – it can create laws and only Parliament can take these away, not the government. The interesting word here is “sovereign” because this is exactly what the Brexitiers want to get back from the EU.

It’s well known that Theresa May still wants to push forward with triggering Article 50 by the end of March 2017. However, unless the government wins its appeal against the Court’s decision, she may not get her wish.

Despite the ‘certainty’ in law of the Court’s decision, the result creates more uncertainty at this point, as to whether or not Article 50 will ever be invoked. This is likely to continue to create pressure on Sterling (more on this below), and market volatility, until such time as when the process has either been completed or dropped altogether.

On the bright side, if MPs are to debate the terms of what the UK should negotiate from its withdrawal from the EU, before Article 50 is invoked, perhaps we may have some idea of what the outcome of a Brexit may look like. However, it’s a ‘catch 22 situation’, as the EU will not negotiate terms with the UK until Article 50 is invoked and so there is no guarantee that the UK will get what it wants – whatever the outcome of the Parliamentary debates.

So Brexit may not now mean Brexit, but at the very least, it may be further away than we thought.

US Presidential Election

I am writing this article a few days before the election. It seems that both candidates may have skeletons in their closet – Clinton with her emails and Trump with his tax returns. During the last few days, Trump went ahead in the polls and now Clinton has pipped ahead again. In reality, the polls are too close to call and the last time that I wrote that was just before the EU Referendum. Look what happened there!

Markets are beginning to price in the possibility of a Trump win. If it becomes a reality, there is likely to be a large sell-off in US equities (and it can’t be ruled out that this may ripple through to other markets). This is contrary to what would usually happen after a Republican victory, but then, Trump has contrarian views to those of the normal Republican policies.

However, as markets begin to reflect on positive tax changes and the looser regulatory environment that Trump supports, we might see a V-shaped turn, perhaps a repeat of what happened after the Brexit vote.

If the odds continue to move against Clinton in the final days approaching the election, the markets are likely to move further downwards. However, if the outcome is a Clinton win, then it could bring with it a bounce back in markets.

Longer-term market views of a Clinton win are positive, but not so for a Trump win. There is a high possibility that his anti-trade policies with the rest of the world would cause a large slowdown in growth. Unlike the UK that wishes to close its borders to immigrants, but still wants to trade with the world, Trump seems to be determined to curtail imports through a variety of policies, all of which are within the power of a president, with or without the support of Congress. As a result, a Trump trade-led recession could even tip Europe back into full-blown recession, which would likely precipitate a serious European banking crisis, something which is already a concern. Additionally, the effect on emerging markets could be very negative.

By the time you read this article, we may know the results, or will do shortly after. In the meantime, I am very much hoping that the American people do the right thing on the day.

Sterling Exchange Rate

Can it get worse? Well yes, it can and yes, I think it will. I would not be surprised to see Sterling reach parity with the Euro and lately, I have started to think that it could go even lower. Unfortunately, the downward pressure on Sterling is likely to continue until Brexit is over

If you are retired and receiving UK pensions, then you will be feeling the difference. Even with the little bounce back after the Court’s decision, Sterling has still fallen around 16% since the day following the EU Referendum and around 25% over the last year – so in other words, that’s 25% reduction in your pension income. If you also have investment income in Sterling, this means that your capital has to earn 25% more than it did a year ago, just to maintain the same rate of return relative to Euro. Even worse, your Sterling capital has lost 25% of its value in Euro terms.

Sterling is undervalued and there is no doubt that it will eventually rise from the ashes. But when and what do people do in the meantime?

If you are using a bank to transfer Sterling to Euros, you are likely to be receiving a very poor rate of exchange. Hence, it is worth looking at using a forex company for your currency transfers, as the exchange rate that the companies offer is usually higher than the banks. If you do not already have an account with a forex company and you would like to know more about this, please contact me. Even if you already have an account, it can be worth shopping around and we can refer you to a reputable company.

If you are lucky enough to have some capital in Euros already, it might be worthwhile using this, in lieu of your normal Sterling source of income, or at least for part of your income needs. However, everyone’s situation is different and so it is very important to take advice before doing this to make sure that your longer-term objectives are not put at risk.

Financial Review

It is at times like this that people need financial advice, more than ever. Hence, if you would like to have a confidential discussion about your situation, or any other aspect of retirement or inheritance planning, you can contact me by e-mail at daphne.foulkes@spectrum-ifa.com or by telephone on 04 68 20 30 17 to make an appointment. Alternatively, if you are in Limoux, call by our office at 2 Place du Général Leclerc, 11300 Limoux, to see if an adviser is available immediately for an initial discussion.

The above outline is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action on the subject of pensions, investment of financial assets or on the mitigation of taxes.

The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter.

The Brexit or Invoking the Law of Unintended Consequence.

By David Hattersley - Topics: BREXIT, Spain, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 28th October 2016

28.10.16

Since the Brexit vote most news has been about potential Trade deals, and Sterling’s fall. However it perhaps has gone unnoticed, that from a variety of differing scenarios with outcomes by no means certain, a Constitutional crisis could be gathering steam.

It all stems back to the European Referendum Act 2015, that didn’t consider the variety of outcomes and was legally non binding. In addition, the power of the Royal Prerogative that was curbed when King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215 is being used by the Government, and in essence his successor Theresa May, to make or break treaties with other countries including the EU, in this case invoking Article 50 without the need for it to be passed into law via an Act of Parliament.

Critics of this say that the 1972 Act (based on the UK joining the Common Market) ceded power from the UK Parliament and allowed EU law to pass into UK law. This gave the British people protection under a new constitution based on EU law (based on Napoleonic Law). The UK has never had a written constitution that protects it citizens and gives them certain rights. It is being argued by a variety of bodies via legal challenges against the PM for using the Royal Prerogative to take away rights bestowed to Parliament. Some go as far to say “enforced removal” of citizenship rights from 65 million people would be “completely unprecedented “in modern democracy. Expat campaigners are also arguing that the “rights enjoyed by British citizens beyond these shores are so fundamental that legislation is required to take them away”.

The legal challenge has been mounted to the process of withdrawing the UK from the EU without a vote in Parliament and is going to the High Court, to be heard within the next two weeks. If the government lose due to Judges imposing their will (note unelected!), it would then be ironic for this eventually being heard by the European Court of Justice, the UK’s next step .

If the UK government win this current legal challenge on the basis “ Respecting the outcome of the referendum and giving effect to the will and the decision of the people “, that too could lead to further challenges for whom the right to vote was taken away i.e. a large percentage of Ex Pats and those Europeans citizens in the UK.

Additionally, working on that basis could give credence to Scottish Independence should they have a 2nd referendum and vote to remain in Europe. The same could be said of Northern Ireland, which has its own Parliament as well, and perhaps even Gibraltarians, as they overwhelmingly voted to remain.

The other major crisis in the making is the “Great Repeal Bill” debate that is due to be put to the House next year. A number of scenarios could occur. Many M.P.’s supported remain and the government still has deep divisions within its ranks. With only a majority of 10 seats in the House, a loss could force a vote of confidence, an early election, and a greatly disenchanted and potentially a disenfranchised electorate that voted to leave.

If they win then it passes to the House of Lords, who overwhelmingly wished to remain in the EU, and should they vote against it, take note Leave campaigners, an unelected body voting against the wishes of the majority!!

The Law of Unintended Consequence reigns supreme, or quite simply chaos. It makes Spain’s recent political turmoil insignificant, and I wonder how many of those that voted to leave or indeed did not vote at all, would have wanted these potential outcomes.

What would be even more ironic would be that the UK Government, in its current format, with many of the Ministers that supported the Leave campaign in positions of power, having to go to the European Court of Justice to overrule either singularly or both the UK Judges or the House of Lords to push through the Brexit, whilst at the same time preside over the breakup of the Union.

Should you consider transferring your Final Salary Pension?

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: BREXIT, France, Pensions, Spectrum-IFA Group, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 28th October 2016

28.10.16

A big question and something that raised a lot of interest at our recent Tour de Finance event that took place at the Domaine Gayda. There have been a number of recent changes within the UK economy and the UK pension world that make a review of any pension(s) essential for those living or planning to live outside the UK.

Final Salary pension schemes (also referred to as Defined Benefit schemes) have long been viewed as a gold plated route to a comfortable retirement. However, there is wide opinion now that there are likely to be large changes ahead in the pension industry. The key question is will these schemes really be able to provide the promised benefits over the next 20+ years?

Why Review now?

Record high transfer values

The calculation of transfer values from these types of scheme is complex. One of the factors that determines how much the pension scheme has to pay to transfer a Member’ benefits is gilt yields, which are at an all-time low. This has resulted in transfer values to be at an all-time high and we are finding that some transfer values have increased by over 30% in the last 12 months.

Scheme Deficits
Actuaries Hyman Robertson now calculate the total deficits on the remaining UK final salary pension schemes as £1 Trillion! Since the employers are ultimately responsible for funding the cost of the pension benefits, unless they have very deep pockets, this puts the security of the benefits at risk.

TATA Steel/BHS
The final salary pension schemes of these two companies have been in the news. These recent examples show that the very large deficits of their final salary pension schemes cause a number of problems; in particular no one wants to purchase these struggling companies as the pension deficits are too big a burden to take on.

Could the Government be forced to change the laws to allow schemes to reduce benefits? A reduction in the benefits will reduce the deficits and make the companies more attractive to purchasers. There is a strong argument that saving thousands of jobs is in the national interest, if that just means trimming down some of these “gold plated benefits”.

Pension Protection Fund (PPF)
This fund has been set up to help the schemes that do get into financial trouble, but two points are key. Firstly, it is not guaranteed by the Government and secondly the remaining final salary schemes have to pay large premiums (a levy) to the PPF in order to fund the insolvent schemes. As more schemes fall into the PPF, there are less remaining schemes that have to share the burden of this cost. Their premium costs will increase, as there will be less remaining schemes to fund the PPF levy.

It is likely the PPF will end up with the same problems as the remaining final salary schemes, as it is unlikely to have the money to pay the “promises” for the pensioners. Additionally, the PPF will most likely have to reduce the benefits they pay out.

Pension changes that have already happened
Inflationary increases have already been allowed to change from Retail Prices Index (RPI) to Consumer Prices Index (CPI). This change looks reasonably small, but over a lifetime this could reduce the benefits by between 25% and 30%.

In April 2015, unfunded Public Sector pension schemes have removed the ability for transfers, so schemes for nurses, firemen, army personnel, civil service workers etc. can no longer transfer their pensions. Now these are blocked, it will be easier to make changes to reduce the benefits and no one is able to respond by transferring out of the schemes.

When this rule was being considered the authorities also wanted to block the transfer of funded schemes, i.e. most final salary schemes that are available. This could come back onto the discussion table in the future.

Autumn Statement (Budget)
This is on 23 November 2016. Could the Government make any further changes to UK pension rules? When Public Sector pensions were blocked, there was a small window of time to transfer. However, most people couldn’t get their transfer values in time as the demand was so high. People who review their pensions now may at least have time to consider options.

Could Brexit end the ability to transfer pensions away from the UK?

Reasons why schemes are in difficulty:

Ageing population
People now expect to live around 27 years in retirement, when these schemes commenced the average number of years in retirement was 13 years.

Lower Investment Returns
Investment returns have not been as high as expected. Also there has been a very large reduction in the amount invested in equities in final salary schemes; this is now around 33%, but in 2006, the average equity content was 61.1%.

Benefits were too good
Simply, many of the final salary schemes were ‘too good’. In 2009, around 24% of employees’ salaries was needed to fully fund final salary schemes that provided the standard level of benefit of 1/60th for each year of pensionable service. In 2016, that rate is now 50%! Clearly, it is unrealistic to expect an employer to meet the liability.

What could happen in the Future?

  • An end to the ability to transfer out of all final salary schemes?
  • Increase the Pension Age, perhaps in line with the increase of the State Pension?
  • Reduction of Inflation increases, (already started as many now increase by CPI instead of RPI)?
  • Reduction of Spouse’s benefit?
  • Increase of contributions from current members?
  • Lower starting income?

Act now! Review your pensions.

It does no harm at all to at least have a review of your pensions. In fact, it is prudent to do so. At The Spectrum IFA Group, we carry out a full transfer analysis, which is in accordance with the UK Financial Conduct Authority rules, before making any recommendation to transfer pension benefits. Doing nothing at all can often be an expensive mistake.

The above outline is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action on the subject of pensions, investment of financial assets or on the mitigation of taxes.

The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter .