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Preparing ‘THE’ folder

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, Italy, Wills
This article is published on: 10th April 2018

10.04.18

Living in a foreign country is never easy, but have you thought how complicated it would be for your family if you die suddenly?

I am writing this E-zine after my weekly food trip to the Mercato Trionfale in Rome.  I believe it to be the largest indoor market in Rome.  It certainly has a massive choice of fruit, veg, meats, fish and much more.  For any foodies out there, it is well worth a visit.  However, my motivations for going this particular morning were not necessarily the food, but to go and have a natter with the people on the ‘bancarelle’.  As is the norm at markets you tend to have your favourite stalls and you get to know the people and whilst buying the groceries you can stop and put the world to rights, talk about the weather etc.   I love it because it is a break from the everyday routine and it provides me with that connection with people outside work.

So, when I got a call from a lawyer recently to tell me that one of my clients had died, (after a tragic and prolonged illness) I felt I had to go and have a dose of that life infusion once again.

This E-zine is never an easy one to write but I like to throw it out there once a year because I think its important.  Ensuring that your papers are in order in the event of your sudden death is incredibly important when living in another country.  It will provide you with peace of mind that your loved ones will not have too much difficulty in administering your estate, and your family  will be thankful that you did it for them.

The big problem is that as ‘stranieri’ we often have documents spread across multiple locations.  The office, a house in another country, with family members and in that old box that no-one dare look in.

The purpose of this Ezine is to outline a proven way of organizing your affairs to reduce stress in the event of your death.

So what is THE folder?

It is a single file (digital or physical) where you keep all of your important personal and financial information together. It allows easy access to these documents in the event that you’re no longer around to help. It is really important to have it in place where one family member takes the lead on the family finances (as I do in our household). That includes paying bills, managing accounts and storing documents.

Is it worth the effort?

Well, I think it is worth the effort. A time of loss can be stressful enough without having to try and piece together the deceased’s financial affairs. This can be a really difficult time for family members.

However, preparing THE folder is much more than avoiding stress; if you leave behind a administrative nightmare you could delay access to inheritors’ access to funds and potentially cost a small fortune in legal fees.

To give you an example of this, the UK Department of Work and Pensions estimate that there is currently more than £400 million sitting in unclaimed pensions pots in the UK.

Which is best…..physical or digital?

This comes down to personal preference. It can be done by either creating an electronic file that survivors can access in the event of death. This file can then be stored on your main computer, in the cloud or on an external hard drive. Alternatively you can use a physical folder to keep all of the important information together.

For what it’s worth, I decided to do both when building mine because my wife prefers paper and so is happier with hard copies of everything. I prefer digital. I have also shared the digital folder with some trusted family members.

Birth, marriage and divorce

  • Personal birth certificate
  • Marriage licence
  • Divorce papers
  • Birth certificate/adoption papers for minor children

Life insurance and retirement

  • Life insurance policy documents (including beneficiary nomination forms)
  • Details of any employer death in service benefits
  • Personal pension documents
  • Employer pension details
  • Annuity documents
  • Details of any entitlement to state pensions

Bank accounts

  • List of bank accounts with account numbers, login details, passwords etc
  • Details of any credit cards
  • Details of safe deposit boxes

Assets

  • Property, land and cemetery deeds
  • Timeshare ownership
  • Proof of loans made
  • Vehicle ownership documents
  • Stock certificates, brokerage accounts, investment platform details, online investment account details
  • Details of holdings of premium bonds, government bonds, investment bonds
  • Partnership and corporate operating/ownership agreements (including offshore companies)

Liabilities

  • Mortgage details
  • Proof of debts owed

Details of gifts

  • Dates and amounts/values (potentially helpful when calculating any inheritance tax liability)

Income sources

  • Make a listing of all your sources of income, especially ones that your family might not know too much about
  • Employer details
  • A copy of your most recent tax return or accounts

Monthly expenses

(so they can be maintained if necessary or cancelled if not. Essentially list the fixed costs which would need to continue after death)

  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Rent/mortgage
  • Loans
  • Subscriptions/memberships

Email and social media account details

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter,etc……..

Essentials

  • Will/testament + details of the legal firm that helped create it, if applicable
  • Instruction letter
  • Trust documents
  • Burial/cremation wishes

Contact details

  • List of names and contact numbers for: Financial adviser, doctor, lawyer/solicitor, accountant, insurance broker,

How often should ‘THE’ folder be reviewed?

Firstly, it is sensible to note the date that it was last reviewed so that anyone using it has an idea of how up-to-date the details are.

Going forward, reviewing the file on an annual basis should be sufficient.

Online passwords

If you are not comfortable keeping these in your folder, consider using a password management program. A password manager allows you to save all account usernames and passwords in one place. They are then protected using one master key. There a number of them available. I personally use LastPass – www.lastpass.com

This might be a step too far for you given the data breaches that seem to be happening almost daily, notably Facebook. I appreciate that and if you are not comfortable in using such an app then its important to have a physical record some where that can be accessed in the event of your death.

And finally…

Be sure to tell someone about it. There is little point going to the effort of creating such a folder if know one knows of its existence/where to find it…..

Successful estate planning in France – Having a will is just the beginning

By Sean Webb - Topics: Estate Planning, France, Succession Planning, Wills
This article is published on: 16th October 2017

16.10.17

When I left school, I knew more about Shakespeare than I did about personal finance. While we gain academic knowledge through education, and professional knowledge through work, there is no formal channel for learning the key life skill of money management. Most of us pick it up in the same way we acquire our wealth – very few have a strategy, even fewer have a plan.

The problem is that personal finance can be complex, sometimes very complex. Mistakes can be costly. This is especially so in France, even for the French themselves. How much more so then for those of us whose first language is not French. And one of the most complicated areas of personal finance in France is estate and inheritance planning.

Successful personal finance is not just about organising our financial affairs so that, while we work hard for money, our money works hard for us. It is also about putting in place arrangements to transmit that resultant wealth in the best conditions to the chosen ones we leave behind.

The passing of a loved one can be one of the most stressful moments of our lives, one where our families are at their most vulnerable. It is then that we need to rely on the robustness of the arrangements that we have already put in place. In spite of this, most of us do not have even a basic will.

The starting point of any successful estate planning starts with defining the ultimate goal. There are three aspects: –

  1. The capacity to transfer at death whatever assets remain to your preferred beneficiaries in proportions of your choosing
  2. In the most cost efficient and tax intelligent manner with the minimum amount of deductions
  3. While ideally retaining and maximising as much control as possible during your lifetime

The bad news is that in France ‘forced heirship’ succession law and inheritance tax rates of up to 60% can make this difficult to achieve. For families with complicated situations, such as step children, this can be especially problematic and UK arrangements will not necessarily function in France and may have unpredicted results. Moreover, finding a proactive English speaking French lawyer prepared to take the time to fully understand your situation and needs can be both challenging and expensive.

The good news is that there is also a complexity of legal and financial planning strategies that can be used when defining your plan to help you achieve your goals and get you nearer to the ideal goal, as defined above. Here are some examples: –

  1. A will with the possible addition of a ‘clause d’attribution intégrale au survivant’ or ‘clause de préciput’. Given Brexit, hand written wills in English should not be relied on in practice.
  2. A change of marriage regime, typically from ‘séperation de biens’ to ‘communauté universelle’ to protect the surviving spouse
  3. Brussels IV (EU Regulation 650/2012) allows you to avoid French succession law (not tax) by opting for the law of your country of nationality rather than of your residence
  4. Adoption of step children
  5. Gifts (‘donations’)
  6. A strategy of dismemberment (‘démembrement’) of real estate into life interest (‘nu-propriété) and usufruct (‘usufruit’). This can significantly reduce the inheritance tax bill, especially if done sooner rather than later via a will at time of death
  7. Use of assurance vie as tax optimisation wrapper for financial assets, ideal for transmitting inheritance to distant relatives, friends or third parties
  8. Careful editing of the beneficiary clause within an assurance vie policy
  9. A strategy of dismemberment can also be applied to certain assurance vie policies.
  10. Use of inheritance tax free allowances –the standard 100,000 EUR per child per parent and a second one via assurance vie adds another 152,500 EUR per beneficiary.

So make it easier on your lawyer and help him to help you. Given the complexity of both the issues and the solutions, ask for a free holistic review of your situation from your financial adviser so you can already begin to define your needs and goals, and have an idea of what strategies are possible.

Thus prepared, you will make your lawyer’s job easier and so less time consuming. As well as achieving peace of mind, you might even save yourself some fees!

Preparing your loved ones for life after your death

By John Hayward - Topics: Costa Blanca, Estate Planning, spain, Succession Planning, Wealth Tax, Wills
This article is published on: 9th September 2017

09.09.17

Having recently attended a funeral for a good friend of mine, I was reminded of the problems a death can create, aside from the actual act of dying. It appeared that, although he had organised a funeral plan, he had not made it clear where his Will was. Even if the Will was found, most Wills are written to distribute unspecified assets. An heir needs to know what assets there are before claiming anything. A draw full of files might appear organised but much of the content may be out of date or even completely irrelevant.

Who is the household´s financial controller?
In my experience, when dealing with couples, one party, normally the husband, deals with all things financial. This has resulted in many widows having a hard time with finances on the death of the husband. The thought of picking a phone up to contact their bank is daunting enough. Forgetting one of the six security questions is fatal. Logging into the online banking system is totally out of the question, even if they knew what the user ID and password were.

What can you do?
It is a really good idea to make a list, with company name and reference number, of all the bank accounts, insurance policies, investments (insurance bonds/unit trusts/shares), premium bonds, and anything else which would make life easier for those looking after your affairs on your demise. Here is a link which illustrates just how much information could be required. Are you confident someone will easily be able to put all of this together?

How can we help?
Many years ago, I was a “Man from the major UK insurance company”. I still tend to work on the home service principle. Meeting people in their homes has always been more attractive to me as paperwork will often be to hand. There is also the possibility of a cup of tea and a digestive. There have been times when I have found investments that people were unaware of and also helped to cull the collection of paperwork, creating more storage space, and possibly room for a new sofa (from the proceeds of the policy they didn´t know about). Obviously, I do not wish to major in house clearance but I am happy to help people organise their paperwork, review existing investments and pensions, and make life easier for those with the task of dealing with everything later. Hopefully much later.

Fun financial fact
According to several reports, in 2012, in the USA, a 1 cent coin cost 2.4 cents to make. By 2016, the cost had reduced to 1.5 cents. Making cents still does not seem to be making sense.

Wealth Tax in Catalunya

By Barry Davys - Topics: Barcelona, Catalunya, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, spain, Succession Planning, Wealth Tax
This article is published on: 3rd August 2017

03.08.17

We understand the need to pay tax. It gives us hospitals to treat our family, care in later life and many other services. Yet it is also easy to feel unhappy about some taxes. Some seem just downright unfair.

Wealth tax is the first of these. Having worked hard and paid tax on our earnings, we have then also paid tax on our savings. Despite this we have managed to build our savings, have become less of a burden on the state and yet we are now taxed again with Wealth Tax for having saved. Fortunately, it is possible to pay what is due but also to manage the amount due.

Wealth Tax in Catalunya – How it works
Wealth tax ( Patrimonial ) is applied if your worldwide assets are more than 500,000€ with an additional allowance of up to 300,000€ for your main residence. The tax is based upon your net wealth; assets minus liabilities.

In Catalunya the rates of tax start at 0.21% and rises to 2.75% depending on your wealth. Each year!

Your wealth as at 31st December is declared as part of your Declaración de la Renta, your annual tax return and the payment of the tax made on the 30th June in the following year.

How to manage the amount due
There are some assets that are excluded from Wealth tax. Surprisingly, some of these are mainstream investments. It may be possible to reduce your Wealth Tax by using an exempt investment.

In addition, the amount of tax due is capped at 60% of your income tax base, subject to paying at least 20% of the total tax based on your wealth. It is often possible to adjust your income so that you are limited to the 60% of your income tax base. Typically, this is done by using investments which are not assessed for tax each year. However, there are several methods of planning to achieve a reduction in Wealth Tax.

Who would inherit your Assets if you die without a will?

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, spain, Succession Planning, Wills
This article is published on: 26th May 2017

26.05.17

You might be surprised to know that 59%, that’s over half of UK adults, have not written a Will. And if you are over 55 there is a 36% chance you haven’t either. The main reason for this…….most people believe they are not wealthy enough to need a Will, or they are too young to make one. But what would happen to your assets if the worse did happen?

Is there a living husband, wife or civil partner?

If you are married, or have a civil partnership then it’s actually very straightforward and they would inherit your entire estate. But would you want that? And how about if by some awful miracle both of you departed this happy land, what would happen to your assets then? But let us put those to one side for now; imagine you have children, whom decide where they will be raised and who with? If you are living away from the UK this makes it even more complicated. If you don’t have a Will, you are leaving all of this to the authorities and not planning to protect yourself and your loved ones for the sake of a simple document.

Imagine you have a partner, but are not married and not in a civil partnership, would you be surprised to know they have no right to your assets? How would that affect them?
Let’s imagine, as more people these days are for various reasons not having children, that down the family line to Great Aunts/Uncles there is no one related to you. You might not be very happy to know that ‘The Crown? Inherits your assets, that is the Royal Family. In fact fewer people in the UK have Wills than a year ago.

Back in August 2015 the Wills laws changed in Europe, with the main different being you can CHOOSE which laws you wish your Will to follow. The choice is either your country of domicility (usually where you were born/hold a passport for) or the country you reside in now. If you are British most people choose the UK as the laws are easier, you have more control and less complex than those in Spain.

Find out here who would inherit your assets by clicking on this link:
www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will

To enquire about making a Will, don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can arrange for you to talk this through with a Will writer so you know:

  • The process involved
  • The costs
  • How it works
  • There is no charge for this peace of mind

Sources:
HMRC website
*unbiased.co.uk research conducted by Opinium Research between 19 to 23 August 2016, among 2,000 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+

Keeping On Track

By Chris Webb - Topics: Estate Planning, Financial Planning, Madrid, Pensions, Retirement, Saving, wealth management
This article is published on: 5th May 2017

05.05.17

Speaking with my many clients one of the most talked about topics is “I wish I had done something sooner” or “I wish I had put a plan in place”.

All too often in our younger years we race through the nitty-gritty details of our finances and neglect to focus on crucial “future proofing” in the process. In our 20’s we tend to spend, spend, spend. In our 30’s we try to save, but starting a family or purchasing property make it difficult. In our 40’s we’re still suffering the hangover from our 30’s and inevitably the work required to provide for your financial future becomes increasingly harder.

But if you adopt a marathon approach to money (opposed to a sprint – see my article on this topic), it can allow you to take a more holistic look at your overall financial picture and see how decisions that you make in your 20s and 30s can impact your 40s, 50s and into your retirement years.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, being financially healthy boils down to two things. The level of debt you have and the level of savings/investments you have. The only real difference is how you approach both subjects, as this will change with age .

Tips in your 20’s

1. Debt – Loans And Cards
It’s easy to think that making the minimal payments and delaying paying them off, to save more, is a good idea, but this strategy rarely works. The more you make the more you tend to spend, so getting round to clearing off these debts never comes any closer. As you go through the 20’s cycle, additional costs will start being considered, like starting a family or purchasing a house therefore the ability to clear your debts just doesn’t materialise.
This is why now is the time to work on breaking the credit card debt or loan cycle for good.

2. Start An Emergency Fund
While you’re busy paying down your debt, don’t forget that you should always be planning on having a “savings buffer” in the bank. To help accomplish this goal you should transfer funds straight from your “day to day” account into a deposit account. One where your aren’t likely to get access through an ATM which reduces the temptation to spend it on a whim. Ideally, you should aim to have three times your take-home pay saved up in your emergency fund.

3. Contemplate Your Future – Retirement

At this point in your life, retirement is far off, but it can be important to start saving as early as you can. Even small amounts can make a big difference over time, thanks to the effect of compound interest. Start saving a small percentage of your salary now to reap the rewards later in life. See my articles on compound interest and retirement planning to see the difference it can make.

Tips in your 30’s

During this decade, your financial goals are likely to get a bit more complicated. Some people will still be paying off credit card debt and loans, whilst still working on the “emergency account”. So what’s the secret to juggling it all? Rather than focusing on one goal you should be looking at the biggest of your goals, even if there are three or four.

1. Continue Reducing Debt
If you’re still paying down your credit card balances then considering consolidating onto one card with an attractive interest free period should be your first task. Failing that you need to concentrate on the card with the highest interest rate and reduce the balance ASAP. The most important thing to consider with debt is the interest rate, If you have low interest rates (I’d be surprised) then there’s no major rush to pay them off, as you could manage the repayments and contribute to other financial goals at the same time. If your interest rates are quite high then the priority is to clear these debts down.

2. Planning For Kids
Little ones may also be entering the picture, or becoming a frequent conversation. Once this is a part of your life you’ll start thinking about the cost implications as well. Setting aside a small amount of funds now to cater for the ever increasing costs of bringing up a child will reduce the financial stress later down the line. If you have grand plans for them to attend university, potentially in another country, then knowing these costs and planning for these costs should be part of your overall financial planning.

3. Assess Your Insurance
The thing that most people forget. Big life events such as getting married, having kids, buying a house are all trigger points for reassessing what insurance you have in place and more crucially what insurance you should have in place. If you have dependents, having sufficient Life cover is paramount. Other considerations should be disability, critical illness and even income protection.

4. Start that Retirement Plan
It’s time to stop just thinking about setting up what you call a Pension Pot, it’s time to take action. Starting now makes it an achievable goal, leaving it on the back burner because you’re still too young to think about retiring is going to come back and haunt you later in life.

Tips in your 40’s

This is the decade where you need to make sure you’re on top of your money. At this point in your life, the ideal scenario would be to have cleared any debts and to have a nice healthy emergency fund sitting in a deposit account.

1. Retirement Savings – Priority
During your 40s it’s critical to understand how much you should be saving for retirement and to analyse what you may already have in place to cater for this. In my opinion it’s now that you need to start putting your financial future/ retirement ahead of any other financial goals or “needs”.

2. Focus Your Investments
Although you may not have paid much attention to “wealth management” in your 30s, you’ve probably started accumulating some wealth by your 40s. Evaluate this wealth and ensure there is a purpose or goal behind the investments you have done. Each goal will have a different time horizon and potentially you will have a different risk tolerance on each goal. The further away the goal is the more you can afford to take a “riskier” option.

3. Enjoy Your Wealth
It’s about getting the balance right. Hopefully you’ve worked hard and things are stable from a financial point of view. You need to remember to enjoy life today as well as planning on the future. As long as important financial goals are being met there is no harm is splashing out on that dream holiday, and enjoying it whilst you can.

Tips in your 50’s

You may find yourself being pulled in different directions with your money. Do the children still require financial support, do your parents require more support than before ?, The key thing to remember is to put your financial security first, and yes I know that sounds a bit tough…….. You still have your retirement to consider and probably a mortgage that you’d like to clear down before retirement age.

1. Revisit Your Savings and Investing Goals
Your 50’s are prime time to fully prepare for retirement, whether it’s five years away or fifteen. At this point you should be working as hard as possible to ensure you reach your required amount. This means that careful management of your assets is even more critical now. It’s time to focus on changing from a growth portfolio to a combined growth, income and more importantly a preservation portfolio. What I’m saying here is it’s time to really analyse the level of risk within your asset basket.

2. Prioritise – Your Future V Kid’s Future ( It’s a tough one….)
During their 50’s a lot of clients struggle with figuring out how much they can afford to keep supporting a grown child, especially when they’re out there earning themselves. The bottom line is that although it can be tough you have to continue to put yourself. first. The day of retirement is only getting closer and unless your planning has been disciplined there’s a possibility you may need to work longer than anticipated, or accept less in your pocket than you hoped for.
You are number 1…….

3. Retirement Decisions and considerations
You should begin to revisit your estate planning, your last will and testament, power of attorney if you feel necessary and confirm that your beneficiaries on any insurance policies or investment accounts are all valid.
Once you’ve covered off the administration part then I’d suggest you sit back and look forward to the biggest holiday off your life……..have a great time !!!

Inheritance Tax Planning

By Derek Winsland - Topics: Estate Planning, France, Inheritance Tax, Succession Planning, Tax
This article is published on: 18th April 2017

18.04.17

In my everyday dealings with prospective clients and ex-pats looking for advice generally, I’m finding myself dealing with increasingly more complex personal and family situations. From re-structuring of UK investments such as general investment accounts and Individual Savings Accounts (ISA) to make them French tax-friendly, analyzing occupational pensions to assess the suitability of transferring way from the UK and into QROPS, through to financial planning for the future, every case is varied and different, requiring bespoke advice.

One area I find particularly common is how best to address the impact French succession laws have on those of us used to the fairly flexible UK Inheritance Tax laws. In the UK, its fairly simple: you can leave everything you own to your spouse free from inheritance tax. On the surviving spouse’s subsequent demise, the first £325,000 of that person’s estate can be passed on without tax liability. Since 2007, the deceased partner’s allowance can also now be used by the surviving spouse, thereby ensuring that £650,000 of the combined estate is free from taxation. In addition, there is an additional property nil rate band that can boost the tax exemption even further. Furthermore, with the exception of the spouse, there is no discrimination in who benefits in terms of tax treatment. The tax rate in UK is 40% on the excess over the £325,000 threshold.

In France, assets passing to the spouse have also been tax free since 2007, but this is where the similarity ends in terms of potential taxation. Taking its lead from Code Napoleon, French succession laws put the children of the deceased at the forefront when determining who inherits, giving them Protected Heirs status. Who inherits, and that person’s relationship to the deceased, also determines what tax free allowance is available and following on from that what tax is payable.

Sons and daughters, both natural and adopted, can receive €100,000 each from the deceased’s estate free from tax, thereafter there is a sliding scale based on the amount inherited. But here’s the rub: step-children are not blood related, so the children’s allowance doesn’t apply to them and they fall into the category of ‘unrelated person’. As such they can only inherit €1,594 free from inheritance tax. The balance is taxed at the eye-watering rate of 60%.

Protected Heirs are entitled to receive the major share of the deceased’s estate, at the expense of the spouse, so structures need to be put in place to protect the spouse, such as wills, marriage regimes, family pacts etc. Generally, these relate to the property, but can also include more liquid assets such as bank deposits and investments.

When addressing the issue of shielding step-children from the severest level of taxation, at the same time ensuring the surviving spouse is properly looked after, one weapon in our armoury is the assurance vie, or life assurance investment bond. On the death of the bond holder, any beneficiary can inherit without discrimination. In the holder of the assurance vie was below age 70 when the policy was taken out, each beneficiary can inherit €152,500 without a tax liability. For amounts above €152,500 the tax rate is 20% or 31.25% if the amount inherited is above €700,000. This is per beneficiary and not per assurance vie. But what if I don’t want my money to pass to my children or step-children on my death, but rather to go to my spouse?

This is where it gets clever! By inserting a Demembrement Clause within the assurance vie policy, your spouse can be granted usufruit or life interest in the assets held in the policy, thereby ensuring protection to him or her.

And there’s more. By drawing capital out of the deceased’s policy, the spouse is creating a debt that will be repaid on the spouse’s subsequent death, paid for out of his or her estate, thereby further reducing the amount of any inheritance tax liability. This is what we call true financial planning, and this forms the bed-rock of what we do here in Spectrum.

If you have personal or financial circumstances that you feel may benefit from a financial planning review, please contact me direct on the number below. You can also contact me by email at derek.winsland@spectrum-ifa.com or call our office in Limoux to make an appointment. Alternatively, I conduct a drop-in clinic most Fridays (holidays excepting), when you can pop in to speak to me. Our office telephone number is 04 68 31 14 10.

Spanish Succession Tax (Inheritance tax)

By Chris Webb - Topics: Catalunya, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, spain, Succession Planning
This article is published on: 16th March 2017

16.03.17

If you are a resident of Spain it is important to understand that there will be liabilities due to the Spanish government in the event of a death. Whether it’s you that is inheriting part of an estate or it’s your estate being distributed the taxman is going to want his share.

Many British nationals don’t realise that depending on the asset and its location there may also be a claim from the UK taxman. Just because you are a non UK resident it does not eliminate the requirement to settle taxes in both the UK and Spain. Spanish succession tax will be due either when the assets being inherited are located in Spain, such as a property, even if the recipient of the asset lives outside of Spain OR if the assets are based outside of Spain but the recipient lives in Spain.

For example: if you leave your Spanish property to your children who are now UK residents they will be liable to pay succession tax to the Spanish government. On the flip side if you receive an inheritance from the UK and you are a Spanish resident then again you have to pay tax in Spain.

As mentioned above, if you are a British national and are resident in Spain you could be liable to UK inheritance tax as well as Spanish succession tax. In the UK they require all worldwide assets to be declared, as you will be considered “UK domiciled” by the government. It is almost impossible to be considered as anything other than UK domiciled, even if you haven’t lived in the UK for some time.

There is no double tax treaty signed between the UK and Spain when it comes to inheritance, however if tax has been paid in the UK the amount is usually deductible against the Spanish liability.

To complicate matters further, Spain have a standard set of “State Rules” which lay down the rates and allowances for succession tax as well as individual “Autonomous rules” which means things are different from one community to another. Detailed below are these state rules:
The tax rates differ depending on the value of the amount inherited. These range from 7.65% on the first €7,933, up to 34% on €797,555 and over.
Beneficiaries are graded into four different groups and the more remote the beneficiary’s relationship is to the deceased the lower the tax allowance and the higher the tax rates. These four groups are:

  • Natural and adopted children under 21
  • Natural and adopted children aged 21 and over, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses
  • in-laws and their ascendants/descendants, stepchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts
  • all others including unmarried partners

Allowances are available between husband and wife or direct line ascendants/descendants, but this is set at just short of €16.000. If an inheritor is also a direct line descendant under the age of 21, there is an additional allowance of €3,990 for each year they are under 21. The total of this additional allowance is restricted to €47,858 per child or grandchild.

For more distant relatives (e.g. cousins) the exemption is set at €7,933. There is no exemption for beneficiaries who are not related.

A main home in Spain may be virtually exempt from Spanish succession tax provided the beneficiaries are either your spouse, parents or children and they continue to own the property for ten years from the date of death.

The exemption can also apply where the beneficiary is a more distant relative over the age of 65 and they have lived with you for at least two years before death. If these conditions are met, the value of the house can be reduced by 95% in calculating the tax base liable, subject to a maximum reduction in value per inheritor of €122,606. It is important to note that this is only applies principal private residence and is owned by a Spanish resident.

Some examples of where the Autonomous rules differ from the state rules:

In Valenciana, spouses and children receive an allowance of €100,000 each. They can also benefit from a 75% reduction in the amount of succession tax payable.

In Murcia, the taxable inheritance for children under 21 is reduced by 99%, while older children and spouses get a 50% reduction.

In Andalucía, spouses and children can benefit from a 100% exemption for inheritances up to €175,000, provided they are not worth more than €402,268.

Cataluña offers a 99% allowance for spouses. Other Group I and II relatives receive a relief depending on the amount of their inheritance. Personal reductions are €100,000 for spouses and children (more for those under 21), €50,000 for other descendants, €30,000 for ascendants and €8,000 for other relatives. The 95% main home relief is up to a property value of €500,000, with the amount pro-rated among the beneficiaries (minimum €180,000 limit each). The property need only be kept five years rather than the 10 year state rule.

To summarise the key points of succession tax:

  • Tax is paid by each recipient, rather than by the estate
  • Spouses are not exempt
  • Allowances under the state rules are very low – just €15,957 for spouses, descendants over 21 and ascendants, €7,993 for other close relatives and nil for everyone else
  • Under state rules, tax is applied at progressive rates from 7.65% (for assets under €7,993) to 34% (for assets over €797,555). However, multipliers depending on the relationship between the two can increase this rate
  • If you leave assets to your spouse, who then passes them on to your children when he/she dies, succession tax will be due again on the second death
  • Succession tax also applies to pension funds
  • Tax is paid at the time of the inheritance, even if the funds are not accessed at the time. There is a six-month period to pay the tax after the death, although it is possible to apply for an extension in certain cases
  • Succession tax is governed by both state and local autonomous community rules; each community has the right to amend the state rules
  • Whether the state or the local autonomous community rules apply for each case, depends on where the beneficiary and the donor are resident and where the assets inherited/gifted are located
  • If you are UK domiciled you need to consider both the UK inheritance tax rules as well as the Spanish succession tax rules

Whilst the Spectrum IFA Group are not tax advisers, we can help to put you in touch with the right people. It is important to understand the various succession tax rules and how they apply to your situation, as well as how they affect any UK liability. You need specialist advice to understand the intricacies of the two tax regimes, and how to lower both tax liabilities and potentially save your heirs a considerable amount of tax. You can often combine your estate planning with your personal tax planning.

*Sources: Advoco, LegalforSpain, Globalpropertyguide, GovUK, AILO

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

French Tax Changes 2017

By Daphne Foulkes - Topics: Estate Planning, Exchange of Information, France, Income Tax, Inheritance Tax, Offshore Disclosures Facility, Tax, Uncategorised, wealth management, Wills
This article is published on: 3rd January 2017

03.01.17

During December, the following legislation has entered into force:

  • the Loi de Finances 2017
  • the Loi de Finances Rectificative 2016(I); and
  • the Loi de Financement de la Sécurité Sociale 2017

Shown below is a summary of our understanding of the principle changes.

INCOME TAX (Impôt sur le Revenu)

The barème scale, which is applicable to the taxation of income and gains from financial assets, has been revised as follows:

Income Tax Rate
Up to €9,710 0%
€9,711 to €26,818 14%
€26,819 to €71,898 30%
€71,899 to €152,260 41%
€152,261 and over 45%

The above will apply in 2017 in respect of the taxation of 2016 income and gains from financial assets.

Tax Reduction

A tax reduction of 20% will be granted when the income being accessed for taxation is less than €18,500 for single taxpayers, or €37,000 for a couple subject to joint taxation. These thresholds are increased by €3,700 for each additional dependant half-part in the household.

For single taxpayers with income between €18,500 and €20,500, and couples with income between €37,000 and €41,000 (plus in both cases any threshold increase for dependants), a tax reduction will still be granted, although this will be scaled down.

Prélèvement à la source de l’impôt sur le revenu

Currently, taxpayers complete an income tax declaration in May each year, in respect of income received in the previous year. From the beginning of the year, on-account payments of income tax are made, but pending the assessment of the declaration, these are based on the level of income received two years previously. In August, notifications of the actual income tax liability for the previous year are sent out and taxpayers are sent a bill for any underpayment or income tax for the previous year, or in rare situations, there may be a rebate due, typically in the situation where income has reduced, perhaps due to retirement or long-term disability.
Hence, at any time, there is a lag between the tax payments being made in respect of the income being assessed. Therefore, with the aim of closing this gap, France will move to a more modern system of collection of income tax, by taxing income as it arises. This reform will apply to the majority of regular income (including salaries, pensions, self-employed income and unfurnished property rental income), which will become subject to ‘on account’ withholding rates of tax from 1st January 2018.

Where the income is received from a third-party located in France, the organisation paying the income will deduct the tax at source, using the tax rate notified by the French tax authority. The advantage for the taxpayer is that the income tax deduction should more closely reflect the current income tax liability, based on the actual income being paid at the time of the tax deduction.

For income received from a source outside of France, the taxpayer will be required to make on-account monthly tax payments. The on-account amount payable will be set according to the taxpayer’s income in the previous year. However, if there is a strong variation in the current year’s income (compared to the previous year), it will be possible to request an interim adjustment to more accurately reflect the income actually being received, at the time of the payment of the tax.

Transitional payment arrangements will be put in place, as follows:

    • in 2017, taxpayers will pay tax on their 2016 income
    • in 2018, they will pay tax on their 2018 income, in 2019, they will pay tax on their 2019 income, and so on
    • in the second half of 2017, any third party in France making payments will be notified of the levy rate to be applied, which will be determined from 2016 revenues reported by the taxpayer in May 2017
    • from 1st January 2018, the levy rate will be applied to the income payments being made – and
    • the levy rate will then be amended in September each year to take into account any changes, following the income tax declaration made in the previous May

Taxpayers will still be required to make annual income tax declarations. However, what is clear from the transitional arrangements is that the income of 2017 that falls within the review will not actually be taxed; this is to avoid double taxation in 2018 (i.e. of the combination of 2017 and 2018 income). Therefore, to avoid any abuse of the reform, special provisions have been introduced so that taxpayers – who are able to do so – cannot artificially increase their income for the 2017 year.

Furthermore, exceptional non-recurring income received is excluded from the scope of the reform in 2017; this includes capital gains on financial assets and real estate, interest, dividends, stock options, bonus shares and pension taken in the form of cash (prestations de retraite servies sous forme de capital). Therefore, taxpayers will not be able to take advantage of the 2017 year to avoid paying tax on these types of income.

At the same time, the benefits of tax reductions and credits for 2017 will be maintained and allocated in full at the time of tax balancing in the summer of 2018, although for home care and child care, an advance partial tax credit is expected from February 2018. Charitable donations made in 2017, which are eligible for an income tax reduction, will also be taken into account in the balancing of August 2018.

WEALTH TAX (Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune)

There are no changes to wealth tax. Therefore, taxpayers with net assets of at least €1.3 million will continue to be subject to wealth tax on assets exceeding €800,000, as follows:

Fraction of Taxable Assets Tax Rate
Up to €800,000 0%
€800,001 to €1,300,000 0.50%
€1,300,001 to €2,570,000 0.70%
€2,570,001 to € 5,000,000 1%
€5,000,001 to €10,000,000 1.25%
Greater than €10,000,000 1.5%

 

CAPITAL GAINS TAX – Financial Assets (Plus Value Mobilières)

Gains arising from the disposal of financial assets continue to be added to other taxable income and then taxed in accordance with the progressive rates of tax outlined in the barème scale above.

However, the system of ‘taper relief’ still applies for the capital gains tax (but not for social contributions), in recognition of the period of ownership of any company shares, as follows:

  • 50% for a holding period from two years to less than eight years; and
  • 65% for a holding period of at least eight years

This relief also applies to gains arising from the sale of shares in ‘collective investments’, for example, investment funds and unit trusts, providing that at least 75% of the fund is invested in shares of companies.

In order to encourage investment in new small and medium enterprises, the higher allowances against capital gains for investments in such companies are also still provided, as follows:

  • 50% for a holding period from one year to less than four years;
  • 65% for a holding period from four years to less than eight years; and
  • 85% for a holding period of at least eight years

The above provisions apply in 2017 in respect of the taxation of gains made in 2016.

CAPITAL GAINS TAX – Property (Plus Value Immobilières)

Capital gains arising on the sale of a maison secondaire and on building land continue to be taxed at a fixed rate of 19%. However, a system of taper relief applies, as follows:

  • 6% for each year of ownership from the sixth year to the twenty-first year, inclusive; and;
  • 4% for the twenty-second year.

Thus, the gain will become free of capital gains tax after twenty-two years of ownership.

However, for social contributions (which remain at 15.5%), a different scale of taper relief applies, as follows:

  • 1.65% for each year of ownership from the sixth year to the twenty-first year, inclusive;
  • 1.6% for the twenty-second year; and
  • 9% for each year of ownership beyond the twenty-second year.

Thus, the gain will become free of social contributions after thirty years of ownership.

An additional tax continues to apply for a maison secondaire (but not on building land), when the gain exceeds €50,000, as follows:

Amount of Gain Tax Rate
€50,001 – €100,000 2%
€100,001 – €150,000 3%
€150,001 to €200,000 4%
€200,001 to €250,000 5%
€250,001 and over 6%

Where the gain is within the first €10,000 of the lower level of the band, a smoothing mechanism applies to reduce the amount of the tax liability.

The above taxes are also payable by non-residents selling a property or building land in France.

SOCIAL CHARGES (Prélèvements Sociaux)

As has been widely publicised, on 26th February 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that France could not apply social charges to ‘income from capital’, if the taxpayer is insured by another Member State of the EU/EEA or Switzerland. Income from capital includes investment income on financial assets and property rental income, as well as capital gains on financial assets and real estate.

Fundamental to this decision was the fact that the ECJ determined that France’s social charges had sufficient links with the financing of the country’s social security system and benefits. EU Regulations generally provide that people can only be insured by one Member State. Therefore, if the person is insured by another Member State, they cannot also be insured by France and thus, should not have to pay French social charges on income from capital.

On 27th July 2015, the Conseil d’Etat, which is France’s highest court, accepted the ECJ ruling, which paved the way for those people affected to reclaim social charges that had been paid in 2013, 2014 and 2015. This applied to all residents of any EU/EEA State and Switzerland, who had paid social charges on French property rental income and capital gains, but excluded residents outside of these territories.

However, to circumvent the ECJ ruling, France amended its Social Security Code. In doing so, it removed the direct link of social charges to specific social security benefits that fall under EU Regulations. The changes took effect from 1st January 2016.

Hence, if you are resident in France, social charges are applied to your worldwide investment income and gains. The current rate is 15.5% and the charges are also payable by non-residents on French property rental income and capital gains.

Whilst the French Constitutional Council validated the changes in the French Social Security law, it remains highly questionable under EU law. One hopes, therefore, that this may be censored again by the ECJ, at some point.

EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION UNDER COMMON REPORTING STANDARD:

As of December 2016, there are now already over 1,300 bilateral exchange relationships activated, with respect to more than 50 jurisdictions. Many jurisdictions have already been collecting information throughout 2016, which will be shared with other jurisdictions by September 2017.

However, there are many more jurisdictions that are committed to the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and so it is anticipated that more information exchange agreements will be activated during 2017.

In the EU, the CRS has been brought into effect through the EU Directive on Administrative Cooperation in the Field of Taxation, which was adopted in December 2014. The scope of information exchange is very broad, including investment income (e.g. bank interest and dividends), pensions, property rental income, capital gains from financial assets and real estate, life assurance products, employment income, directors’ fees, as well as account balances of financial assets.

No-one is exempt and therefore, it is essential that when French income tax returns are completed, taxpayers declare all income and gains – even if this is taxable in another country by virtue of a Double Taxation Treaty with France.

It is also obligatory to declare the existence of bank accounts and life assurance policies held outside of France. The penalties for not doing so are €1,500 per account or contract, which increases to €10,000 if this is held in an ‘uncooperative State’ that has not concluded an agreement with France to provide administrative assistance to exchange tax information. Furthermore, if the total value of the accounts and contracts not declared is at least €50,000, then the fine is increased to 5% of the value of the account/contract as at 31st December, if this is greater than €1,500 (€10,000 if in an uncooperative State).

2nd January 2017

This outline is provided for information purposes only. It does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action to mitigate the effects of any potential changes in French tax legislation.