☏ +34 93 665 85 96  |  ✑ info@spectrum-ifa.com
Viewing posts categorised under: France

Which Assurance Vie is best?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: Assurance Vie, France
This article is published on: 7th September 2020

07.09.20

In answer to the question of where do you put your money for maximum tax efficiency, an assurance vie is certainly the best place to put it. The French have continued to favour this investment over the years. According to the French Insurance Federation (FFA), in 2019 the premiums paid into assurance vies increased by 3.5% in 2018, to a total of €144.6 billion. I subscribe to a French financial magazine and every year they do an article on the best assurance vies in the market. This gives me an interesting insight into which products are recommended for the typical French investor.

What is interesting to note is that it is very rare for bank assurance vies to appear in this list. Banks have several assurance vie products under different names with different offers and it can be hard for the consumer to understand and compare performance and costs. Every member of my household, including my children, has an assurance vie, because even after social charges on the part in Euro funds, they are more likely to outperform any cash savings accounts. For example, the Livret A (the preferred savings account of the French) and the LDDS now only pay 0.5% interest per year and any other savings account offered by banks only generally offer between 0.2-0.3% interest which is not exempt from tax and social charges.

assurance vie

The French tend to favour investments in Eurofunds, believing them to be a safe option. Whilst this may be true if the investment horizon is less than three years, in the longer term inflation has a negative effect. The days of glory of the Eurofunds was around 2013-2014 when rates reached 2.5%. In 2019 the average rate on Eurofunds was 1.5% compared with 1.8% (net of fees) in 2018. However when compared with inflation, which was 1.8% in 2018 and 1.1% in 2019, there wasn’t much ‘real’ growth. Social charges are taken at source on such investments which further impacts performance. If your investment horizon is over three years and closer to between five and eight years then you should be investing at least partly in equities to produce a positive return above inflation. If it’s security you are looking for, the more diversified your assets, both in terms of asset classes and geographical location, the better your portfolio will be to weather market fluctuations.

The advantage with bank assurance vies is that you can start with smaller amounts to invest and build up with regular monthly amounts. However as a financial adviser with a high level of French, even I find it difficult to understand what exactly is in these assurance vies and where the underlying investments are held. Usually you are given the option of eurofunds and euro equities. It is rarely possible to hold assets in a different currency. We work with assurance vie providers who can allow you to hold assets in sterling and dollars as well as euros, which would allow you to leave this money to beneficiaries living in the UK or the US and avoid transferring the money into euros at today’s exchange rate. If you wanted to invest in euros but are holding sterling, over time it can be switched into euro funds at the appropriate time and with advice from your financial adviser.

It is not easy to change assurance vies. The French government changed the rules at the beginning of last year allowing people to change contracts but only with the same insurer. However this depends on whether the insurer will allow you to change contracts and whether they have anything better to offer.

Assurance-Vie-France-English

If you are in your 40s, 50s or 60s and your investment horizon is longer than eight years, and if you find that your assurance vie is not performing as it should, or you no longer get the proper advice/service from your financial adviser/assurance vie provider, you could consider encashing the policy and finding a better investment. Professional guidance from an authorised financial adviser is essential to determine whether this this option is appropriate for your circumstances.

If however you are over 70 and set up the assurance vie before 70, or you set up the assurance vie over eight years ago and are benefitting from the income tax abatements of €4600 per person (€9200) per couple, it may not be in your interest to change assurance vie providers. There are still many benefits of setting up a small assurance vie after 70 to benefit from other abatements, but that will depend on your situation and you should discuss options with your financial adviser.

I would always advise speaking to a financial adviser before going into any investment whether French or foreign. You need to be aware of the past performance of the investment (although this is no promise of future returns), the reputation of the investment company and the costs and how this may affect investment performance. For more information about assurance vies in general please see our guide but if you are considering this type of investment please do contact your local financial adviser.

Investments in the current climate

By Occitanie - Topics: France, Occitanie
This article is published on: 13th July 2020

13.07.20

Welcome to the fourth edition of our newsletter ‘Spectrum in Occitanie, Finance in Focus’.

Last month we focused on the important area of inheritance planning and wills, outlining the value of careful planning, including mitigation of French inheritance tax using the Assurance Vie. This month, to follow on from that, we take a broader look at what options are available for generating a financial return on savings and investments in the current environment of such low interest rates globally.

As a reminder, we are Philip Oxley, Sue Regan, Rob Heskethand Derek Winsland. Together we form Spectrum’s team in the Occitanie.

interest-rates

What are current interest rates?
Most of us in developed economies have lived in a low interest rate environment for over 11 years. In the UK, for example, the base rate was 5.25% in March 2008. One year later, after the start of the global financial crisis, it was 0.5% and remained so for over seven years before a further post-Brexit vote reduction to 0.25% in August 2016. Recent years have seen small incremental increases to 0.75% before the impact of Coronavirus resulted in the rate being slashed to 0.1%. It has been a similar story in the US and the Eurozone, where the ECB base rate is currently 0%.

Why have interest rates been so low for so long?
There are numerous reasons. These include the cutting of rates following the global financial crisis of 2008/9 in an effort by central banks to stimulate economic growth (the same reason rates have been reduced during the Coronavirus pandemic). Beyond these economic shocks, there also seems to be evidence that central banks’ firm commitment to maintaining low and stable inflation has been successful. The primary tool central banks use when inflation threatens to take flight is to increase interest rates. In most developed countries, there has been little sign of this threat and therefore inflation and interest rates have remained at low levels.

Who has benefitted from this low interest rate environment?
In a word – borrowers! Consumers with mortgages, credit card debt or car loans, businesses (many of which rely on borrowings for investment or just day to day cash-flow requirements) and finally, governments, who typically rely on the credit markets to some extent to finance their spending.

Conversely, savers have suffered hugely during this low-interest rate environment, working hard to find some level of return on their funds. It has been particularly hard for those who rely on savings for their income, such as the retired and elderly. Similarly, risk averse consumers who avoid stock market investments, preferring a more cautious strategy to nurturing their savings, have been heavily penalised for this careful approach. And worse, there is no sign of any significant increase in rates in the foreseeable future.

In the search for financial returns, many in the UK have invested in tax-efficient products such as ISAs, Premium Bonds and other NS&I products, EISs and VCTs. But for those who have subsequently become a tax resident in France, it is important to understand that all these products are taxable here.

protect-665088_1280
How can you achieve a better rate of return on your savings as a French resident?
One product stands clearly above all others, which is the insurance-based investment called an Assurance Vie (AV). The AV is a French compliant life assurance bond which provides numerous tax concessions on investment growth, income and capital withdrawals and significant advantages when it comes to estate planning (which was covered in detail in our last Newsletter).The advantages of this product are numerous and include the following:
• Shelter from tax on all income and gains, and social contributions, whilst funds remain inside the AV. At the point of withdrawing funds, only the gain element is potentially subject to tax and social contributions.
• Access to capital at all times, although as AVs are designed for longer term investment, withdrawals in the early years will reduce tax efficiency and (depending on amounts withdrawn), may incur exit penalties. The tax efficiency increases over time as compound returns accumulate tax free, with the additional advantage after eight years of an annual tax-free withdrawal allowance of (currently) €9,200 for a married couple and €4,600 for a single person.
• The ‘tax clock’ to full tax efficiency starts on day one of the policy and funds added later benefit from this original start date.
• Estate planning flexibility in the form of protection from forced heirship succession law, allowing nomination of beneficiaries in accordance with personal wishes. Proceeds from an AV policy can be distributed between any number of beneficiaries, each of whom can receive €152,500 free of succession tax (so long as the policy was established and funded before the age of 70), with amounts in excess of €152,500 liable at 20% (and at 31.25% for amounts exceeding €700,000).
• Investment flexibility to match individual objectives, risk profile and currency preference (options including Sterling, Euro and US Dollar) and simplified tax reporting and annual declarations.
This tax efficiency is significant, with two simplified examples below illustrating what a valuable product the AV can be as a future source of income:

Example No. 1:
Fran is 52 years old and invests €120,000 into an AV
• 10 years later the fund is valued at €180,000
• Fran is now 62 years old and wants to draw an annual income of €12,000 per year (€1,000 per month)
• The gain on the investment is €180,000 – €120,000 = €60,000. As a proportion of the fund that is €60,000/€180,000 = 33.3%
• The gain element of €12,000 pa is 33.3%, i.e. €4,000
• Because Fran has held this AV for more than 8 years, the effective tax-free allowance for single people applies and is €4,600 per year. The gain element of drawing €12,000 pa is €4,000 (less than the €4,600) and therefore Fran will pay no income tax on drawing €12,000 per year from the AV.

Example No. 2:
Sam and Chris are 60 years old and invest €300,000 into an AV
• 8 years later the fund is valued at €400,000
• They are now 68 years old and want to draw an annual income from the AV of €25,000 per year (€2,083.33 per month)
• The gain on the investment is €400,000 – €300,000 = €100,000. As a proportion of the fund that is €100,000/€400,000 = 25%
• The gain element of €25,000 pa is 25%, i.e. €6,250
• Because Sam and Chris have held this AV for more than 8 years, as a couple their effective tax-free allowance is €9,200 per year. The gain element of drawing €25,000 pa is €6,250 (less than €9,200) and therefore they will pay no income tax on drawing an income of €25,000 per year from their AV.

Social charges apply to the gain element of withdrawals, at either 17.2% if France is responsible for the cost of your healthcare, or 7.5% if you hold an S1 certificate.

To produce a tax-efficient income stream later in life (including to supplement pension income in retirement), and to provide significant estate planning benefits (including protection from forced heirship laws), the Assurance Vie should for most people be a central feature of their financial planning strategy.

Finally, as a short-term solution for holding cash tax efficiently, there are three types of French bank accounts to consider. For general guidance, it is advisable to hold six months of your average monthly outgoings as a contingency fund for unexpected expenses. These accounts are detailed below:

➢the Livret A, available to both residents and non-residents, in which you can deposit up to €22,950 and earn interest of 0.5% per annum.
➢the Livret Développement Durable, available to French resident taxpayers only for deposits up to €12,000, also earning interest of 0.5%.
➢the Livret Epargne Populaire, available to French resident taxpayers only, paying an extra 0.5% interest for deposits up to €7,700 if your income does not exceed a certain threshold.

 

WHAT NEXT?

If you would like to discuss anything we have covered in this month’s newsletter, please do get in touch at Occitanie@spectrum-ifa.com
Next month we are going to focus on pensions, including the subject of drawdowns and portfolio structuring.
The Spectrum IFA Group – Occitainie
occitainie@spectrum-ifa.com

What type of recovery do we foresee?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments
This article is published on: 29th June 2020

29.06.20

The days are long and sunny and lots of people are looking forward to beginning their life in France! June is a very busy month here in France because with the school holidays starting on 1st July and lasting until the end of August, June is the last few weeks to get everything done before most people go on holiday.

June has felt like a very busy month for me, with lots of meetings with future clients on the telephone, Zoom meetings and webinars. On 12th June I attended the Tilney Women’s Panel Event hosted by Tilney with guest speakers Emma Sterland (Tilney), Zahra Pabani (Irwin Mitchell LLP), Marcie Shaoul (Rolling Stone Coaching) and Charlotte Broadbent (Charlotte Loves), which was a great way to end the week listening to other women’s experiences of lockdown. Then, on 17th June, I took part in a seminar examining financial planning solutions for American expatriates, which was very interesting.

I finally got back on the road again on 18th June to visit a few clients, which was lovely. Whilst the weather wasn’t as great as I might have hoped, I was very happy to see the in-real-life faces of my clients, whilst keeping a respectable social distance during the meetings.

zoom Katriona Murray

During what has become a monthly Zoom meeting with colleagues this month, we were joined by Rob Walker from Rathbones who gave us an interesting view on the three possible scenarios that Rathbones are envisaging:

1) that there will a V shaped recovery
2) that there will be a progressive recovery but no second wave of the virus
3) that there will be a second wave and a second lockdown.

When asked to vote on which of these three scenarios seemed the most likely, about half of us suggested the second scenario and the other half opted for the third scenario. Rob told us that there has been a bias towards “stay at home stocks” with Amazon and eBay doing very well, if not for any other reason than people could not get to the supermarket during the lockdown so tended to favour ordering online. Cleaning products stocks have done very well as one can imagine. National Grid has also done very well and in addition is increasing its attention on renewable energy, which is unsurprising given widespread and growing interest in Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) investing. Then there are the “Go back to work” sectors, such as retail, commercial property and tourism, which can only thrive if people do in fact go back to work.

In a possible indication of what lies ahead, Berkshire Hathaway (the company founded by renowned and highly successful investor Warren Buffet) has massively sold its holdings in airline companies. If a vaccine is found then these companies will see a rebound, but given the timing for a workable approved vaccine, this may not happen any time soon. Whilst US tech stocks are doing very well and have done very well during lockdown, Rob’s position is “Be defensive. This is no time to be heroic”.

Katriona Murray work revolution

There is no consensus on the way forward. The question is, do we want to go back to working the way we did before? For many workers going to work involves lengthy commutes on packed trains and buses, whereas the last few months have shown that many

of us can do our jobs from the comfort of our homes.

If this is a work revolution and companies decide to change their business models and allow employees to work more from home, what will be the consequences for commercial property ?

During the second part of the year the focus is going to be on Brexit and the US elections. Donald Trump is desperate to be re-elected. However, has the BLM movement hurt his chances? Will this encourage black voters to go out and vote to put Joe Biden in the Whitehouse? And in the UK, once the situation with Covid19 improves, the focus will be back on Brexit and what kind of deal the Prime Minister can agree with the European Union, if at all. The next six months are going to be interesting.

In France, a month after lockdown restrictions started being eased, the number of cases in the south west of the country still remains low. Schools have gone back with so far very few consequences.

Whilst July is a summer month, I will continue to work as normal (new normal). My children will continue to go to a holiday club two days a week. Like many of you, I am waiting to see whether a trip back to the UK to visit family will be possible in August which will determine our summer plans. I will not do a newsletter at the end of July but will probably do one at the end of August/beginning of September.

So for now, I wish you all a pleasant summer and look forward to getting back on the road to see even more clients in September!

Inheritance Planning & French Residency

By Occitanie - Topics: France, Inheritance Tax, Moving to France, Succession Planning, Tax, Wills
This article is published on: 9th June 2020

09.06.20

Welcome to ‘Spectrum in Occitanie, Finance in Focus’.

The Covid-19 pandemic still dominates the news and will inevitably remain at the forefront of our thoughts for some time. Last month we focused on the financial consequences of this virus and we may well return to this subject in future editions. However, in this issue we are going to focus on the very important, and often neglected, subject of Wills and Inheritance Planning. Succession laws in France differ significantly from those in the UK and careful planning is required to mitigate French inheritance tax.

As a reminder, we are Sue Regan, Rob Hesketh, Derek Winsland and Philip Oxley. Together we form Spectrum’s team in the Occitanie.

As touched on in last month’s Newsletter, now is probably a good time to revisit the subject of inheritance planning – an integral part of any financial planning review.

Despite the importance of making sure one’s affairs are in order for the inevitability of our demise, very few people actively seek advice in this area and, as a result, are unaware of the potential difficulties ahead for their families and heirs, not to mention potential tax bills which can be quite substantial for certain classes of beneficiary. With some sensible planning you could save your intended beneficiaries a great deal of stress and dramatically reduce their inheritance tax bill.

The basic rule is, if you are resident in France, you are considered also to be domiciled in France for inheritance purposes and your worldwide estate becomes taxable in France, where the tax rates depend upon the relationship to your beneficiaries.

Fortunately, there is no inheritance tax between spouses and the allowance between a parent and a child is reasonably generous, currently €100,000 per child, per parent. For anything left to other beneficiaries, the allowances are considerably less. In particular, for step-children and other non-related beneficiaries, the allowance is only €1,594 and the tax rate on anything above that is an eye-watering 60%!

There are strict rules on succession and children are considered to be ‘protected heirs’ and so are entitled to inherit a proportion of each of their parent’s estates. For example, if you have one child, the proportion is 50% of the deceased parent’s estate; two children, one-third each; and if you have three or more children, then three-quarters of your estate must be divided equally between them.

You are free to pass on the rest of your estate (the disposable part) to whoever you wish through a French will and, in the absence of making a will, if you have a surviving spouse, he/she would be entitled to 25% of your estate.

You may also be considered domiciled in your ‘home country’ and if so, this could cause some confusion, since your home country may also have the right to charge succession taxes on your death. However, France has a number of Double Taxation Treaties (DTT) with other countries covering inheritance. In such a case, the DTT will set out the rules that apply (basically, ‘which’ country has the right to tax ‘what’ assets).

For example, the 1963 DTT between France and the UK specifies that the deceased’s total estate will be devolved and taxed in accordance with the person’s place of residence at the time of death, with the exception of any property assets that are sited in the other country.

moving-to-france

Therefore, for a UK national who is resident in France, who has retained a property in the UK (and does not own any other property outside of France), the situation would be that:

  • any French property, plus his/her total financial assets, would be taxed in accordance with French law; and
  • the UK property would be taxed in accordance with UK law, although in theory, the French notaire can take this asset into account when considering the fair distribution of all other assets to any ‘protected heirs’ ie. children

If a DTT covering inheritance does not exist between France and the other country, with which the French resident person has an interest, this could result in double taxation, if the ‘home’ country also has the right to tax the person’s estate. Hence, when people become French resident, there are usually two issues:

  • how to protect the survivor; and
  • how to mitigate the potential French inheritance taxes for other beneficiaries

Protecting the survivor
There are various ways in which you can protect your spouse:

European Succession Regulation No. 650/2012
Many of you will no doubt have heard about the EU Succession Regulations that came into effect in 2015 whereby the default situation is that it is the law of your place of habitual residence that applies to your estate. However, you can elect for the inheritance law of your country of nationality to apply to your estate by specifying this in a French will. This is effectively one way of getting around the issue of ‘protected heirs’ for some expats living in France.

Adopting a ‘community pot’ marriage regime or family pact
There are other tried and tested French structures available to fully protect the rights of a spouse, that don’t rely on the notaire having an understanding of the succession laws of other countries.

You could choose to have the marriage regime of ‘communauté universelle avec une clause d’attribution intégrale au conjoint survivant’. Under this marriage regime, all assets are owned within a ‘community pot’ and on the death of the first person, those community assets are transferred to the survivor without any attribution of half of the assets to the deceased’s estate.

However, adopting a ‘community pot’ marriage regime would not be suitable for families with step-children. This sort of arrangement could be subject to a legal challenge by the survivor’s step-children as they could miss out on their inheritance due to the fact that there is no blood relationship with the step-parent.

In this situation, a family pact (pacte de famille) could be the solution, whereby families agree in advance who will inherit and when. Of course, this would only really work where there is an amicable relationship between parents and children, as the children are effectively waiving all or some of their right to inherit.

There are a number of other ways in which you can arrange your affairs to protect the survivor, depending on your individual circumstances, and we would always recommend that you discuss succession planning in detail with a notaire experienced in these matters.

Mitigation of inheritance tax
On whichever planning you decide, it is important to remember that the French inheritance tax rules will still apply. So, even though you have the freedom to decide who inherits your estate, this will not reduce the potential inheritance tax liability on your beneficiaries, which, as mentioned above, could potentially be very high for a step-child. Hence, there will still be a need to shelter financial assets from French inheritance taxes.

By far and away the most popular vehicle in France for sheltering your hard-earned savings from inheritance tax is the Assurance Vie. The assurance vie is considered to be outside of your estate for tax purposes and comes with its own inheritance allowances, in addition to the standard aIllowance for other assets. If you invest in an assurance vie before the age of 70 you can name as many beneficiaires as you like, regardless of whether they are family or not, and each beneficiary can inherit up to €152,500, tax-free. The rate of tax on the next €700,000 is limited to 20% – potentially making a huge saving for remoter relatives or step-children.

Let’s look at a simple example of the inheritance tax position of a married couple with two children, comparing the IHT position with and without investing in assurance vie:

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO DOWNLOAD PDF

It is clear to see from this example that by wrapping their medium to long term savings in an assurance vie, this couple have saved each child €30,500 in IHT.

Of course, the more beneficiaries nominated, for example grandchildren, siblings, etc, the greater the IHT saving overall. Beneficiaries can be changed or added to the assurance vie at any time. Remember, also, that beneficiary nominations are not restricted to family members, so, whoever you nominate gets the same allowance.

The inheritance allowance on premiums paid to assurance vie after age 70 are less attractive at €30,500 of the premium (capital investment) plus the growth on the capital shared between all named beneficiaries, and the remaining capital invested is taxed in accordance with the standard IHT bands.

Nevertheless, an assurance vie is still a worthwhile investment after the age of 70 as, in addition to the inheritance tax benefits, assurance vie offers personal tax efficiencies to the investor such as gross roll-up of income and gains whilst funds remain in the policy and an annual income tax allowance of €4,600, or €9,200 for a couple, after 8 years.

So, in order to ensure that your inheritance wishes are carried out, some planning may be required and there are investment opportunities to mitigate the IHT for your chosen beneficiaries.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss your particular circumstances.

The Spectrum IFA Group – Occitainie
occitainie@spectrum-ifa.com

Who wants to be a millionaire?

By Victoria Lewis - Topics: Financial Planning, France, Investments, wealth management
This article is published on: 3rd June 2020

03.06.20

Some people are prepared to cheat in order to become a millionaire. Charles Ingram famously cheated on the UK television game show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ and was subsequently found guilty along with his wife and friend who coughed during the programme to indicate the correct answers.

Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm sung ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ in the film High Society. Frank Sinatra was certainly a multi-millionaire even though he sang that he didn’t want to be!

Incidentally, the word millionaire was apparently first used in French in 1719 to describe speculators in the Mississippi Bubble who earned millions of livres in weeks before the bubble burst.

You may already be a millionaire or you may be planning to become one in the future through hard work, inheritance or good luck. Whatever your current financial situation, it is interesting to consider the millionaire ‘secrets’ of how you can become one.

Of course, millionaires aren’t privy to knowledge and information that no one else has access to. The ‘secrets’ are simply sensible financial habits which we can all use.

Click the headings below to find out more:

  • Decide what you want in the future, set a target and stick to it

    Have you calculated when and how much money you need to retire? Perhaps you want your children/grandchildren to have a university education – have you calculated how much this will cost?
  • Shift your focus from spending to investing

    Most millionaires take advice from investment professionals – tax advisers, lawyers, financial planners and asset managers. Don’t be afraid of them; use them.
  • The 24-hour rule

    If you can’t resist spending, apply this rule that many millionaires use. Even if you can afford an expensive purchase, give it a day’s time before actually making the decision. Impulsive shopping occurs from an emotional trigger and is often unnecessary. Do you want it or do you need it?
  • Set a budget (yes, even the rich have a budget!)

    Look at your monthly bank statement and categorise everything into the following groups:
    Essentials, Personal and Savings. Generally speaking, the split should be 50%, 30% and 20%.

    Living essentials – allocate 50% for monthly expenses such as mortgage/rent, transport, utilities, food etc.

    Personal spending – allocate 30% of your income for holidays, entertainment, shopping, hobbies – anything that makes you happy.

    Savings – 20% of your earned income should go straight into an investment or savings account.

    If your own allocations are different, analyse why and consider how changes could be made.

  • Cash over credit

    We are living in a near cashless society and credit cards are easy to come by, but this environment is not advisable for people who struggle to keep within their budget. Many millionaires prefer cash over a card for this reason.
  • Control

    People who are good at saving and investing are generally also good at controlling their urge to spend. Many people have completed a Dry January or a Meat Free Monday, how about trying a regular ‘no spending’ day – call it Frugal Friday!
  • Bills first, the rest later

    Most banks offer the facility to choose the date you want your regular standing orders to be paid. Choose the day after your income/pension is paid in, so you know exactly how much is left for everything else.
  • Invest in something that makes you happy

    This could be a classic car, a piece of art, perhaps you have a hobby that you enjoy investing in. Happiness can also be found in the investment arena, as more and more investors are choosing ethical or socially responsible funds. These are funds that have positive social impacts or are involved in climate change solutions. You can now express your values in the financial world.
  • Invest in services that save you time

    Many millionaires don’t hesitate in paying for services that save their time – food deliveries and laundry services for example. The same can be said for investment research – a financial advisory firm will do that for you.

For more detailed information on these financial habits, please contact me on
M: 06 62 50 70 21 or email Victoria.lewis@spectrum-ifa.com

There’s only two things you can be certain of in life…

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, Tax, tax advice, Tax Efficient Savings, Tax Relief
This article is published on: 2nd June 2020

02.06.20

In France they have an expression “En mai fait ce qui te plait” which translated means that in May you do as you please. Well clearly this year we haven’t been able to do exactly as we please but we have been allowed a bit more freedom since the end of lockdown on 11th May. I haven’t yet felt the need to take advantage of this new found liberty, but as the children returned to school under acceptable conditions at the end of last week our work/home/school routine is set to change.

May is also tax season. Whilst you can get online to do your tax return in April, I personally have always preferred to do it on 1st May and during the month of May I notice an increase in client enquiries. Even though, in my previous role as a tax adviser, I used to do several hundred tax returns for our English speaking clients, I still find myself getting nervous when I do our annual tax return. There are so many bits of information that need to be assembled and I want to make sure that I have all the income, expenses and tax reductions properly entered before I finally press send.

French Tax Changes 2019

May is a good time to think about not only your tax but also your taxable income. When I worked in the accountancy firm, my colleagues and I didn’t have time to think about whether a client was paying TOO much tax or not. We just took the information provided and entered the figures in the boxes. When I joined Spectrum I realised that, as a financial adviser, I could take the time to sit down and do a full financial review with my clients to look into whether it made sense for them to be paying so much tax. One thing that comes to mind is UK ISAs and investment portfolios.

They are not tax efficient in France and a real headache for anyone or their tax adviser to have to work out. It took hours of entering in each dividend, interest and capital gain. You can still own a well diversified, multi asset portfolio within an assurance vie wrapper and save time and money when it comes to completing your tax return.

If you haven’t done your tax return then there is still time to do so. You can get our free tax guide HERE. In 2020, all households must do their tax returns online if they have internet access at home. If not they can submit a paper return. You have until 4th June if your live in Departments 1-19 or if you are non-resident, 8th June for Departments 20-54 and 11th June for Departments 55 to 974/976.

As regards the markets, global share prices have recovered strongly over recent weeks, with many investors encouraged by central bank interventions, including ongoing financial support and stimulus for individuals and companies. The prospect of successful vaccine development and the easing of lockdown restrictions have also fuelled optimism. Some of this investor enthusiasm, and expectations of a rapid economic recovery, may well be misplaced, but short term stock market direction is of course impossible to forecast.

There is almost certainly more economic difficulty ahead, but there will in time be a recovery (the only question is timing) and, as always, it is important to take the long term view. For now, our priority should be to ensure that our investments and pensions continue to be well managed regardless of the difficult economic circumstances.

In the words of Julian Chillingworth, Chief Investment Officer of Rathbones, one of Spectrum’s approved multi-asset fund managers,
“We think it’s important that investors concentrate on understanding which businesses can survive this current crisis and quickly return to generating meaningful profits and paying dividends. This is where we are concentrating our research efforts, generating ideas for our investment managers to use in portfolios as we work our way through this crisis.”

May has been a busy month with Zoom meetings with colleagues, friends and family and telephone meetings with clients and prospects. However as lockdown has now ended and my children are back at school (for at least two days a week), I will be tentatively making a few face to face meetings in June if my clients so wish whilst taking all the necessary protection measures.

If you want to speak to me about any financial matters or you know of anyone who, having moved to France, would benefit from learning more about managing finances in France, please do get in touch.

The Spectrum IFA Group and Blackden Financial join forces

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Spectrum-IFA Group, Switzerland
This article is published on: 26th May 2020

26.05.20

One of Europe’s leading expatriate advisory companies today announced the acquisition of a 50% shareholding in Geneva based financial planners Blackden Financial, the transaction having been concluded on Friday following discussions which began last year.

The move forms part of Spectrum’s ongoing strategic growth in Europe and expands its existing Swiss operation based in Lausanne. Blackden’s name, office and personnel will be retained.

Spectrum, established in 2003, specialises in financial planning for English speaking expatriates across Europe, operating from twelve regional offices in France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg. Blackden (also founded in 2003) operates exclusively in Switzerland from its central Geneva premises, providing investment, pension and savings solutions to a predominantly high net worth expatriate client base.

Spectrum Director, Chris Tagg, commented “Having observed Blackden Financial’s success over many years, we recognise the team’s disciplined advice process, high professional standards and commitment to long term client service. We are pleased to be investing in a company, and in people, knowing that the essential features of good business practice are already in place. We look forward to continuing the growth of our expatriate financial planning services across Switzerland.”

“The stake in Blackden allows Spectrum to further develop its Swiss based expatriate investment and tax planning capabilities, whilst giving Blackden access to locally compliant solutions in some of Spectrum’s EU markets including France, Italy and Spain.”

Chris Marriott, founder and CEO of Blackden, added “Having specialised in advising Swiss based expats for the last 17 years, we are delighted to complete this deal, which complements and strengthens our presence locally, and look forward to Spectrum’s involvement in the next phase of our business development.”

Michael Lodhi, Spectrum’s Chief Executive Officer and co-founder said “I have known Chris Marriott for more than 15 years, we were instrumental in the creation of The Federation of European Independent Financial Advisers (FEIFA) and I am delighted that we can now work together on a commercial basis.”

State Pension Benefits

By John Lansley - Topics: EU Pension Transfer, France, Pensions, Retirement, State Pensions After BREXIT, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 22nd May 2020

22.05.20

If you have moved from one country to another, while it may be comparatively easy to obtain tax advice in order to help you plan your finances, it can be very difficult to find out how your State Retirement Pension will be affected, and this has become more uncertain as a result of Brexit.

This article aims to shed some light on the issue.

I retired in the UK and moved abroad
Let’s start with something easy – if you have already retired and moved to France, Spain or another EU country, the chances are you will only have a State Pension from the UK. With Brexit in mind, as long as you are legally resident in your new home country by the end of 2020, nothing will change and you will be entitled to the annual pension uplift indefinitely.

Coupled to this is your entitlement to healthcare, in that you will have a form S1 from the UK, which ensures you benefit from full care on an ongoing basis, and which in effect will be paid for by the UK Government.

If you have already left the UK but have not yet reached formal retirement age, as long as you are ‘legal’ in your adopted home before the end of 2020, you will receive the UK State Pension at retirement age and qualify for annual increases. You will also be entitled to a form S1.

Note that, if you have not regularised your situation in your adopted home by the end of 2020, the situation is uncertain, to say the least. You will be entitled to claim the UK State Pension when you reach retirement age, but the uplifts are only due for 3 years and, most importantly, form S1 will not be available; but the situation may change – the Brexit negotiations seem to have stalled due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and no one knows what the final agreement will look like, especially when it comes to freedom of movement and the rights of third country nationals.

defined-benefit-pensions

I left the UK 5 years ago at the age of 55 and have been self-employed in France for the last 5 years

Have you been making voluntary contributions to the UK scheme? Are you making contributions in France?

If you haven’t already done so, obtain a pension forecast from HMRC – use the gov.uk website, sign up for the Government Gateway access service, and check your National Insurance Contribution records, as well as your UK tax records. You’ll have to apply to contribute, using form CF83 attached to the booklet NI38, Social Security Abroad.

You will then be told what pension you can expect at your retirement age, and you can also see how many incomplete contribution years you have. It is generally good advice to continue to make voluntary contributions after leaving the UK (currently £795.60pa), but if you are currently self-employed, you will only have to pay at the Class 2 rate, £158.60pa for the current year.

You’ll receive details of how to make up the shortfall, by bank transfer or cheque for past years, and by direct debit for the future if you wish to see payments taken automatically. Importantly, you can also call to obtain advice concerning whether it would be worthwhile doing this, and how additional payments will increase your pension entitlement – it might take a while to get through, especially due to the current Coronavirus lockdown, but you should find the staff helpful when you do.

Also make sure you understand what your French contributions entitle you to and try to obtain a projection of your future pension in France. This might prove difficult at present, with offices closed or providing limited services.

Having worked in the UK, Italy and now in Spain, I want to claim my State Pension
The first thing to understand is that you should retire formally in the country you are currently living in, unless you haven’t made any pension contributions there – in which case you apply to the last country in which you contributed.

So, in this case, you approach the Spanish authorities and will have to provide details of all your employment and self-employment history. Spain will then check with each country concerned (the EU-wide scheme ensures this is possible – work history outside the EU means you may have to apply individually to those countries) and will calculate your entitlement.

They will do this by adding together the contribution years of each country and then applying this to their own pension rules. Don’t forget, official retirement age can vary in different countries, and some state pensions are more generous than others. A second calculation is made, whereby all the individual pension entitlements are worked out, and the totals added together. Then they will award you the higher of the two figures, and will handle payments to your bank account, obtaining reimbursements from the other countries involved, according to your previous contribution records.

So, you do not have to have the minimum contributions in each country you have worked in. Having said this, if you have done so, the chances are you will benefit from minimum pensions from each country, which will produce a higher figure than otherwise. But this system means it may well not be necessary to continue to make voluntary contributions as your combined contribution history is more than sufficient.

How is healthcare affected? Any other advantages?
The good news is that receiving your pension locally will mean that your access to the local healthcare system comes with it – no need for a form S1. So, any attempts by the UK to remove themselves from the S1 scheme will not affect you.

Receiving your total State Pension entitlement in Euros has to be a distinct advantage, as it removes exchange rate risk from your retirement income. So, although a pension from a former UK employer will have to be paid in Sterling (but see below), and is therefore at risk from a weakening Pound, at least your State Pension will be paid in the currency you spend.

10 TIPS FOR MANAGING YOUR FINANCES

Other financial planning tips?
Despite the UK government’s attempts to water down the ability to ‘export’ your UK private pensions using the QROPS arrangements, this is still

possible – but perhaps won’t be for much longer. So, obtain advice about whether such a move would be beneficial, as soon as possible.

Any savings or capital you have should be invested tax-efficiently and with the aim of protecting it against both inflation and exchange rate fluctuations. Stock Markets can fluctuate too, sometimes dramatically as we have seen, so be careful you understand the amount of risk your investments are exposed to, and seek help from a suitably qualified professional who will be able to help you over the long term.

The Spectrum IFA Group specialises in financial and retirement planning for English speaking expatriates in France, Spain and across Europe. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

Health, Wealth and Happiness

By Victoria Lewis - Topics: Financial Review, France, Inheritance Tax, Succession Planning
This article is published on: 12th April 2020

12.04.20

During the current lockdown in France, I have seen a noticeable increase in the number of my clients wishing to review the beneficiaries of their investments. This could have been prompted by the daily depressing news of covid-19 deaths around the world, or it could simply be because of the extra time available to get their financial plans in order – working through the ‘to do’ lists.

Whatever the driver behind these reviews, it is a responsible part of financial planning to think about how and to whom you wish your investments to be distributed after your passing.

Inheritance planning is a key feature of the well documented ‘assurance vie’ in France – a simple and efficient investment vehicle available to French tax residents. In the next article I will remind you of the assurance vie benefits.

For the moment, I will focus on the title of this ezine. As a Financial Advisor, I am clearly not in a position to advise you on health matters. But as it happens, during this covid-19 confinement period, my own personal health has come under review! With the extra time I now have as I am not travelling to see my clients face to face, I have been able to spend 20 mins every morning exercising via an online personal coach. I will to continue this when normal life resumes.

I am, of course, able to help you with your wealth matters; and it does matter. Perhaps during this time of global lockdown, we can all reflect on our financial plans. Should I change my spending habits? Could I afford to retire earlier than planned? How can I stay financially motivated given the financial and economic forecasts? We can all lose focus from time to time, but it’s a financial adviser’s role to help you keep focused and to bring your financial plans back on track.

Please use your spare time constructively – why not contact me for a review, either over the telephone or via a video call. We will discuss many different areas such as life insurance, pensions, savings and investments, inheritance and wills, mortgages and education fees. We do not charge you a fee for our discussions, our follow up work, our regular reviews or our reports and you are under no obligation to follow our advice. Simply put, if you agree with my recommendations and I then arrange for you for example, an assurance vie or a pension, we are then remunerated by the companies we recommended.

When the daily news is worrying, it is understandable to get absorbed about the here and now impact. We are, after all, thinking about things like the latest restrictions, food shopping and how to keep the family occupied. However, when it comes to your financial plans, it is really important to stay focused on your key objectives.

I believe that if you have your health, an abundance of family and friends, a plan for your wealth then happiness will naturally follow.

To discuss further, please contact me on 06 62 50 70 21 or email Victoria.lewis@spectrum-ifa.com

Guardianship for your Children

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: Financial Planning, France, Succession Planning
This article is published on: 11th April 2020

11.04.20

Being the mother of two small children and the aunty of several more, like many parents, the issue arose quite early of what would happen to my children if something were to happen to my husband and I and what would happen to my sisters’ children should something happen to them. Whilst I don’t need to make a will from an inheritance tax point of view, because I have two children with the same father (my husband) and French law states that my half of our assets would go to my children as bare owners (nu propriétaire) and my husband as beneficiary (usufruitier), I do need to make a will regarding my wishes for my children’s guardian.

The first question is a personal one. Who, in your family or friends, would be best placed to be able to raise your children, in the country you want them to be raised in, in their language, in the way you want them to be raised? Do(es) this person(s) have children of their own? There are a range of different questions that are all particular to your situation. If you intend to appoint someone to be a guardian, then you should talk to them about it and maybe, if possible, talk to your children about it.

The second issue is the legal aspect. There are two ways to appoint a guardian in France. Firstly, you can appoint them in your will, or you could appoint them using a special declaration. Either way a notary needs to be involved. If no guardian is appointed by the parents, under aged children will be put under the protection of the court. A “Family council” will be appointed by the Guardianship Court (Juge des tutelles). This Family Council, made up of a minimum of 4 people, will have the responsibility of appointing a guardian (if one hasn’t already been appointed) who can be a member of the family or someone outside the family. Even if a guardian has been appointed but this person is unable to either adequately care for the child or properly manage the child’s assets, the matter can be referred to the court and another family member can chose another guardian.

If a child loses one parent then it is the other parent who will have parental responsibility. This parent can either care for the child themselves or appoint a guardian, who can be a member of the family or a close friend. If the parent is unable or incapable of looking after the child, then another guardian can be appointed by the court.

The third aspect is the financial aspect. If something were to happen, would the guardian have the financial means to look after the child(ren)? One thing you can do is make sure you have life insurance (called death insurance in France) which will pay out a lump sum and/or an annuity to the children for the rest of their childhood. Often when you purchase a house there is loan insurance that will cover some or part of the value of the house upon death of one or both parents. However, it may not be convenient or possible for the child to be raised in the family home and property as an asset is difficult to manage. Other liquid assets can be kept in bank accounts like Livret As or LLDs, but large lump sums (like the proceeds of a house or the lump sum from insurance upon death) should be placed in an assurance vie in order to protect it from inflation.

Luckily it is uncommon that a young child would lose one or both parents, but it is something that plays in the back of the mind of many parents so it is better having things in place to decide, who, how and with what means someone would look after your child in the best possible way.