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Are you a UK IFA with Clients Living in Europe ?

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 17th November 2020

17.11.20

ARE YOU UNABLE TO SERVICE THESE CLIENTS POST BREXIT?

UK IFA

At The Spectrum IFA Group we can look after your clients long term as licensed and regulated financial advisers operating in France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

The things you should know before you contact us for our help:

  • We specialise in financial planning for English speaking expatriates across western Europe
  • We are locally authorised in all jurisdictions in which we operate and across the entire EU (and Switzerland). Our regulatory status is unaffected by Brexit
  • We hold financial services licenses for both insurance mediation (Insurance Distribution Directive compliant) and investment advice (MiFiD compliant)
  • Established in 2003, we have 50 advisers and 12 regional offices
  • We work only with large, well known asset managers including Blackrock, Jupiter, Fidelity and Prudential. For clients with higher value portfolios we also use discretionary investment managers such as Rathbones, Smith and Williamson and Quilter Cheviot
  • As part of our terms of business, clients of The Spectrum IFA Group receive ongoing, long term service and support. All advisers live within easy travel distance of their clients
  • We are not an offshore broker. We do not use products from UK dependant territories (such as the Isle of Man or Channel Islands) as they can produce adverse tax consequences for clients living in Europe. We advise that you don’t use any of these structures for your clients if they are EU resident
  • We use only locally compliant products which are designed specifically for the jurisdictions in which our clients are based
  • We work on a transparent charging structure with all clients. Charges are deducted directly from the products and solutions we recommend. We do not invoice separately
Why should I be wary of exchange rates?

As the end of the transition period is rapidly approaching we ask that you contact us as soon possible to allow time for us to complete any necessary restructuring of client assets.

If your clients are resident in the EU or Switzerland, or intending becoming resident, please feel free to contact us for a no obligation discussion to determine if we can look after your clients post Brexit.

You can contact us at info@spectrum-ifa.com

Or speak to the specific country managers in France, Spain or Italy

Click the relevant flag below

Financial Advisers in France
Financial Advisers in spain
Financial Advisers in Italy

We don’t have a crystal ball but we know how to prepare for the unknown

By Alan Watson - Topics: France, Inheritance Tax, Succession Planning, Tax Relief
This article is published on: 10th November 2020

10.11.20

For most of 2020, nobody in France has been able to escape the misery of the daily Virus update; even as I write this article, it gets worse by the day. From a financial planner’s viewpoint, and thinking of my family, long term Rhone-Alps based, it can spin one’s head wondering, “how much, and for how long, will our children be paying extra taxes and social charges to balance this black hole.”

President Macron has certainly not been slow in pressing his Eurozone political colleagues to secure a massive support package for France (so all those excessive Urssaf charges have clearly not been enough!) Did anybody analyse, offer some statistics as to how this will be paid back? If so, sorry I missed it, but we all know the harsh reality is payback time will be long and heavy.

Many of my clients in the Alps are either retired, considering it, or working hard in their business to secure a tidy financial future, not only for themselves, but for their families also. It’s a part of life’s pattern that many of us become beneficiaries of a family estate, and being a French fiscal resident, this brings up potential questions and complications, “what are the limits I can receive before the tax man becomes an unwelcome beneficiary?”, “my children deserve a portion of this, but the bank offers a derisory return, not even Eurozone inflation proof,”, “our young daughter dreams of studying in the US, how much will that cost?”

gifts

So how do we approach such matters ? You may be surprised and relieved to hear that the French fiscal system can be both generous and highly tax efficient when it comes to financial planning for ourselves and our families. For example, a gift of €100,000 can be made every 15 years from parents to children, free of tax and social charges, which could be used for that far off house purchase, a highly regarded study program, or even setting up a business. A lower, but still highly valuable, allowance of just over €30,000 applies for gifts between grandparents and grandchildren.

Currency is also an important consideration. French banks are always happy to offer short and long term saving vehicles. The wording of the contracts, terms, and fund choices, even for somebody who has spent over 30 years in European financial services, can be rather bewildering, plus they always insist on converting your Sterling to Euros, and currently this is not a sensible proposition. In the last year alone we have seen swings between the two currencies of 10%; the Pound is still a global currency and will return to its former glory, so a far better facility is to be able to choose your exchange date, then take advantage whenthe currency is stronger to move to your new Euro based need. This flexibility coupled to tax efficiency, could make a gift for your loved ones a very sensible and well planned move.

As a financial adviser, I meet many people in sometimes complex and misunderstood situations, “I have actually lived in France for the last two years, is it now time to declare fiscal residency?”, “My children have UK ISAs set up by their grandparents, so living here as a family, is this tax efficient?”

A no obligation meeting may help to unravel the complex French reporting system, and allow you to enjoy all the things that brought us here in the first place.

How much tax do you pay in France?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, Tax, tax tips
This article is published on: 3rd November 2020

03.11.20

It’s strange to think that this time last year I was in Quebec with my husband and children. Whilst autumn colours in Canada were absolutely splendid, I have really been enjoying seeing the colours of the trees and vineyards in my local area.

France is now in lockdown for at least the month of November. However unlike the previous lockdown schools will remain open and people can still go to work. Although I have become a lot more comfortable working from home online I enjoy my drives to see my clients. If you would like to speak to me about any matter, even if your annual review is not due at this time, please feel free to let me know and I would be happy to arrange a face to face meeting or an online video call. I can come and see my clients because that is my work but it may also be a way of preventing clients feeling isolated when they cannot see other people.

Being flexible is very important at this time. We don’t know what will happen in the future or how Christmas may be celebrated but what we do know is that

1) We have survived lockdown before so we know what works and what needs changing
2) We know that lockdown was effective in bringing the number of cases down
3) We have made enormous progress on understanding the virus and how to treat it, we are also getting ever closer to a vaccine. We just have to keep calm and carry on!

As you know in November, the Taxe d’Habitation is due (by 16th November or 21st November if paid online). This is a tax for all residents of buildings on 1st January. In 2020, 80% of French households will be considered exempt from paying this tax. In July 2019 Macron said in 2021 the higher income households would see a 30% reduction in their taxe d’habitation increasing to 65% in 2022 and 100% in 2023. So basically this tax will cease to exist after 2023.

As regards income tax, the tax levels have increased by 0.2% for the tax on income earned in 2020 to take into account the inflation forecast for 2019-2020. The new tax barriers are:

Between 0 and €10,084 0%
From €10,084 to €25,710 11%
From €25,710 to €73,516 30%
From €73,516 to €158,122 41%
From €158,122 45%
French Tax Changes 2019

Just how is my tax calculated in France?

If you have looked at your tax statement and wondered how the tax is calculated, you may find the following rough guide to be useful.

If a couple has a total of €30,000 of income, their taxes would be as follows. €30,000 divided by 2 = €15,000

No tax for the first €10,084 but 11% on the difference between €10,084 and €15,000 (€4916 x 11% = €541). This amount is then multiplied by the number of people (or tax parts) so the total tax for this couple would be €1082.

For a couple with €60,000, the income is again divided between them (€60,000/2 = €30,000).

There is again no tax for the first €10,084, the next amount would be €25,710-€10,084=€15 626 at 11% which is €1719.

The difference between €30,000 and €25,710, i.e. €4290 would be taxed at 30% resulting in €1287.

The final tax would be (€1719 + €1287) x 2 = €6,012 total tax.

Once the tax is calculated then the tax reductions for home help expenses or charitable donations are deducted. For more information please request our free tax guide on our website.

If you have French investments or interest earning accounts and your taxable income (as shown on your 2020 tax return for your income earned in 2019) is less than €25,000 (or €50,000 for a couple) for interest, or for dividends €50,000 (or €75,000 for a couple) you must inform your bank or financial institution before 30th November 2020 so that they don’t withhold the 12.8% income tax on your income in 2021.

Wishing you all a wonderful November. Stay home, stay safe, stay in touch!

Do I need a residence permit or driving licence in France?

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Driving licence in France, France, Residence permit in France
This article is published on: 30th October 2020

30.10.20

Like it or not, Britain formally left the UK on the 31st January 2020. Since then we have been in a transition period which will last until 31st December 2020, during which time the politicians are supposed to negotiate agreements for various aspects concerning how the UK will interact with the EU in the future. Despite the looming deadline, the shape of the future relationship of the EU with the United Kingdom remains uncertain. Whether they manage to agree or not, there are some points that are very likely. You will need to get a French residence permit and possibly convert your UK driving licence.

Do I need to get a ‘titre de séjour’ to live in France in 2021?
Yes, all British citizens living in France need to apply for a residence permit from 2021, but you have until 1st July 2021 to apply for it and 1st October 2021 is when it will become necessary to hold it. Even if you hold an older residence permit stating “citoyen Union européenne”, you will still need to change it for a new version by the 1st October 2021, after which date it will no longer be valid. The new residence permits will be known as ‘titre de séjour mention « Accord de retrait du Royaume-Uni de l’UE »’. If you have been living in France for more than five years, this will be a permanent ten year residence permit. If you have been living in France for less than five years, you will receive a residence permit for one to five years.

Luckily, the process for obtaining these permits is simple, and free, but you must make the application via the dedicated residence permit application website before July 1st 2021. All you need is photographs or scans of your passport, proof of when you moved to France and proof of current address. Here is the list of documents.

British citizens moving to France after 31st December 2020 will be required to obtain a long stay visa, then to file an application for a residence permit at their prefecture in a procedure which is likely to be much more onerous, so if you are thinking of moving to France, it could well be worth doing so before the end of 2020.

Do I need to change my UK driving licence to continue driving in France?
UK driving licences are valid throughout the EU until the end of the transition period on the 31st December 2020, but the rules governing driving licences after this date have yet to be set out. If there is an agreement, there will be special provisions for the conditions of exchange of your UK driving licence for a French licence if you are resident in France.

If there is no agreement, driving licences will be valid for a year from the date of moving to France, but they will not be exchangeable. At the end of this period of validity, British driving licences will no longer entitle their holders to drive in France.

The application for exchanging your licence must be made online on the ANTS website and there are long waiting times. You will need to get a photo taken in an accredited photo booth that sends the photograph directly and gives you a code to enter in the application. Note that if you want to keep any extra categories other than the standard A and B, such as towing permits, you will need to specify this and arrange a medical examination with a listed doctor (about 50 euros).

What else do I need to think about?
There are also a number of financial aspects to Brexit that you could do well to consider before the end of the year. Regarding general banking, some people are already getting notices informing them that their UK accounts will be closed. If you are stuck without an account in the UK, there are international accounts available which may be suitable.

Another important consideration is pensions. As well as the questions about state pensions, there could well be changes in taxation on moving your personal pension out of the UK. Until the end of 2020 you can move your pension out of the UK but within the EU cost effectively, but after this year the 25% tax charge which is applied on moving your pension anywhere else could be applied to moving it into the EU.

Healthcare is another issue. If you are employed in France, you will continue to have the same access to healthcare as French citizens, but retired expats relying on an S1 certificate are still waiting for news of an agreement. Additionally, if you are moving to France after January 2021 you may need private healthcare cover during the application phase of residency.

Not everything is clear yet, but if you are living in France and want to make sure that everything is in order before the end of the year, contact us and we will put you in touch with a local adviser who will arrange a free consultation to discuss anything you are worried about.

If you are thinking about setting up residency in France before the end of the year, it is essential to seek help so you can arrange your affairs tax efficiently in the little time that is left, Contact us and we will put you in touch with an adviser in the area in which you want to establish residence who will arrange a free consultation. All our advisers have made the same move and will be happy to answer any questions.

Should I transfer my UK Pensions if I’m living in France?

By Philip Oxley - Topics: France, International SIPP, Moving to France, QROPS, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 12th October 2020

12.10.20

I live in France but have pensions in the UK. Should I transfer them to a QROPS, an International SIPP or just leave them where they are?

For British Nationals living in France, perhaps the primary decision to be made in relation to long term financial planning is whether or not to take any action with regards to any pension scheme/s they have in the UK.
To deal at the outset with one question I have seen asked, and increasingly so since the Brexit decision, it is important to state that it is not necessary to move your pension if you move to France. Even after Brexit, you will still have access to your pension funds. Concern that you will lose access to your pension fund is not a good reason to move it!

However, there can be good reasons to consider moving your pension once you have relocated to France. This decision should be made only on the basis of a proper analysis having been conducted on your existing schemes.

As a French resident, the primary options in relation to your pension scheme/s are as follows:
i) Leave them where they are
ii) Move them into a QROPS
iii) Move them into an International SIPP
iv) A combination of the above

Click on the sections below to find out more:

Following a professional review, sometimes our recommendation is to leave your pensions schemes in their existing arrangement in the UK. Reasons for doing this include the following:

  • you plan to move back to the UK at some point in the near future
  • your pension scheme/s are relatively small in value (e.g. less than £100,000)
  • you have a cautious stance in relation to investments, your pension scheme is a Defined Benefit scheme (sometimes known as a Final Salary scheme) and this is your only or primary source of income once you retire

One key drawback to this approach is that you will forever receive your pension in GBP, therefore always be subject to exchange rate risk and currency exchange costs. You only have to speak to someone who already receives their pension in GBP (or even read some of the posts on Facebook on this issue) to see that British Nationals have really felt exchange rate pain in recent years, only receiving €1.10 currently for each £ when once it was closer to €1.40. In addition, there is the time spent researching and using currency exchanges to try to obtain the best rate.

For example, drawing a pension of £10,000 per year and converting to Euro would have yielded approximately the following amounts over the past 15 years:

  • €15,000 in January 2007
  • €10,500 in December 2008
  • €14,250 in July 2015 and
  • €11,000 currently

These fluctuations are not helpful in your later years when you need to plan your financial affairs and seek a degree of certainty in relation to your income.

A QROPS has been the go-to product for many expats over the years. To be classified as a QROPS the scheme must meet certain requirements, as defined by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Amongst the key benefits are the following:

  • The option to consolidate multiple pensions into one administratively simple but diversified portfolio. Consolidating pension pots into a single structure is a more convenient way of tracking your pension growth and provides a far simpler structure when you start to draw your pension
  • The currency of the pension can be chosen, not just at outset, but a change in currency can be made whilst holding the pension. Therefore, if you move your pension into a QROPS in GBP initially, if a point arises in the future when the pound significantly increases in value, part of the fund or the entire fund can be moved into Euro
  • A QROPS is a pension which is held outside of the UK; therefore, it provides some protection against future legislative changes that might take place impacting pensions based in the UK. Chancellors of the Exchequer have for many years now seen pensions as an easy target for raising tax revenue
  • Moving pensions funds into a QROPS is an action that is known as a Benefit Crystallisation Event (BCE) and your pension will be tested against the UK Lifetime Allowance (LTA) at the time of transfer. Should your pension subsequently grow in value in a QROPS beyond the LTA (currently £1,073,000) there will be no further test or tax to pay. Currently, pensions in excess of the LTA can be taxed at up to 55% in the UK, depending on the type of withdrawal (lump sum or drawdown). Although in some cases, you may be able to enhance the LTA limit with different forms of pension protection
  • Tax planning opportunities for your nominated beneficiaries on the event of your death. Currently, if you are over 75 when you die (most of us hope this will be the case) then a tax liability exists for your beneficiaries in relation to UK based pensions. This liability could be greatly reduced and often no tax is payable if certain conditions are met

One disadvantage of some QROPS is the level of fees. Because of the structure of a QROPS requiring an offshore investment platform, EU based trustee (typically Malta-based) and sometimes a Discretionary Fund Manager (DFM), costs can in some cases become prohibitive. However, regardless of pension value, there is scope to control both initial and ongoing charges. With proper planning, cost should not be an obstacle to establishing a QROPS.

A SIPP has some of the advantages of a QROPS in relation to currency flexibility and consolidation, but because it remains a pension structure domiciled in the UK, the tax advantages in relation to the LTA and Death Benefits for heirs do not apply. Also, it remains exposed to any legislative changes made by the UK Government in future budgets.

However, if you plan to move back to the UK or prefer to keep your pension based in the UK, then this is an option that may be suitable.

What I mean by this, is that if you have a good, well-funded Defined Benefit (final salary) scheme and also one or more Defined Contribution (money purchase) pensions schemes, you have the option to move one or more into another structure (e.g. QROPS or International SIPP) and leave some of the schemes in place. For example, you may want to keep the security of a guaranteed pension that a Defined Benefit scheme provides but move your other DC pension schemes into a QROPS or SIPP and secure the benefits that ensue from these structures.

Other considerations

In deciding whether to go ahead and transfer your existing pensions into a different structure, typically the bar should be set at a higher level for a Defined Benefit (final salary) scheme. This type of pension provides a guaranteed income for life, offers some protection from inflation and the risk of funding your retirement does not rest with you (i.e. you are protected from the ups and downs of the stock market).

However, these schemes do lack flexibility and by exchanging the guaranteed annual income from retirement age, you receive instead a cash lump sum (and transfer values have seldom been higher than now) which you can invest and spend how you like with access from age 55 and the ability to pass the full amount onto your beneficiaries (tax-free if you die under the age of 75 and also the potential to be tax-free over the age of 75 if your pension is a QROPS).

Most Defined Benefit schemes only pay half of your pre-commutated pension to your spouse should you die, and usually a minimal amount or nothing to your children if you no longer have a spouse at the time of your death or your spouse who was a beneficiary of your pension subsequently dies. A QROPS for example allows much greater flexibility in relation to the selection of a beneficiary, allowing the funds to pass to any named beneficiary. Also Defined Benefit schemes are not entirely risk free – many are underfunded and some may be unable to meet their obligations (although the Pension Protection Fund exists to provide 90% of the guaranteed income if the scheme becomes insolvent before you reach retirement age, although there are maximum limits of compensation, i.e. £37,315 at age 65. The full amount would be paid if the scheme became insolvent if you were over the scheme retirement age).

There are two primary types of
employment pension schemes in the UK

a) Defined Benefit (or Final Salary)

• Provides guaranteed pension as a proportion of final salary based on i) salary ii) years of service iii) accrual rate (e.g. 1/60th of final salary for each full year of service)
• Payable from Age 65 (if taken earlier penalties apply for each year taken before 65)
• The pension is reduced when taking a lump sum

b) Defined Contribution (or Money Purchase)

• Pension benefits depend on the size of the fund
• Significant flexibility in relation to when to take the pension (currently from Age 55), how much to take and structure used to take the pension (annuity, capped and flexi-access drawdown, UFPLS, Scheme etc.)
• The pension fund size will depend on how and where it has been invested and the performance of those funds

Summary

This is a complex area and it is difficult to cover all relevant details within the parameters of this article. There are other considerations I have not addressed here, and this piece should be considered a high-level overview of some of the factors to consider. Perhaps the best advice I can give is the following:

  • Do not just do nothing and leave the pensions where they are because it’s the easiest thing to do
  • Do not assume the best option is to move your pension/s offshore into a QROPS just because you live in France and the UK has left the EU
  • Act now to have your pension schemes carefully reviewed. Engage with a properly regulated financial adviser and have an analysis conducted as to your options. Only then can you make a well-informed decision about what is best for you and your long-term financial security

A final point to consider is that there is currently a 25% tax applied to pension transfers into a QROPS for British Nationals living outside the EEA. After 31 December 2020, it is possible that this tax will also apply to those living in the EEA (as the UK will no longer be an EU country and the transition period will have expired). This has not yet been confirmed by the UK government but the opportunity to consider a QROPS as a financial planning option may not exist beyond the end of this year. If this is an option you want to explore, I recommend you do this without delay.

Are you au fait with Exchange Rates?

By Occitanie - Topics: Currencies, France, Occitanie
This article is published on: 9th October 2020

09.10.20

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

The Covid-19 pandemic is still dominating our thoughts and lives and will probably continue to do so for some time yet. Life must go on though, and we need to make sure that we are looking after our finances, as well as ourselves and our loved ones. Today we are going to take a slightly deeper than usual look at something that we might take for granted – exchange rates.

As a reminder, we are Rob Hesketh, Philip Oxley, Sue Regan and Derek Winsland. Together we form Spectrum’s team in the Occitanie, formerly of course the Languedoc Roussillon and Midi Pyrenees.

What is an exchange rate?

What is an exchange rate?
Ok, let’s start with the easy questions. It will get tougher as we go on. Obviously, the exchange rate is the rate at which one currency can be exchanged for another. Currently the rate at which holders of sterling can buy euros is 1.1100. Or is it 1.1000? or maybe 1.0925? It might even be less than 1 if you buy it at the wrong place. Then again, 0.9010 might be a very good rate. How can that possibly be right? How can 0.9010 be better than 1.1000? The answer lies in the fact that there are always two versions of every exchange rate.

We Brits tend to take the view that sterling is more important to us than any other currency, so we always want to know how much of any given currency we can get for £1. The rest of the world however are prone to taking a different view, so if you ask a French bank for the rate to convert sterling to euros you will get a rate that reflects how many pounds you can get for one euro. Confused? I do not blame you. To keep things simple, I recommend that when you see a rate expressed in that way, all you need to do is divide it into one. Thus 1/.9010 = 1.1099

Why so many different rates?
Well, obviously the rate can keep on changing every minute. The law of supply and demand applies here, but there are also many different rates at the same time. That is because volume plays a huge part. An exchange rate is a compromise between two parties, one of whom wants to sell, and the other to buy. Basically, if you are an international bank dealing in hundreds of millions of pounds per deal, you are going to get a very good rate; in fact, the best there is. Players (to many it is in fact a game) can either make a price or request a price. If the latter, they will never say to the market ‘I want to buy euros’. They will always ask for a two-way price, the idea being that the bank being asked for the rate does not know which side of the deal the other bank wants. The spread between the two prices may be a little as 3 basis points. That’s the fourth decimal point to you and me, so the rate quoted might be 1.1000 to 1.1003. The quoting bank sells euros at 1.1000 and buys them at 1.1003. Those three basis points represent the market spread, or profit margin on the deal. Still with me? If you are it will come as no surprise that the profit margin gets wider and wider as the amount you are dealing in gets smaller and smaller. At exactly the same time as a big bank is dealing at 1.1000, you might find that the rate you get for your €500 will be more like 1.0700, and if you go to a kiosk at an airport and ask for €500 cash for your weekend away in Paris, you might well get less than 1:1, so you would end up spending more than £500.

Why should I be wary of exchange rates?

Why should I be wary of exchange rates?

Quite simply because if you do not give them due care and attention, they can cost you a lot of money.

The indisputable fact is that whilst most of us arrive in France (or any other new home abroad for that matter) declaring that wild horses wouldn’t drag us back to the UK, or if they did we’d be in a box, the fact is that many of us end up back where we came from. We might hate the idea, but the facts are there. That means that there are four general phases that we will go through where exchange rates are going to have great bearing on our lives. Firstly the initial move phase, where we need to have enough euros to move here and buy property; secondly the sustenance phase, where we need to invest lump sums or exchange regular income such as pensions based in sterling; thirdly dealing with possible influxes of capital through inheritance or UK property sales, and fourthly the reversal of all of the above if we decide to go back.

What is exchange rate risk?

What is exchange rate risk?

Best think of this as ‘‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’’. If I do a currency deal, would I be better off waiting for a better rate?

If I don’t do it now, will it be worse when I have to do it?

Often, the answer is yes to both questions.

The aim should always be to eliminate exchange rate risk, but it is a lot harder to do that than it seems. Yes, if you sell your property in the UK and move to France, you are going to need to convert a sizeable part of the proceeds into euro to buy a property here, but what if there is a good chunk of money left over? What if you were fortunate enough to get £800k for your des-res in Surrey, and managed to find the ideal pied-a-terre in the Aude for €300k? That leaves you with a decision to make about the £530k or so that you have left. Is the answer that you are going to live in euroland so your money should be in euro? – Yes. Is the answer that eventually you may want to go back to the UK so your reserves should stay in sterling? – Yes. Is the answer that the current exchange rate is terrible, and you should at least wait and see what happens? – Yes. So, which ‘Yes’ is the right one? You can have the same conversation about your pension funds if you are looking to consolidate them outside of UK jurisdiction (and political meddling). You can also have that same conversation when or if you decide to sell a second property that is currently let out, or Mum’s house which she left to you.

What is the answer?
Quite simply, the answer is planning; serious discussion with your partner/family about what the future will bring, and where it will be, and then serious discussion with your financial adviser (that’s us by the way) about how to manage the resulting risk. The inescapable fact is that no-one can accurately forecast exchange rate movements. In much the same way that financial/economic projections by experts are notoriously unreliable, so too are those made by F/X forecasters, but do you really want to convert all your assets into euro at 1.10 only to find that in fifteen years’ time you want to relocate to the UK and the rate is 1.50? In case you don’t have a calculator handy, that would result in an f/x loss of over £140k in the above scenario. What you really need is someone to help you decide where your future requirements will lie, not what the exchange rate will be when it happens.

Even funding a house purchase needs planning. In France it can take months before you can finally pay for and move into your new home. The exchange rate can move a long way in that time, and strangely, it usually moves against you! There is a way to eliminate that risk though, and it is called a Forward Contract. If you have a set date for your final payment, your financial adviser may well suggest that you speak to a good Foreign Exchange company who will be able to fix a rate for you, valid for that date, so that you know exactly how much your villa in the sun is going to cost you in sterling terms. These are legal contracts though, and you will have to accept that rate even if the market goes up. What you are doing is buying peace of mind against it going down, which could make your purchase uncomfortably more expensive.

Another product that may be useful to you is the Limit Order. If for example you decided to buy land abroad, and have a property built on it, you might well find yourself needing to make stage payments to your builder. If the rate goes up during this process you will be happy, but if it goes down markedly…?? You can place an order for a set period with your F/X company to buy a set amount at a chosen higher or lower rate. So, you might decide that you want to buy your euro at 1.25 if it gets there, but also if it starts going down, you don’t want to get a rate any lower than 1.05. This is basically a ‘take profit’ and ‘stop loss’ strategy combined, but you can just do one side of it if you choose to.

our services

Part of our service to you is to monitor these companies and make a suitable introduction to you.

Our responsibilities don’t end there though…

We will discuss with you the choices you have regarding the investment of any left-over lump sums. Those discussions should leave you in no doubt that cash left uninvested is a loss-leader. Leaving your surplus cash invested in the UK in non-French tax compliant instruments such as ISAs is not the answer.

In France, the clear leader in terms of tax efficiency for capital gains, income and succession taxes is Assurance Vie, but you can make all those mistakes listed above by investing in the wrong policy. Flexibility is the key, along with portability.

What if we could offer you an Assurance Vie
that could start life in sterling?

Then change into Euro if the exchange rate moved up, and back again if it went down.

What if you could invest in both sterling and euro in the same policy?

And what if that policy could simply change into an ordinary investment bond if you went back to the UK, fully compliant with UK tax law?

Strangely enough…

We’d love to hear from you with any comments and/or questions, as well as suggestions as to future topics for discussion. Please feel free to pass this on to any friends or contacts who you think might find it interesting.

Taxe Foncière – Do you qualify for exemption?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, tax tips, Taxe Foncière
This article is published on: 8th October 2020

08.10.20

Although it hasn’t felt like it, because we have had such gloriously warm and sunny September, autumn is officially here! October is a special month in my household because it’s my son’s birthday and also Halloween which my very French husband has officially and fully adopted as his favourite annual event (the children rather like it too)! However I feel that two topics that must be covered this month are taxe foncière which needs to be paid by 15th October and of course banks.

Taxe foncière is a tax paid by property owners on the 1st January of each tax year. Note that it is paid by the owner not the occupant and applies to both buildings (houses or apartments) and land (agricultural or constructible).

If you sell your property or land, the tax liability for that year is apportioned to each party, by the notary, according to the timing of the sale.

You may qualify for an exemption if:

  • the property is a new construction used as a main residence (the exemption is for 2 years)
  • you are in receipt of disability allowance
  • you are in receipt of old age allowance
  • you are over 75 (depending on level of income)

The tax office may also allow an exemption for unoccupied property which is habitable and normally rented, provided that:

  • it is unintentionally unoccupied
  • it is unoccupied for at least 3 months
  • part or all of the building is unoccupied

However, as the tax reduction is not automatically granted, you have to apply for it and demonstrate that you qualify (with reference to the specific points above).

For more details on the taxe foncière please read the rest of my article on our website HERE.

As I’m sure you will have heard some people have received letters from their banks informing them that some services will not be continued for those resident in the EU. Not all banks are going to discontinue their services but customers of Barclaycard in particular have been told that this service will no longer be available to them.

If you find yourself in this situation or you are concerned about having a UK sterling account when you move to France and after 31st December 2020, please do get in touch. Spectrum has worked with Standard Bank for many years and they provide an excellent service to expats living in the EU.

Some key points to note are that:

  • They do not charge to receive funds into the bank
  • UK Sterling to Sterling transfers are done by BACS so there is no charge
  • Clients can set direct debit transactions up from their debit card at no charge
  • Standing orders can also be set up on the account and again there is no charge for Sterling to Sterling in the UK

As with any financial decision it is always best to get advice and recommendations from a certified, regulated financial adviser. So if you want to know more about Standard Bank please do get in touch or if you know anyone who is worried about their UK banks after Brexit, feel free to pass on my details.

Fun fact of the month:
In France a popular savings account, in addition to the very popular Livret A account is the LDD or Livret de Development Durable. This savings account actually began in 1983 and was called a CODEVI which stands for an account for industrial development, it allowed clients to put away short term savings which the bank used to lend to the French industries to ensure funding and modernisation. At the time the interest rate was 7.5%!!! In 2007 this account changed its name to become the LDD and it now only makes 0.5% interest. Since 1st October 2020 those with these accounts can request that part of their savings be used to benefit social economy and solidarity organisations.

Finally, if you haven’t seen the article that I wrote last month on the Spectrum website about Assurance Vies in France, you can find it on my page HERE.

Wishing you all a wonderful October!

The 21st annual International Investment Awards 2020

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Belgium, France, International Investment Awards 2020, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, The Spectrum IFA Group
This article is published on: 7th October 2020

07.10.20
Anne Ollerenshaw

International Investment announced six new categories as part of a relaunched International Investment Awards to celebrate the event’s 20th year. The II Awards are the longest-running event of their kind and this year saw a record number of categories and entries.

Of particular interest to The Spectrum IFA Group is the new category of ‘Woman of the Year’.

We are delighted to announce that our very own Director, Anne Ollerenshaw has been nominated for this coveted award due to her Anne’s long standing contributions to the industry over the past years.

The 21st annual International Investment Awards 2020 take place on Thursday 8 October at 1500 BST.

This new award for 2020 is one of the final three awards and another which was selected via a combination of judges’ comments and, by votes of the readers of International Investment.

From the shortlisted entrants below they will select two winner awards with advisers and industry leaders judged separately.

The shortlist for Woman of the Year (new for 2020) is:

• Anne Ollerenshaw, The Spectrum IFA Group

• Paris Jordan, Virtuvest

• Kim Jarvis, Canada Life Limited

• Durreen Shahnaz, Impact Investment Exchange

• Tanya McCartney, Bahamas Financial Services Board

• Aida Feriz, Wimmer Family Office

• Paule Ansoleaga Abascal, Rothschild & Co Asset Management Europe

• Michele Carby, Holborn Assets

• Jackie Evans, Holborn Assets

• Claire Walker, deVere Group

• Louise Bracken-Smith, Fairway Group

We wish Anne the very best of luck.

The virtual ceremony will be held at 1500 BST on Thursday 8 October, with a repeat showing on this site a few hours later. Make sure that you tune in to find out who has been successful at this year’s event.

International Investment Awards 2020

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.

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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