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Common Reporting Standards

By Derek Winsland - Topics: common reporting standards, Exchange of Information, France, International Bank Accounts, Le Tour de Finance, Residency
This article is published on: 27th July 2017

27.07.17

Over the last few weeks, I’ve witnessed the application of the Common Reporting Standards initiative in action. Firstly, from my bank HSBC requesting information to be transmitted to the tax authorities both here in France as well as in UK. This week, I received an email from a client who has also received a letter again from HSBC enquiring about his residency.

It’s clear that the sharing of financial information between tax authorities of different countries is now in full swing. Annual reporting by every financial institution into its own tax authority was introduced in January 2016 and I’m seeing more and more examples of this in operation. For the tax authorities, residency is the main focus – where has the individual declared residency, and where are that person’s assets held.

We’re at the stage now where that information is being studied by local tax offices and enquiry letters being sent. But what information is being shared? Overseas bank accounts are the most common example, hence HSBC and others enquiring about an account holder’s residency status. Other examples include investment bonds held overseas, ISA accounts, unit trust and investment trust portfolios, share accounts, premium bonds…. the list goes on.

With investments held outside of an insurance-based investment bond, any change of fund either through switching or closure could be liable to capital gains in the hands of the investor, so your local tax office is sure to be interested in learning about this. Income drawn from certain, non-EU jurisdiction investment bonds are viewed very differently here in France. And remember, ISAs carry no tax advantages here, so any switches, partial encashments, or sales of funds made by a UK financial adviser or investment manager could have repercussions for the investor resident in France.

If you’re tax resident in France, you are obliged to list all overseas investments and accounts on your annual tax declaration; non-disclosure can result in fines ranging from €1,500 per account up to €10,000 depending on where the account is held. These fines are also per year of non-disclosure.

Quite often we see situations where doing nothing has proved to be an expensive mistake so if ever there was a time to get your financial affairs in order, it is now before the Fisc comes calling. If you’re resident in France, your local tax office can look back through previous years as well, so long forgotten ISAs cashed in can potentially appear on its radar.

If you would like information on how best to re-organise your investments to make them tax-compliant, we are staging the latest in our series of popular Tour de Finance events in the Limoux area on Friday 6th October. Open to everyone, the event, held at Domaine Gayda in Brugairolles is now in its ninth year. Always a popular event, you are urged to order tickets well in advance. There will be a series of short presentations during the morning, culminating with lunch and an opportunity to sample the local wines. If you would like to attend, please email me for your tickets, numbers are limited, so I urge you not to delay.

Subjects covered during the morning include:
Brexit
Financial Markets
Assurance Vie
Pensions/QROPS
French Tax Issues
Currency Exchange

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

Is lending money to a government still low risk?

By Peter Brooke - Topics: Bonds, France, Investment Risk, Investments, wealth management
This article is published on: 26th July 2017

26.07.17

If you buy a government bond, sometimes called GILTS (UK), BUNDS (Germany) or T-Bills (US), as an investment, then you are effectively lending that government money. Most portfolio managers say investors should have some bond exposure in their investment portfolios as they diversify away from other assets like shares.

How do Bonds work?
You start by buying a bond on ‘issue’ for a set issue price with a ‘promise’ to pay you back the same amount in a date in the future. In the meantime, the bond pays you a ‘coupon’ or interest in payment for you lending your money. The bonds are also traded on a ‘secondary bond market’ where the price fluctuates according to supply and demand but the coupon remains the same… this means that your interest rate changes depending on what price you pay for the bond.

You can also invest in ‘funds’ of government bonds which are managed by professional managers using new issue and secondary market bonds around the world to build a diversified portfolio… but are they as low risk as they are made out to be?

Traditionally these forms of investment have always been viewed as low risk, as governments, unlike companies or individuals can always ‘print money’ and so can always pay you back. This also means that the interest rate you receive (the coupon) will be lower than company bonds.

If we consider that RISK is the chance of loss then I would argue that these investments are no longer low risk. Right now, we are in an environment where interest rates are at all-time lows around the world, inflation is starting to bite and so the chance of an interest rate increase by central banks is high; even though the rate increases may be low.

If you are holding any bond and interest rates go up, then bond values will drop, therefore I would argue that at some point you are risking a capital loss by holding government bonds. Some analysts believe that a 1% increase in interest rates could lead to a 10% capital loss on most bonds. If this is the case are you now being compensated for this risk of loss? Well, no… interest rates on government bonds are around 1% now and so with inflation higher than 1% in most countries you are losing money on an annual basis too.

So, what can you do about it? The first option is to take a little more risk and swap your government bonds for high quality corporate bonds… the coupon will be greater and as long as the companies are in good health then they should be able to repay you at the end of the term… there are also funds of corporate bonds which diversify risk.

The corporate bond market is segmented by credit rating so be aware of the level of risk this can bring to your savings… “high yield” (Europe) or “junk bonds” (US) tend to behave more like shares.

Another option would be to diversify away from western government bonds into emerging market government bond funds… there is some extra currency risk, though this can help performance too. Finally, you can outsource the choice of the bonds you buy by using a Strategic Bond fund… this will invest in corporate, government and emerging markets bonds on a strategic basis and would be very diversified.

This article is for information only and should not be considered as advice.

Ignorance is not always bliss…………..

By Sue Regan - Topics: Assurance Vie, BREXIT, France, Le Tour de Finance, QROPS
This article is published on: 17th July 2017

17.07.17

………..and, in the context of not structuring your investments to the tax regime of the country in which you reside, it can prove to be very costly.

Let’s take the scenario of the savings conscious UK investor who, over the years, has used some of their available cash to build up a nice portfolio of tax-free investments in ISA wrappers, but then decides to take up residency in France. From the date of moving to France the tax-free status of UK ISA is not recognised in France and any income or capital gains arising from the ISA portfolio become liable to French tax.

Not everyone is aware of the tax efficient structures available in France for longer term savings, the most popular of which is far and away the Assurance Vie, and, as a consequence, suffers the pain of incurring tax liabilities where there were none previously, not to mention the extra administrative burden (and accountancy costs) associated with completing the end of year tax return. In addition, they are missing out on the compounding effect that any unnecessary taxes would have on the growth of the portfolio, which, in itself, is a crucial factor which should not be underestimated.

It’s not only the tax-efficiency of ISAs that is affected but, if you have a UK financial adviser advising you on the management of your investments, then it is unlikely that they will be able to continue to give you appropriate advice due to your change in residency and tax regime. You probably wouldn’t have sought the advice of a French regulated IFA to manage your UK investments when you lived in the UK so it doesn’t make sense to expect a UK regulated IFA to advise you when living in a different tax jurisdiction to the one in which they are qualified and regulated.

Of course, making the switch from UK tax efficient savings to French tax efficient savings may not be without some cost at the beginning – but the longer term benefits are highly likely to far outweigh any initial cost. If you have not yet become French resident, by taking the initiative and disposing of your ISA portfolio beforehand, there would be no tax implications whatsoever.

An added attraction to the Assurance Vie is that there is no limit to how much can be invested and the longer you hold them the more tax-efficient they become. In addition, this type of investment is highly efficient for mitigating the potential French inheritance taxes so that your heirs can receive more of your wealth, instead of the French State.

The very popular Tour de Finance is once again coming to the stunning Domaine Gayda in Brugairolles 11300, So, if you are concerned about your investments and pensions in a post-Brexit world why not join us at this very popular event where you can meet the team in person and listen to a number of industry experts in the world of financial advice. This year’s event will take place on Friday 6th October 2017. Places are by reservation only and it is always well attended so book your place early by giving me a call or dropping me an email. Our speakers will be presenting updates and outlooks on a broad range of subjects, including:

Brexit
Financial Markets
Assurance Vie
Pensions/QROPS
French Tax Issues
Currency Exchange

With a newly elected French government now in office and the forthcoming publication of the French Projet de Loi in the Autumn, the seminar will be an ideal opportunity to find out how any potential French tax changes may affect you, particularly as President Macron has promised changes to the wealth tax regime.

Tips on choosing a Financial Adviser?

By Amanda Johnson - Topics: France, Residency, Spectrum-IFA Group
This article is published on: 11th July 2017

11.07.17

This is a very important question and one raised many times in forums and during seminars. I think there are six key factors in choosing a financial adviser who will be right for you:

Can I work with the adviser?
A financial adviser is someone who is not just here for your needs today, but someone who will be around for the long term. As your needs change, your adviser needs to be able to go through these changes and tell you when the French or UK government make changes that can impact your financial position.

Who do they work for?
It is important that you get an understanding of the company your adviser works for. Google them, or look for forum threads, to see how other expatriates have found dealing with them. It is important to know not just that they have a good reputation, but that they are quick to act in the event of any issues which may arise.

Are they regulated within the country you live?
Whilst the UK can still “passport” financial products to the EU, there is no guarantee that this will continue seamlessly after Brexit. One way you can ensure whatever happens that you face the least amount of change is to deal with a company regulated in the country where you live.

What is the advisers experience and history with their company?
Has your financial adviser a history of financial advice and not just a background in financial services? You want to ensure that the knowledge they have is relevant to your financial needs. It can also provide comfort if you know your adviser has been with their current company for some time.

Can they provide testimonials from recent customers?
There are few better ways of putting your mind at rest than asking your adviser if you could speak over the phone to one of two of their existing customers. It provides great peace of mind, when looking at a new financial partner.

Are they open and transparent, regarding any costs and fees involved in using them?
When you first meet your adviser, ask them for any terms of business and how working with them would progress. Be sure to ask whether there are any upfront costs involved and what the ongoing fee structure will be. You should know in advance of any commitment how they will deal with you and your estate.

 

Whether you want to register for our newsletter, attend one of our road shows or speak to me directly, please call or email me on the contacts below & I will be glad to help you. We do not charge for reviews, reports or recommendations we provide.

New Pension Transfer Rules!

By Derek Winsland - Topics: Final Salary Pension, final salary schemes, France, Pensions, QROPS, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 10th July 2017

10.07.17

Those of you who are familiar with my past articles will know I have a certain affinity with the pensions landscape; indeed, in the I’m considered a bit of an expert on the subject.

If you have read previous articles you will know that I have been quite critical of the Financial Conduct Authority’s seeming inability to keep up to date with developments in the UK pensions arena. Well up until the 21st June 2017, that is.

In a complete reversal of previous ‘guidance’, the FCA has now eventually recognised that an individual’s circumstances differ from the next person’s. Up until now, the FCA’s default position regarding any request to transfer out of a defined benefit (final salary) pension scheme has been to view them as unsuitable. In other words, the emphasis (irrespective of a pension member’s situation), has been to decline such transfer requests, primarily because the FCA says it is not in the member’s interest to do so.

The introduction of Pensions Freedom by then Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, presented the FCA with a challenge. On the one hand, here was the government releasing the constraints that pensions had been progressively bound up by from successive previous governments; whilst on the other, the FCA was continuing to protect the interests of the pensions companies, at the same time becoming increasingly more detached from the consumer, for whom it was supposed to serve.

For the last two years, the FCA has struggled with the new pensions landscape, still believing that preserved former pension benefits, even those held within schemes that are only 50% funded, should remain where they are. The Pension Protection Fund, set up to protect members’ pensions where the employer has folded, is coming under increasing strain, because it is funded by all the other occupational pension schemes. As more schemes fold, the more the remaining schemes come under pressure. Clearly, therefore, something had to be done – those self-same members, now fearing their preserved pensions weren’t as guaranteed as they had been led to believe, wanted action.

On 19th June, Steve Webb, now working for Royal London, reminded the FCA of its duties, warning it against ‘over-regulating’ DB Pension Transfers. The result? New ‘guidance’ (read ‘rules’ to us IFA’s) now focusing upon the individual member’s circumstances. Without blowing my own trumpet, I’ve been saying this ever since Pension Freedoms came in in 2015. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I read about this volte-face. At last, it is not now just about critical yields and hurdle rates, it’s about applying financial planning assumptions to individual needs. If a client has sufficient other assets to fund retirement, why leave deferred benefits in a scheme where on your death (and that of your spouse or partner), the pension is lost? Tell that to your kids……

“Johnny, you know you’re struggling to make ends meet, let alone build funds for your eventual retirement? We guess what, I’m going to leave my pension benefits in a scheme that will provide nothing for you on my death. How does that sound?”   Under Pension Freedom, you can pass unused pension funds to your children, if it is outside of a defined benefit scheme. How many parents wouldn’t want that for their children, once their own needs had been catered for?

This is not to say that the floodgates have opened; we as advisers MUST assess the needs of not only the pension member, but also the family unit. We must assume something of a nanny role, helping our clients to plan for the future, to properly identify what capital and income will be available and when. There will be circumstances where the best advice is the comparative guarantee of an occupational pension income; for those people, the advice will be to remain a member of the scheme. But for a lot of people, this new FCA guidance will be seen as empowerment to take control of one’s own financial future. Our role as financial advisers is to provide help and support along the way. Proper financial planning.

Le Tour de Finance

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Events, France, Le Tour de Finance, Spectrum-IFA Group
This article is published on: 20th June 2017

20.06.17

Le Tour de Finance has just finished another stage of it’s annual tour with three well attended forums in the 06 and 83 departments of the Cote d’Azur.

Due to the lovely early summer evenings, two of the sessions were held from 6.30pm culminating with a relaxed wine presentation and buffet in the lovely settings of the Mas Shabanou in Roquefort les Pins and the Bastide St.Mathieu in Grasse. The third event was held at the normal time of 10.30 in the equally lovely setting of Le Clos des Roses in Frejus.

As part of the long term commitment from the team organising Le Tour de Finance, senior representatives of large financial institutions were on hand to give brief presentations, but more importantly, were there to answer varied questions from the attendees.

Coaxed out from behind their desks, these senior executives from companies such as Tilney, Prudential, Rathbones, Momentum Pensions, SEB and Currencies Direct give short presentations on a range of subjects and then welcome questions from the floor. This really is the chance to get those all important questions answered by the professionals.

This unprecedented access to a range of international and independent experts is what sets Le Tour de Finance events apart.

After the summer recess, Le Tour will continue in October:
5th October – 13610, Le Puy Sainte Réparade
6th October – 11300, Gayda, Languedoc
17th October – 53470, Martigné sur Mayenne
18th October – 14570, Clecy
19th October – 22100, Lanvallay

If you would like further information or would like to book a place, please contact us or visit the dedicated Le Tour de Finance website for further information on the future events.

The objective of Le Tour de Finance is to provide expatriates with useful information relating to their financial lives. We try and cover frequently asked questions that we receive from our clients, however, it would be helpful for us to know what your particular areas of interest might be. If you’d like to send us your question please click here to complete the form.

UK expats cannot vote after 15 years abroad

By Victoria Lewis - Topics: Elections, France, Habitual Residence, Residency, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 12th June 2017

12.06.17

This article was written in May 2015 by a lawyer friend of mine and is as relevant today.

The result of the UK election was meant to be much closer. If it had been closer, the rule which prevents British expats who have been abroad for more than 15 years from voting in Parliamentary elections may have come under renewed scrutiny.

The size of the British community abroad is estimated at 5.6 million. Most expats leave the UK for work-related reasons, taking their families with them. Mixed-nationality marriages are also a factor in emigration decisions, as well as the wish of many British pensioners to retire abroad. Thanks to exchange programs, the number of students travelling around the world to experience life abroad has increased significantly in recent years. In our ever more globalized world, borders are disappearing.

These “British Expats” are unofficial but precious ambassadors, promoting British values to their host countries. They make an invaluable contribution to the diffusion of their culture, disseminating the “British Way of Life” by projecting an image of their “Britishness” around them. In the view of the Institute for Public Policy Research, “British abroad are not a burden or an embarrassment: they are in many ways the best of the UK and we should be proud and supportive of them”.

However, their political situation is overshadowed by the fact that they lose their right to vote in the United Kingdom after they have been living abroad for more than 15 years, no matter how frequently they return to visit their home country. Exceptions exist for the military, civil servants and British Council employees, but all other British expats cannot vote under the current UK law. While most developed countries such as France, Spain, Switzerland or the USA have recognized their own expat population by giving them an unrestricted right to vote in national elections, the United Kingdom seems to be one of the few countries with this type of restrictive rule.

How the law changed
Before 1985, British citizens living outside the United Kingdom were unable to vote in UK Parliamentary elections. Following intensive pressure, the Representation of the People Act 1985 finally gave them the right to vote. They could register as “overseas voters” in the constituency where they last lived in the UK. But, 1985 also marked the beginning of a ‘time limit’ during which British expats would be able to remain on the electoral register. This period was shortened and extended, but has never been unlimited.

The Representation of the People Act 1985 made provision for British citizens residing outside the United Kingdom to remain on the electoral register in the UK for a period of 5 years. In 1989, this period was extended to 20 years. In 2000, it was decided to reduce it to 15 years, with effect from 1 April 2002, leading to the rule that applies today.

A discriminatory and arbitrary rule, according to most British expats
Due to this, pressure groups have been created to plead for the abolition of the 15-year rule. They claim that the legislation is discriminatory, arbitrary and serves no useful purpose.

They consider it to be discriminatory because not all British expats are concerned by the legislation. As indicated previously, members of the armed forces, Crown servants and employees of the British Council are exempted from the rule. Besides, in accordance with European Union Treaties, all European citizens have the right to live and work in another state of the EU. These fundamental rights should not be subject to any restrictions or penalties. They accuse the UK of acting in a discriminatory fashion by penalising the right of free movement of its citizens, whilst most other developed countries do not.

They also consider it an arbitrary treatment because the cut-off point has been fixed without a concrete objective or justified basis on which to determine who should have the right to vote. The Government used to claim that people who have lived abroad for over 15 years are likely to lose links with the UK. However, in today’s world of increasing global communication, this argument does not seem appropriate any more.

Comparison with other countries
Unlike the UK, most advanced democracies have granted their expat population an unrestricted right to vote in national elections.
In June 2012, French people abroad were able to vote for their MPs for the first time. Around the world, 11 constituencies were created. (See the article on the FBCCI Blog: Voting rights for British Expats: What can the UK learn from France?)

Spanish expats’ rights are guaranteed by article 68 of the Constitution. In Portugal, according to the Constitution, the single-chamber Assembly of the Republic is “the representative assembly of all Portuguese citizens”. Thus, expats have the same right to vote in elections for the Assembly as citizens living in Portugal. Italian expats are represented in both chambers of the parliament and elect 65 representatives to the ‘Consiglio Generale degli Italiani all’Estero’. The United States also guarantee their expat population’s political rights.

Efforts to reform
Faced with this situation, some national and European politicians have asked for the law to be reviewed or, at least, debated.

“The exercise of the freedom of movement should not result in losing an important democratic right” says Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for electoral rights, in her factsheet “Promoting your electoral rights”. “Although EU law grants EU citizens the right to participate in municipal and European elections in the Member State where they reside, it provides no such right with regard to national elections. (…) Given that EU citizens of those Member States are not able to participate in any national elections (neither in the Member State of origin not in the Member State of residence), they are deprived of one of their most important political rights just because they exercise their right to free movement. (…) The Commission will launch a discussion to identify political options to prevent EU citizens from losing their political rights when they exercise their right to free movement.”

A short debate in the House of Lords on voting arrangements for British citizens living overseas and members of the armed forces serving abroad was held on 2nd March 2011. Viscount Astor, arduous defender of the overseas voters’ electoral rights (“This 15-year rule is unfair and excludes perhaps half the expatriates living overseas. There is no credible reason for that.”), asked whether the Government would consider changing the voting arrangements that were currently in place. He called on the Government to look again at the 15-year rule. Lord Lester of Herne Hill agreed with him and has previously asked the Government to legislate to change the rules.

More recently, calls have been made for the Government to reconsider this rule. The issue was raised during the passage of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill 2012-2013 in the House of Commons. Conservative Geoffrey Clifton-Brown proposed that a new clause should be added to the Bill to remove the 15-year limit rule: “the new clause would remove this qualifying period altogether, so that all British citizens could qualify as overseas voters, regardless of when they were last resident in the UK”.

The Parliamentary Secretary, David Health, replied that the Government would give the issue “serious consideration” but that it would not rush into a decision, “not because of any wish to obstruct, but simply because the question of extending the franchise is a fundamental one and both the Government and the House would have to feel comfortable with doing that”. The amendment was subsequently withdrawn.

The Bill received its second reading in the Lords on the 24th July 2012 and Lord Norton of Louth raised the issue of overseas voters during the debate. Lord Lexen also called for the 15-year rule to be abolished: (…) I urge strongly that the scope of the Bill be extended, as my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth argued, by adding to it provision to enable all our fellow subjects of Her Majesty who live abroad to vote in our parliamentary elections. This would end the 15-year limit rule, for which no clear rationale has ever been offered (…)”.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire responded for the Government and said there were no plans to extend the 15-year limit rule: “The Government does not have any plans at the present moment to lengthen the period from leaving the country beyond 15 years, nor do we have any really ambitious plans to do what is done in some other countries, which is to allow voting in embassies and consulates. However, the electoral period will help”.

The entrenched position of the Courts

The feeling of not being understood and being prejudiced in the execution of one of their fundamental rights has encouraged some expats to challenge the rules before the courts.

Two cases were brought recently.
The first case concerned James Preston, a British citizen living with his family in Spain and working for UK companies since 1995. In 2009 he was denied the right to vote in Parliamentary elections, having lived outside the UK for 15 years. He went to the High Court in 2011, asking for judicial review of the legislation but his case was dismissed. His application to take his case to the Court of Appeal was denied in 2012. Lord Justice Elias said he appreciated Mr. Preston and other expats were “genuinely upset about the rule”, but that there was no real evidence that “it does create a barrier of any kind to freedom of movement”. “It is inherently unlikely that the loss of the right to vote would be sufficient to cause expats to up sticks and return to the UK”, he added.

The second case was brought by Harry Shindler, a World War II veteran who retired to Italy in the early 1980’s. He took his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, alleging a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1, which provides that: “The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature”.

He claimed that no time-limit should be imposed on expats’ voting rights. He considered he should have the right to choose his place of residence without being disenfranchised. “Universal suffrage is set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Universal to my mind, and in every dictionary I’ve seen, means ‘everybody’”. “Expats abroad pay their taxes at home. There are those who have property and haven’t sold it because they believe they’ll be coming back. They pay taxes on that property. They pay council tax. The pensions we get, government and private, come from the UK and those pensions, when they reach a certain limit, are taxed in the UK. So here we have expats who pay their taxes and are not allowed to vote. It’s unacceptable.”

However, the court in Strasbourg rejected his case, ruling that the 15-year limit was “not an insubstantial period of time” and it was up to the British Government whether to choose a cut-off point. Therefore, in the court’s view, the 15-year rule does not violate the right to free elections.
In view of the positions of both the courts and the Government, it seems British expats are stuck in a situation where, after 15 years abroad, they may still pay taxes in the UK, still feel British and strongly linked to their home country, but cannot vote in British elections; nor in their host country’s national elections either.

In November 2011, the Government said Mr. Shindler is not a ‘victim’, since “it was open to him to take Italian citizenship and acquire a right to vote in elections to the Italian national parliament”.

David Burrage, an ex-soldier and policeman who co-founded the British Expats Association of Spain, commented: “When I consider that Harry had jumped ashore and onto the beaches at Anzio and offered up his life, like so many of our brave servicemen, during World War II, when viewed alongside the conduct of our Government, by way of that most recent response on their behalf, it not only makes me feel ashamed, I also feel utterly disgusted”.

Although this statement dates from 2011, it still expresses the feelings of many British expats.
Neil Robertson
Solicitor, England & Wales
Avocat au Barreau de Paris
May 2015

Smoothing out the bumps of market volatility

By Sue Regan - Topics: Assurance Vie, France, Interest rates, Investment Risk, Investments, wealth management
This article is published on: 9th June 2017

09.06.17

In today’s environment of very low interest rates, is it wise to leave more than “your rainy day fund” sitting in the bank, probably earning way less in interest than the current rate of inflation, particularly after the taxman has had his cut…..?

In the above scenario, the real value of your capital is reducing, due to the depreciating effect on your capital of inflation. So, if you are relying on your capital to grow sufficiently to help fund your retirement or meet a specific financial goal, then you should be looking for an alternative home for your cash that will, at the very least, keep pace with inflation and thus protect the real value of your capital.

In order to achieve a better return than a cash deposit, by necessity, there is a need to take some risk. The big question is – how much risk should be taken? In reality, this can only be decided as part of a detailed discussion with the investor, which takes into account their time horizon for investment, their requirement for income and/or capital growth, as well as how comfortable they feel about short-term volatility over the period of investment.

Although inevitable, and perhaps arguably a necessity for successful investment management, it is often the volatility of an investment portfolio that can cause some people the most discomfort. Volatility often creates anxiety particularly for investors who need a regular income from their portfolio, and for this reason some people would choose to leave capital in the bank, depreciating in value, rather than have the worry of market volatility. However, this is very unlikely to meet your needs.

There is an alternative, which is to have a well-diversified investment portfolio that provides a smoothed return by ironing out the peaks and troughs of the short-term market volatility. Many of our clients find that this is a very attractive proposition.

What is a smoothed fund?

A smoothed fund aims to grow your money over the medium to long term, whilst protecting you from the short-term ups and downs of investment markets.

There are a number of funds available with differing risk profiles, to suit all investors. The funds are invested in very diversified multi-asset portfolios made up of international shares, property, fixed interest and other investments.

The smoothed funds are available in different of currencies, including Sterling, Euro and USD. Thus, if exchanging from Sterling to Euros at this time is a concern for you, an investment can be made initially in Sterling and then exchanged to Euros when you are more comfortable with the exchange rate. All of this is done within the investment and so does not create any French tax issues for you.

As a client of the Spectrum IFA Group, this type of fund can be invested within a French compliant international life assurance bond and thus is eligible for the same very attractive personal tax benefits associated with Assurance Vie, as well as French inheritance tax mitigation.

Stop Press!!! Since writing this article the UK Election has taken place resulting in a hung parliament that brings with it more political uncertainty, but also the possibility of a softer Brexit or even a second election. This makes for a testing time for investment managers and the option of a smoothed investment ever more attractive.

Under the radar?

By Derek Winsland - Topics: Exchange of Information, France, Offshore Disclosures Facility, Residency
This article is published on: 24th May 2017

24.05.17

The question of residency features highly in requests I receive from prospective new clients looking for advice generally. These requests generally come from people who are looking to move permanently to France. I also receive requests from people who have lived in France for some time, either on a part-time basis (before returning to the UK or elsewhere for the remainder of the year), or on a full-time basis, living ‘under the radar’, so to speak.

In French tax law, the definition of domicile fiscal can fall under personal, professional and economic conditions. To be considered resident in France for tax purposes, any ONE of the following conditions must be met:

1. Your main home is in France
2. You work in France, either on an employed or self-employed basis
3. Your centre of economic interest is in France. This can include your investments, or business interests are here

In addition, there is the commonly known means-test of 183 days in the year, which many people use as the chief determinant; like most things in France it’s not as simple as that. If you spend less than 6 months in France, but spend even less time in another country, then you can still be considered resident in France. Take the retired couple who spend their time between UK, France and Spain. If they lived in UK for 4 months, Spain 3 months and France for 5 months, they will be deemed to be resident in France because it is France where they have spent the most time during the year.

There are, of course, many different scenarios that determine residency, for instance the couple whose business is centred exclusively in UK, but live in rented property in France. All activity is in UK, yet because the couple switch on the home computer to check the company bank balance, this is construed as operating a business in France, thus definition 3 applies.

There are always grey areas, where tax residency can be in more than one country; in these cases, one hopes that a Double Taxation Treaty is in existence that would apply to ensure the person isn’t taxed twice.

What does concern me, though, are those people who have lived in France for a number of years, but not declared themselves resident. Common Reporting Standards were introduced in January 2016, whereby tax authorities from over 100 countries now share financial data between the host country and the country where the individual lives. Assuming that the individual declared him or herself non-UK resident on the grounds of moving to live in France, then any financial information (bank accounts, investments etc) will now be shared with the French tax authorities. Depending on that individual’s circumstances, they may suddenly appear on the fisc’s radar, who might just start to take an interest in them. Non-disclosure of financial information is becoming a big deal, so it is more important than ever that residency is determined and if that is in France, affairs are put in order to address any tax implications for savings and investments.

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

What can I do to minimise any potential impacts of a tough Brexit process?

By Amanda Johnson - Topics: Article 50, Assurance Vie, BREXIT, Company Pension Schemes, Defined benefit pension scheme, Final Salary Pension, final salary schemes, France, QROPS, Retirement, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 11th May 2017

11.05.17

This is a question many expatriates are mulling over, now positioning for the upcoming negotiations has started. First and foremost, I remind my customers that the process to leave the EU is widely anticipated to take the full two years set out in article 50, so the only immediate areas people should focus on are changes in the U.K. and French budgets.

As the negotiations progress however, there are steps you can take which will ensure that any effects to you are minimised:

  1. Does your adviser work for a French registered company, regulated in France?

Working with adviser who operates and is regulated already under French finance laws means that any change in the UK’s ability for financial passporting will not affect you.

  1. Is your Assurance Vie held in an EU country, not part of the U.K.?

Again, any issues the U.K. may have to solve regarding passporting are negated by ensuring your Assurance Vie is already domiciled in another EU country.

  1. Have you reviewed any U.K. Company pension schemes you hold, which are due to mature in the future?

The recent U.K. Budget saw the government levy a new tax on people moving their pensions to countries outside the EU. There is no certainly that this tax will not be extended to EU countries once the U.K. has left the union.

The process of leaving the EU is very much unchartered waters and whilst I certainly do not recommend anyone acts hastily, a review of your financial position in the next few months may avoid future headaches.

Whether you want to register for our newsletter, attend one of our road shows or speak to me directly, please call or email me on the contacts below & I will be glad to help you. We do not charge for reviews, reports or recommendations we provide.