Office Locations
Viewing posts categorised under: Habitual Residence

Do you know the rules around domicility?

By Derek Winsland - Topics: domiciled, Events, France, Habitual Residence, Residency
This article is published on: 1st September 2017

01.09.17

Like many in France, I took time off this month, and to while away the time, caught up on some industry articles. One such article was written by Old Mutual International that presented the results of a small survey it can conducted amongst ex-pats regarding what they believed were the rules around domicility.

It asked the respondents six questions, and the answers were sufficiently enlightening that I thought I’d share them with you.

1. British expats mistakenly believe they are no longer UK domiciled
Everyone has a domicile of origin, acquired at birth. For UK nationals, it’s possible to acquire a new domicile (a domicile of choice) by settling in a new country with the intention of living there permanently. However, it is not always guaranteed that one can lose one’s UK domiciled status and acquire a new one, as there are no fixed rules (as you would expect from HMRC) as to what is required.

Living in another country for a long time, although an important factor does not prove a new domicile has been acquired. Among the many conditions that HMRC list, it states that all links with the UK must be severed and they must have no intention of returning to the UK.

Research* shows 74% of UK expats who consider themselves no longer UK domiciled still hold assets in the UK, and 81% have not ruled out returning to the UK in the future. This means HMRC is likely to still consider them to be deemed UK domiciled.

2. British expats mistakenly believe they are only liable to UK inheritance tax (IHT) on their UK assets
As most British expats will still be deemed UK domiciled on death, it is important to understand that their worldwide assets will become subject to UK IHT. A common misconception is that just UK assets are caught. This lack of knowledge could have a profound impact on beneficiaries.

Before probate can be granted, the probate fee and any inheritance tax due on an estate must be paid. With UK IHT currently set at 40%, there could be a significant bill for beneficiaries to pay before they can access their inheritance. Setting up a life insurance policy could help ensure beneficiaries have access to cash to pay the required fees. Advisers setting up policies specifically for this purpose must ensure they place the policy in trust to enable funds to be paid out instantly without the need for probate.

Research* shows a staggering 82% of UK expats do not realise that both their UK and world-wide assets could be subject to UK IHT.

3. British expats mistakenly believe they are no longer subject to UK taxes when they leave the UK
All income and gains generated from UK assets or property continue to be subject to UK taxes. Some expats seem to think that just because they no longer live in the UK they don’t need to declare their income or capital gains from savings and investments or property held in the UK. By not declaring the correct taxes people can find they end up being investigated by HMRC, and the sanctions for non-disclosure are getting tougher.

Research* shows 11% of UK expats with UK property did not know that UK income tax may need to be paid if their property is rented out, and 27% were unaware that Capital Gains Tax may need to be paid if the property is sold.

4. British expats mistakenly believe that their spouse can sign documents on their behalf should anything happen to them
The misconception that a spouse or child or a professional will be able to manage their affairs should they become mentally incapacitated is leading people to think they don’t need a Power of Attorney (POA) in place. This could result in families being left in a vulnerable position as their loved ones will not automatically be able to step in and act on their behalf. Instead, there will be a delay whilst they apply to the Court of Protection to obtain the necessary authority. This extra complication is all avoidable by completing a lasting POA form and registering it with the Court of Protection.

Research* shows 44% of UK expats wrongly believe their spouse will be able to sign on their behalf should they become mentally incapacitated.

5. British expats unsure if their will is automatically recognised in the country they have moved to
It is wrong to assume a will or POA document is automatically recognised in the country in which they move to. Often overseas law is driven by where the person is habitually resident, and the laws of that country will apply. Therefore, people may require a UK will and POA for their UK assets and a separate one covering their assets in the country they live. The wills also need to acknowledge each other so as not to supersede each other.

Research* shows 50% of UK expats do not know if a will or POA is legally recognised in the country they have moved to.

If you feel you could be affected by this, or 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.

Le Tour de Finance

Le Tour de Finance, Domaine Gayda, 6th October 2017

This year’s event is now fully subscribed and we are unable to accept any more places. If you were wanting to attend, but hadn’t got round to booking, then all is not lost. It’s possible to make a personal appointment to see me in our Limoux office. Please ring either the office or me directly on my mobile.

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

Misinformation, not just a problem for politicians?

By Rob Hesketh - Topics: Assurance Vie, France, Habitual Residence, Residency, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 14th May 2015

14.05.15

Oh my, what to talk about this week? Whatever you do, don’t invest in opinion polls. Amazingly, we already have a new government; non-committal about staying in Europe, but firm on staying out of the Euro, and we have an EU country, Greece, firmly committed to staying in Europe, but possibly about to be forced to leave the Euro due to profligate bankruptcy. Actually not only bankruptcy, but the next stage on from that; running out of friends, or in fact anyone, who will now lend them money. This is beginning to look like a one way street for the Euro, but beware. Nothing is ever as clear cut as it seems.

Misinformation. Clearly a problem for politicians, but a big problem for us too. What I want to talk about today is the worrying number of new clients that I’ve seen so far this year who have previously accepted financial advice that is clearly flawed. If you took advice on investments before you came to France, or maybe have sought advice from unregulated sources since you got here, you may well be the proud owner of an offshore bond. If this sounds like you, then please keep on reading. You have the wrong investment for successful tax efficiency in France, and it can have severe consequences.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing illegal about holding a Jersey or Isle of Man domiciled bond in France, as long as you declare it to the ‘fisc’, but you may well be in for a nasty surprise when you start to draw money as regular income or one-off cash injections. And whatever you do, don’t die. Not that it will bother you too much at this point, but it will only add to the consternation of your beneficiaries if your local tax office turns its nose up at your non-European, definitely non assurance vie bond.

If your bond is not a true assurance vie, it will not be set up to jump through the tax hoops that the French tax system presents. How do you tell if your bond will be able to jump through the hoops? Well, you’re off to a good start if you talk to a regulated and approved adviser registered in France, who offers you an assurance vie. This must be compliant. Anything else, and you should start to worry. There are a few ‘litmus’ tests you can use. The first is elementary geography. Is your bond issued in Europe? If not, forget it. You do not have an assurance vie, or anything like it. Secondly, ask your bond provider if he will be able to give you certified tax information to enable you to make your French tax return. Unless you can be completely satisfied that you will be told exactly how much of your withdrawal is taxable, in Euros (even if the bond is in sterling), you have a problem, and you have the wrong bond. You will pay more tax on the gain and you will lose out on various other benefits than if you had structured the exact same underlying investments inside an assurance vie. You have, in short, been badly advised. This is not necessarily through deceit or bad practice, but almost certainly through ignorance; both of the French financial system and of its products. Most likely the advice will have come from a UK IFA trying to keep a grip on a client moving abroad, or an international IFA operating outside of his usual area.

Help is available. Spectrum financial advisers are registered and regulated in the countries in which we work. Unlike back in the UK, we do not charge for our advice or time. Taking advice from registered advisers is a no-lose situation. You will get good advice; you won’t be hassled or coerced into doing anything at all that you’re not entirely comfortable with, and you won’t be charged.

A good way to meet advisers is to attend a financial seminar, such as those currently taking place under the ‘Le Tour de Finance’ banner.

You must, in short, satisfy yourself that your financial adviser is qualified to advise you about the conditions that exist in the financial regime in which you are going to live and pay taxes. There are various loopholes that allow non France-based IFAs to operate here from a number of European countries. Please make sure that you choose an IFA who lives and works in your local community.

You have two such advisers writing for the ‘Flyer’ at the present time. Why on earth would anyone in their right mind rely on an IFA in Chipping Sodbury or Crete to advise them on the most important financial decisions of their lives?

Are you thinking of moving to France?

By Amanda Johnson - Topics: France, Habitual Residence, Inheritance Tax, Pensions, QROPS, Residency, Retirement, Tax, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 10th March 2015

10.03.15

Question:

I am planning to move permanently to France but am not sure where to go for information on the differences in regulations regarding tax, inheritance and pensions between France and my current country of residence?

Answer:

Whilst there are a number of forums and websites offering opinion and suggestions regarding the differences in French taxation from where you currently live, it is worth considering the following points before you make any decisions:

What experience does the person/site/forum have in this field?

  • Ensuring that the information you want is accurate, relevant to the country you will be living in and free of any personal bias and opinion, is vital in enabling you to make the right choices going forward.

Is the information you will receive regulated in the country you will be living?

  • Rules and regulations in the country you are leaving will most likely be different to France. Making sure the recommendations you receive are based on what is best for you as a French resident is very important.

Has the person providing you the information personal experience of your questions?

  • It is always a comfort to speak to someone who has ‘walked the walk’ and not just a casual or second hand grasp of your questions. Personal experiences can often assist people getting used to new legislations and bureaucracy.

Whether you want to register for our newsletter, attend one of our road shows, Le Tour de Finance 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.

The Financial Implications of Moving Abroad

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, europe-news, Habitual Residence, Residency, Retirement, spain, Tax, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 30th January 2015

30.01.15

Moving abroad can be a stressful and confusing experience and starting from scratch in a new location can often be overwhelming.

If you have recently decided to up sticks and move to Barcelona, or if you’re a recent arrival in the sunny Catalan capital, then you will have many choices to make. Aside from the immediate practicalities of moving to a new country, such as choosing schools, buying or renting property, and setting up residency for you and your family, there are many other (often overlooked) factors to take into consideration:

Pensions:
Unlike the UK, most companies in Spain don’t provide a private pension scheme or private health insurance. However, as an Expat, you may have unique opportunities available to you. An adviser will be able to discuss each of the options enabling you to make a decision.

Banking:
Having the right banking arrangements is a key part of life overseas. It’s best to sort your finances out before you go, as local banks usually require a credit history and proof of address to set up an account – which you won’t have when you arrive.

Tax:
Dual-Country financial arrangements are complex and should not be taken lightly, as even the most innocent transaction can be costly if not well planned.

Savings and Investments:
There are many factors that go into determining the best country in which to locate your investments. Bear in mind that you may have access to, and potentially benefit from, onshore and offshore savings and investment assets.

ISAs:
If you currently have an ISA and are planning to move abroad, they are not tax efficient in Spain. You also need to be fiscally resident in the UK to pay into one.

Will & Testimony:
Your Will (and those of your family members) will need to be updated so that it is compliant in Spain

Financial Advice:
The complexities in managing currency risk, an investment portfolio, and dual-nation tax reporting are many. It is important for expats to have a trusted adviser who understands the financial nuances of living an international lifestyle.