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Viewing posts categorised under: Inheritance Tax

Reflecting on estate planning

By Andrew Lawford - Topics: Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, Italy, Succession Planning
This article is published on: 24th August 2021

24.08.21

Could the oldest woman in the world have been a fraud?

Not many people will recognise the name Jeanne Calment, but she is the main character of this article and her story invites reflection, regardless of the truth of the various claims made about her.

First, let’s see who Jeanne Calment (probably) was: she was born in Arles, in the south of France, in 1875 and died in 1997 at the age of 122 years, 164 days: this happens to be the oldest age, as far as we know, of any human being ever to have lived. This is clearly remarkable – having been born at a time when the average life expectancy of a French woman was 45 years, she managed to outlive not only her own generation, but also a number of successive ones. It is worth noting that average life expectancy has been influenced greatly by the high rate of infant mortality in the past: in 1875 roughly 18% of babies in France died before their 1st birthdays – today it is less than 0.03% – so once you made it through your first year, your prospects were much better.

Of course, becoming really really old is the sort of thing that might get you into the Guinness Book of World Records, and may provoke a certain amount of interest from medical researchers concentrating on life extension, but how much else of interest can there be in the topic? Well, according to Norris McWhirter, one of the founders of the Guinness World Records (and as reported in the article linked below): “No single subject is more obscured by vanity, deceit, falsehood, and deliberate fraud than the extremes of human longevity.”

estate planning

It turns out that the case of Jeanne Calment is complicated by the possibility of her not being who she said she was. The accusation of fraud is based upon the idea that she actually died in 1934, the year in which Jeanne’s daughter Yvonne is supposed to have passed away. Jeanne’s family, so it is argued, decided to declare that the daughter had died, with Yvonne then playing the role of her mother Jeanne for the rest of her life. Yvonne was born in 1898, making her death at 99 years old in 1997, if the accusation is true, somewhat less remarkable.

What could possibly have motivated the family’s decision to switch places between mother and daughter? Look no further than those two certainties of life – death and taxes – for the answer. It is clearly quite difficult to cheat death, but as the Calment family was well-to-do, saving an estimated 250,000 francs in inheritance taxes (something close to €1M in today’s money) can’t have seemed like a bad idea. If this is true, then full marks for creativity – we are certainly well beyond the bounds of your average tax evasion scheme! The story gets even better, though, with the decision of Jeanne (or Yvonne?) to sell the life estate of her apartment to her notary in 1969, at the age of 94. The agreement allowed Jeanne to remain in the property and obliged the notary to make regular payments to her until receiving full title upon her death. This sort of agreement, also reasonably common in Italy (the nuda proprietà), is essentially a bet by the buyer on how long the life tenant is going to live for. In this case, Jeanne not only outlived the notary but enjoyed continued payments from his heirs as well, ultimately receiving more than twice the value of the property she sold. Talk about a bad bet!

inheritance tax

Reflecting on estate planning

What does the above have to teach us? Either that people will go to extreme lengths to save on their taxes, or that they like to dream up good stories on the topic. Certainly we should reflect on estate planning and wonder what might be coming down the line in terms of inheritance taxes in the reforms that will be forthcoming from the Draghi government over the coming months. Currently, assets passing from parent to child are taxed very lightly in Italy compared with other European countries, with a rate of 4% applied on the excess value over €1M per heir. The rates increase to a maximum of 8% with a zero threshold for an heir with no family connection to the deceased, so even in the current worst case scenario taxes are relatively low.* It is worth noting that gifts and inheritances are treated in the same way under Italian law, so it is possible to make a gift up to the threshold limit today without incurring taxes; subsequent amounts inherited would then be subject to the taxes applicable at that time, but a gift now would be made under the current rules that may well become less advantageous in the future. There are various other mechanisms available for efficient estate planning in Italy, the main one being life insurance wrappers: the amounts received by the beneficiary of a life insurance policy are not technically part of the deceased estate, as long as the policy itself is set up in the correct way.

The above constitutes a simple comment on estate planning in the Italian context, but every situation is different and I often engage with clients’ legal counsel to help make sure that the overall plan will work well in the various interested jurisdictions. If you are thinking about reviewing your estate planning in Italy or are considering moving here from abroad, it is never too early to start the discussion – feel free to send me an e-mail and we can organise a time to talk.

Where does this leave us in the case of Jeanne Calment? If you want to read the whole article, which is long but fascinating, the link is here. I won’t spoil the outcome, but I think the journalist’s ultimate conclusion is the right one. I do hope, however, that they never do the DNA testing suggested: the world is better with a bit of mystery every now and again.

* Inheritance taxes may also be due in other jurisdictions depending on the location of your assets and links to other countries.

Inheritance Planning and French Residency

By Occitanie - Topics: France, Inheritance Tax, Succession Planning
This article is published on: 18th May 2021

18.05.21

Welcome to the latest edition of our newsletter ‘Spectrum in Occitanie, Finance in Focus’, brought to you by your Occitanie team of advisers Sue Regan, Philip Oxley, Derek Winsland, together with Rob Hesketh now consulting from the UK.

As a very important part of any financial planning review, we thought we would re-visit the subject of inheritance planning in this newsletter for the benefit of newcomers and as a reminder for those of you who are already settled in this fabulously diverse and beautiful region of France.

Despite the importance of making sure one’s affairs are in order for the inevitability of one’s demise, very few actively seek advice in this area and, as a result, are unaware of the potential difficulties ahead for their families and heirs, not to mention potential tax bills which can be quite substantial for certain classes of beneficiary.

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

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

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

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

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

For example, the 1963 DTT between France and the UK specifies that the deceased’s total estate will be devolved and taxed in accordance with the person’s place of residence at the time of death, with the exception of any property assets that are sited in the other country. By the way, the UK–France Treaty is not affected by Brexit.

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

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

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

Hence, when people become French resident, there are usually two issues:

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

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

There are a number of other ways in which you can arrange your affairs to protect the survivor, depending on your individual circumstances, such as a change to your marriage regime (yes, France matrimonial law provides for couples to select a particular type of contract under which their assets will be devolved on divorce or death) and we would always recommend that you discuss succession planning in detail with a notaire experienced in these matters.

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

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

The more beneficiaries nominated (e.g. grandchildren, siblings, etc) the greater the potential inheritance tax saving, depending on the value of the policy at the time of death. Beneficiaries can be changed or added at any time during the life of the assurance vie. Remember also, that beneficiary nominations are not restricted to family members, so, whoever you nominate gets the same allowance.

The inheritance allowance on premiums paid to assurance vie after age 70 are less attractive, at €30,500 of the premium (capital investment) paid plus the growth on the capital shared between all named beneficiaries, and the remaining capital invested is taxed in accordance with the standard inheritance tax bands. Nevertheless, an assurance vie is still a worthwhile investment after the age of 70 as, in addition to the inheritance tax benefits, assurance vie offers personal tax efficiencies to the investor such as gross roll-up of income and gains whilst funds remain in the policy and an annual income tax allowance of €4,600 for an individual, or €9,200 for a couple, after 8 years.

So, in order to ensure that your inheritance wishes are carried out some planning may be required and there are investment opportunities to mitigate the inheritance tax for your chosen beneficiaries. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your particular circumstances.

Spanish Inheritance Tax

Inheriting From a Non-French Resident
The tax position of a French resident beneficiary inheriting from the estate of a non-French resident is worthy of a more detailed explanation.

The good news for UK nationals is that, due to the aforementioned DTT on inheritance between France and the UK and providing the deceased did not have any assets situated in France at the time of death, then there is no French inheritance tax payable if you are resident in France.

Where there is no specific tax treaty on inheritance in place between France and the country of residence of the deceased, then the obligation to pay French inheritance tax is determined by how long you have been fiscally domiciled in France at the time of death. You are considered domiciled fiscally in France if you are resident in France and have been for at least six years out of the last ten years preceding the death. If you fall within scope for inheritance tax then the allowance and tax rate will be in accordance with your relationship to the deceased.

If you have received an inheritance, then you may well need some advice on what to do with it and how best to shelter it from both personal taxes for you and inheritance taxes for your beneficiaries. We can help you with that.

Pension Funds and Inheritance Tax
Death benefits from bona fide pension schemes are excluded from your estate for inheritance purposes and are therefore not subject to French inheritance tax. Generally speaking, it is possible to leave your pension fund to the beneficiary of your choice, although some defined benefit (final salary) schemes will only pay death benefits to certain beneficiaries.

It is important to bear in mind that if you are considering encashing your whole pension pot under ‘Pensions Freedom’, once the funds are removed from the pension wrapper, they will be included in your estate for inheritance purposes. You could subsequently shelter these funds in an assurance vie but we strongly recommend you seek our advice before fully cashing in your pension funds as there may be any number of reasons why this would not be in your best interests.

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.

The folder…

By Chris Webb - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Madrid, Spain, Succession Planning, Wills
This article is published on: 10th August 2020

10.08.20

I´ve been playing around with this article during the past few days, trying to fill in some spare time during the weeks of this long hot summer we have here in Spain. I realised quite quickly that writing things that will be of genuine interest could be quite hard so for this article I´ve decided to share with you what I personally am doing at home right now.

Considering some limitations of movement right now it would be a great time to give this some thought.

One piece of advice I always give to my clients is to prepare “THE FOLDER”. You´re immediately wondering what I´m going on about, let me enlighten you to what it is and why you should do it.

For me personally I am reviewing my folder and checking its updated. Interestingly I needed to refer to my folder yesterday and realised I still had some older information on there which isn’t relevant anymore, so tonight’s job is to review and update.

There are many scenarios where you´ll be thankful for making the folder. When I moved house two years ago I went straight to the folder and had all of the companies contact information as well as policies or account details which made informing them all much easier, on the flip side I´ve also lost a family member where finding their folder reduced the stress in dealing with their estate.

In moments of stress you find yourself trawling through endless pieces of paperwork to ascertain assets and account details, then you get that lightbulb moment…….. why wasn’t it all documented.

The Folder | Chris Webb | Spectrum IFA Group

What is THE folder?
It is a single file (digital or physical) where you keep all your important personal and financial information together. It allows easy access to these documents if you’re no longer around to help. It is even more important to have it in place where one family member takes the lead on the family finances. That includes paying bills, managing accounts and storing documents.

As a family we decided to do both a physical folder and a digital folder. The digital folder is password protected, both me and the wife have access to this, and we have shared the password with close friends should anything happen to us. In the digital folder we have shared as much information as possible for all our assets.

For the physical folder it is vital to only list information that would not create a problem should that folder end up in the wrong hands. So, we have only listed the names, telephone numbers, policy / account numbers of all our assets in this folder. It would give enough information for someone to be able to deal with our affairs with minimum hassle.

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

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

To give you an example of this, the UK Department of Work and Pensions estimate that there is currently more than £400 million sitting in unclaimed pensions pots in the UK. Imagine trying to find out if you have one.

chris webb Spectrum IFA

Which is best physical or digital?
As I mentioned, we have done both and I believe most people would do the same. Some people still love to have information in physical form, something you can get your hands on. The younger generation tend to rely solely on digital devices. I don’t think it matters which way you do it, as long as you do it.

What goes in the folder?
Its essential to list what assets you have, where they are and important contact information for each asset. Keep copies of any insurance policy documents, pension statements etc. I have put a small list below which would help most of you, but you do need to look at all your assets individually to make sure the list is right!

  • Life insurance policy documents
  • Personal pension documents
  • Employer pension details
  • Details of any entitlement to state pensions
  • List of bank accounts with account numbers, login details, passwords etc
  • Details of any credit cards
  • Property, land and cemetery deeds
  • Proof of loans made
  • Vehicle ownership documents
  • Stock certificates, brokerage accounts, investment platform details, online investment account details
  • Details of holdings of premium bonds, government bonds, investment bonds
  • Partnership and corporate operating/ownership agreements (including offshore companies)

How often should ‘THE’ folder be reviewed?
I would recommend reviewing the folder on an annual basis, but if you’re extra diligent with it you should review and update every time something changes. For example, if you change insurance companies then add the new details and delete the old. This is a continuous job, its not something you do once and never look at again.

Finally…
Tell someone about your folder. Someone needs to know you have made one and whether it´s digital or physical. There is very little point going to all this effort if know body knows it exists.

Now I´m off to review my own folder, and it needs reviewing. I noticed yesterday that whilst my financial assets are up to date, I haven’t updated our vehicle details and a few other things which had gone unnoticed. Lets do this!

If you have any questions about creating your own folder feel free to reach out!

UK Inheritance Tax and Spanish Succession Tax

By Charles Hutchinson - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Spain, Spanish Succession Tax, Succession Planning, Wealth Tax
This article is published on: 5th August 2020

05.08.20
Succession tax in Spain

Much has been written and said on this subject, particularly in many of a 19th hole. There is a fundamental difference between the two:

  • The UK Inheritance Tax is upon the deceased’s estate
  • The Spanish Succession Tax version is upon the inheritors

UK Inheritance Tax Liability is on the worldwide estate of the deceased and all global assets are assessed and ‘gathered together’ for the purpose of probate. Once fully quantified and valued, the tax is levied at a (current) rate of 40%. There is a nil rate band of (currently) £325,000 estate value below which no tax is payable. The tax has to be paid BEFORE the estate is distributed.

Spanish Succession Tax is payable on EITHER assets being located in Spain OR on global assets if the inheritor is a resident of Spain. If neither is the case, then there is no liability. If one or both is the case, then Spanish Succession Tax is payable by the inheritor(s) whether they be a resident or non resident of Spain.

There are some essential measures one can take to either mitigate or avoid these liabilities.

One of the best and most effective is the use of (Spanish compliant) investment bonds. In Spain for example, Succession Tax is payable on assets passing between spouses (this is unlike the UK where assets can pass between them untaxed). Where an investment bond is jointly owned, the deceased’s half can pass to the spouse untaxed.

An even greater advantage is that the bond can pass down the generations with the possibility of continuing investment growth free of both UK Inheritance Tax and Spanish Succession Tax. For as long as the policy holders and lives assured continue to be appointed, the bond will continue and each generation of policy holders can enjoy capital withdrawals on both a regular or intermittent basis. Thus all inheritance tax is avoided by an unlimited number of generations.

Furthermore, should a Spanish resident bond owner pass away and their beneficiaries are non residents of Spain, there would be no liability to Spanish Succession Tax because the bond is also domiciled outside of Spain (e.g. Dublin).

Spanish Inheritance Tax

For the moment, Spanish Succession Tax in the region where I live (Andalucia) is virtually non existent. There is a €1m allowance between close family members, providing their individual existing wealth does not exceed that figure. The remaining assets are also liable to a 99% exemption.

These two taxes are the only ones not included in the UK/Spain Double Tax Treaty. However, there is an unwritten rule that if it has been paid in one country, then it will not be charged again by the other. To my certain knowledge, this informal agreement has always been observed.

For information and assistance with your inheritance planning, please contact me by completing the form below of email/call:
charles.hutchinson@spectrum-ifa.com
Tel:(+34) 952 79 79 23
Mobile: 605 903 472

The when I die folder

By Antony Poole - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning, Wills
This article is published on: 7th July 2020

07.07.20

Discussing how to deal with “life after death” with loved ones is not an easy topic for most families, much less planning for it. While it may sound morbid, creating a “When I Die” folder will save loved ones time and money because nothing is more time consuming and agonizing than sorting through a month’s worth of mail, rifling through cabinets to locate a last will and testament and trying to sort out all the different policies that are accumulated through the years.

While you may be thinking, I don’t have so much that I require a folder. Actually, the opposite is true. A “When I Die” folder is about much more than you’re your assets; it should include debts, funeral and final disposition arrangements, passwords, and letters to loved ones, among other things. The difference between having your files organized or not is about more than just stress; leave behind a mess and it can delay inheritors’ access to funds and cause potentially high legal fees.

The ”When I die” folder can be a physical or digital folder that an individual or family keeps that contains important information that will be needed in the event that someone dies or becomes incapacitated. It serves an important, but often overlooked role in estate planning.

A good start to your folder can be found BELOW to enable you to start one for yourself or for a family member, please feel free to adapt it.

CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY AND ORGANISE YOUR ‘FOLDER’

UK share portfolio

Should you require any help with estate planning please feel free to contact me:

Inheritance Planning & French Residency

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

09.06.20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

moving-to-france

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tax increases in Spain

By Barry Davys - Topics: Barcelona, Inheritance Tax, Spain, Tax, tax advice, Tax Efficient Savings, Wealth Tax
This article is published on: 16th May 2020

16.05.20

This is an article for those of us who live in Spain but will apply in every developed country around the world.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a worldwide lockdown, including here in Spain. The economy has been shut down with the likes of Seat in Barcelona stopping production and Barcelona tourist numbers collapsing. We all know this because we are all a living part of the lockdown.

In response to what looks like the worst economic crisis in the 300 years of modern data collection, governments and central banks around the world have provided some $7 trillion dollars of stimulus packages to economies and workers. It is the fastest and biggest reaction EVER to an economic crisis. Well done, the central banks! It genuinely is helping to make sure that as we slowly exit lockdown, individuals and companies will be in a little better condition to start up again.

Would I have it any other way? No! However, the question we now need to answer comes from Angela Merkel when asked to provide a European bailout in the 2009 crisis; “But where will the money come from?” A valid question. And even more so for the crisis that has come from the coronavirus pandemic.

Saving in Spain, ISA, Tax Free Saving in Spain

The money will come, in part, from higher taxation. In the UK today, a menu of proposed increases in taxation has been leaked. In Spain, a loophole in wealth tax legislation that allowed some unit linked insurance savings plans to be exempt from

wealth tax has been closed. What is significant is that these changes are coming now, before we are even clear of the lockdown and virus.

The changes to taxation in Spain are likely to include savings tax, inheritance tax and wealth tax in particular. Changes were already being discussed and the economic fallout from the pandemic provides the reason to bring forward these changes. Specifically, the EU has told us to harmonise inheritance tax across Autonomous Communities as there are big differences in the amount of tax to be paid.

In the draft budget for 2020, there is a proposal to change savings tax. At present, we have three bands of tax. The top rate for gains and investment income over €50,000 is 23%. A new band will be introduced for gains and investment income over €160,000 of 27%. We should expect this change to happen soon as it is already in the budget which is going before Parliament for approval. The first case I have seen where this will apply would lead to an additional €48,000 in tax. It is pertinent to bear in mind that these tax rates can apply to the gain on some property sales.

In addition to the wealth tax change described above, we understand that others may now be considered.

Planning actions

Help is at hand. There are planning actions that can be taken to minimise the tax issues. Here is a three point plan to minimise the effect of these changes:

1. Savings Tax. Move investments into Spanish tax efficient investments. These are available and you do not have to move your investment to Spain to qualify. They are available in Sterling as well as Euros and USD. If you would like confirmation on which of your current investments are tax efficient in Spain, I am happy to review them with you.

2. Inheritance Tax. This requires very careful consideration before making decisions to manage inheritance tax. Making sure you can maintain your lifestyle is an important part of this planning, especially for the survivor in the event of one half of a couple passing away. Once these criteria have been met, planning is feasible. A recent case of planning has saved £87,719 in UK inheritance tax for a couple living here in Spain. For nearly all of us from the UK, our estate at death will be assessed for UK inheritance tax.

3. Wealth Tax. Sometimes, the planning for wealth tax is simple. In other cases, not so simple. Care is needed and it is worthwhile asking for a review.

We have had our cake in the form of stimulus to protect the economy. We will shortly find we will have indigestion from eating the cake in the form of higher taxes. Fortunately, we still have a few indigestion tablets available to relieve our pain.

If you wish to discuss tax on your savings, inheritance tax or wealth tax please feel welcome to call. If this helps, you can match your availability for a call with mine online here.

Health, Wealth and Happiness

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

12.04.20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Save Thousands in Gift and Inheritance Tax in Spain

By John Hayward - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning, Tax
This article is published on: 27th February 2020

27.02.20

In Spain, you can transfer money or other assets to your children or grandchildren during your lifetime, but these transfers can be subject to gift tax. Tax on gifts in Spain is payable at the time they are made.

However, many autonomous regions have special tax allowances or deductions for these gifts. In the Valencian Community, for example, each child or grandchild could be eligible to receive €100,000 without attracting any gift tax, whereas the tax on €100,000, without any allowances, would be at least €12,000. Also, gifting an asset now will mean that any growth on that asset will be free of any future inheritance tax.

The same allowance is available on inheritance, which means each child can receive €200,000 of your wealth, tax free, saving many thousands in inheritance and gift tax.

Gifting your property whilst you still live it in it, with rights to remain, is another option which many people consider. Known as usufructo, children will inherit the bare ownership of the property, possibly paying some gift tax now, but freeing property from the estate when considering inheritance tax.

As with most things relating to Brexit, what will happen next year is not known publicly at the time of writing. Also, it has been suggested that gift and inheritance tax is about to change in Spain. Therefore, if you are thinking of gifting money, or other assets to your children or grandchildren, this might be an opportunity that will not be around for much longer.