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Is your money safe under the matress?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: Assurance Vie, France, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments
This article is published on: 5th March 2021

05.03.21

March is my favourite month of the year, not least because I celebrate my birthday during this month and this year will be the end of my 4th decade. Traditionally it has always been a busy month because it is a great time for events and starting new projects. This month my colleagues and I will be attending another virtual property fair hosted by Your Overseas Home. The event we did last year was very good and lots of people were able to see our presentations and then chat to our advisers from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

By October 2021 I will have lived in France for 18 years continuously, but I first arrived for my Erasmus year in September 2001 making it 20 years since I started living in France. As you may know I am married to a Frenchman and I have adopted much of the French culture and way of life. But my husband and I have very different views in our attitude to risk and finances. My husband came from a farming background where money was hidden under the mattress, you only bought when you had the money and you insured everything that could be insured. My husband will take a 10 year extended guarantee on a toaster! I came from a background where it was common to use credit cards to fund Christmas and holidays and I went to university with a student loan.

What is the point of having money?

The idea that money is safe under the mattress or in the bank is no longer true. In France the traditional popular savings accounts such as the Livret A and LDD now only have an interest rate of 0.5%. The other misled belief that French assurance vie policy holders have is that Euro Funds are a good investment and a safe investment. Whilst it is true that Euro Funds are still one of the least risky investments after the traditional bank savings accounts, their performance continues to drop year after year. The average growth rate of the Euro Funds in 2020 is 1.2% which, once you deduct social charges (17.2%) and take into consideration inflation (0.5%), the net gain is only 0.5%. One of my own French assurance vie policies, which is 69% Euro Funds, has made an average of 1.6% over the seven years since it was created. The problem with French assurance vies is that they are not bespoke; they come with certain formulas, some that you can contribute to monthly, some that you cannot, and depending on your choice you cannot go lower than the prescribed amount in Euro Funds, no matter what your risk profile.

When I compare this with the range of product providers we can offer our clients and the choice of funds, the difference is astounding. Thank goodness that as English speakers we have access to better investment possibilities from as little as £20,000/€25,000. The average performance of my clients’ portfolios is around 3% after charges, with no social charges taken at source, and they have a lot of choice and flexibility regarding which funds they want and how much of that fund they want their investment to be in. They also have access to English speaking product providers, English speaking fund managers and their own English speaking financial adviser who is supported by the knowledge and experience of all of the Spectrum advisers.

I am fully integrated into French society and believe in adhering to many things about French society, but when it comes to finances there are differences between us that we cannot ignore so it is not in our best interest to invest in French financial products.

investing in tough times

The outlook this March is thankfully much better than last March. There is more good news for Prudential policy holders. At the end of February Prudential announced no changes to the Expected Growth Rate and upward Unit Price Adjustments in the PruFund Growth Sterling, PruFund Growth Euro and PruFund Cautious Euro funds.

For other funds and the markets in general the outlook is equally positive. “The combination of vaccine roll-out, substantial fiscal stimulus, and elevated consumer savings should drive a sharp recovery in economic and earnings growth,” said Ryan Hammond, a Goldman Sachs strategist, in a report this week.

Whilst mask-wearing and social distancing will still be necessary for some time to come, a lot of our friends and family members have been vaccinated, therefore reducing the risk to the most vulnerable. With the coming good weather, meetings and get togethers will be able to take place out of doors. As always, if clients are happy to arrange a face to face meeting, I look forward to seeing them for outside meetings in their lovely gardens. If however you prefer video meetings or phone calls that is also possible.

Wishing you all a bright, sunny and floral month of March!

Cash is King?

By John Hayward - Topics: Investments, Spain
This article is published on: 10th February 2021

10.02.21

What are investors doing with their cash?
Last year, Quilter, a British multinational wealth management company, conducted research* with 2,000 UK investors. The Covid-19 pandemic has provided many investors the opportunity to save more than they were before. However, many are either choosing to lock this money in a bank account or are waiting for what they believe is the ‘right’ time to invest in markets. But when is the right time to invest?

The research also found that most of those surveyed don’t understand the potential risks that having too much of their savings tied up in cash can have on their financial plans over the long term.

More recently, Quilter reached out to a sample of their international customers and found that the very same sentiment was shared by them. Many investors are sitting on cash that is not necessarily working for them and they could be missing out by being too cautious with their money.

Prudential have reported that, according to the Bank of England 28% of households have seen savings increase in 2020. That could mean they have a cash pile sitting unproductively earning minimal interest.

We understand that people are concerned about the future, even more so now with Covid-19 in play, but we also know that interest rates are likely to stay low for the foreseeable future whereas as inflation remains in the background. Many were waiting (years) for Brexit to go through and then Covid-19 came along and now they are waiting for this to go away before taking action with their money. In the meantime, the value of their cash has gradually reduced whilst those invested have seen the benefit of being so.

Here is a link to Prudential’s Investing for Beginners for those who are would like to know more about some investment basics and we can provide additional guidance.

Investing for Beginners | How to Start Investing | Prudential

There are many articles which call themselves ‘Investing for beginners’ but maybe a better place to start is to simply understand the ‘point’ of investing. Why could it be a good idea? Why should you consider it?

To find out how we can help you decide how best to plan for your current needs and those of the future, contact me today.

Do you have investments in the UK?

By Andrew Lawford - Topics: Investments, Italy, Tax in Italy
This article is published on: 4th February 2021

04.02.21

Time for a closer look at foreign portfolios

In one of my articles last year I looked into the complexity of the taxation regime for the various types of investment income that can arise for an Italian resident. I would suggest that you read that article, or at least its section on funds, as background before continuing. In this article we are going to look in greater depth at the taxation of funds, or collective investment schemes (from now on I’ll refer to these simply as “collectives”). While this may seem a somewhat dry topic, it will be of particular concern to those who have investments in the UK, given that their tax treatment will be changing now that Brexit has come to pass. Equally, though, many people will have investments in collectives that they made in their countries of origin that do not pass muster in Italy, and these will bring less than desirable consequences from a taxation perspective.

Ufficio Complicazione Affari Semplici

Let’s first make it clear that there is nothing in Italian law that makes it illegal for an Italian resident to own certain kinds of foreign asset, but as many people find out when navigating the Italian system, the fact that you are allowed to do something doesn’t automatically mean that it will be easy. In fact, Italy has a mythical government office known as the Ufficio Complicazione Affari Semplici (the Office of Complicating Simple Matters – it even has its own Facebook page) which, if it actually existed, might well be one of the most efficient government entities in the country (I am joking, of course, but it does sometimes feel that way)!

tax in italy

Anyway, back to the main point of this article: there is an important distinction made in Italian tax law between EU domicile as against non-EU domicile for collectives.* In order to enjoy the basic 26% rate of taxation for financial income, collectives must either respect the UCITS regulations (i.e. be authorised under the EU law for collective investment undertakings), or, if non-UCITS, they must be domiciled in the EU or EEA, registered for distribution in Italy and managed by an EU licensed asset manager. These requirements will exclude almost all non-EU domiciled collectives, with UK collectives the most recent addition to the list (as from 1st January 2021). So what happens when you have invested in a collective that isn’t covered by EU rules? Any income generated will be taxed at your marginal income tax rates, which is likely to be penalising for all except those with limited incomes (the lowest income tax band is 23% in Italy).

Much has been made in the press of the fact that financial services were excluded from the Brexit agreement. Below is what this looks like in practice (the following is an excerpt from a letter sent by the fund manager Janus Henderson to investors in their UK domiciled funds):

“With effect from 1 January 2021, UK domiciled investment funds that had previously operated under the Undertakings for the Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS) regulations will cease to be classed as UCITS and will instead become “UK UCITS”. From the same date, UK domiciled Non-UCITS Retail Schemes (NURS) will cease to be classed as EU Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) and instead will be classed as third country AIFs. Any UK domiciled Janus Henderson funds that were registered for marketing purposes in any EU 27 countries will no longer be registered and marketing of the funds will therefore cease. For the avoidance of doubt our “UK UCITS” and NURS will not be registered for marketing in the EU as third country AIFs.”

Also on the list for unfavourable tax treatment you will find any non-UCITS ETFs, which would include all of those listed in the US (remember that ETFs are simply collectives that trade on a stock exchange). It will also include holdings in Investment Trusts listed in the UK. To be fair, UK Investment Trusts have always been in an unusual situation – something I found out first hand a number of years ago after holding an Investment Trust through an Italian bank. I was amazed at the paperwork that arrived at year end relating to this holding, the income from which I was obliged to put in my tax return (to be taxed at marginal rates). At the time there was also a complicated distinction made between the variation of the fund’s NAV compared with the variation of the price of the shares that I had bought and sold – although I believe that particular distortion has now been resolved for listed funds like ETFs (every now and again something slips past the Office of Complicating Simple Matters).

USA Federal Bank

What about the US?
Any American readers should be particularly concerned, because they cannot hold EU collectives due to the arcane nature of US taxation, which makes compliance difficult even for non-resident US citizens.

You are unwise to hold EU collectives from a US point of view, and unwise to hold US collectives from an Italian point of view. So what to do? Do not despair: much will depend on your individual situation, but we can often help to improve substantially the overall tax efficiency and declaration burden relating to your portfolio.

The bottom line is that you should never assume that what works well in one country will work well in another, and especially not one like Italy that has government offices specialised in complicating matters!

If you would like to discuss your own situation then please get in touch. Our aim is to simplify complicated matters as much as possible whilst making sure that your assets are well managed, with a view to the long term. In this context, avoiding unnecessary tax exposure remains a key element of most successful investment strategies. With proper guidance in the process of portfolio construction, it is entirely possible both to enhance investment returns and reduce administrative complexity.

* Normally you can tell where a collective is domiciled by looking at the first two digits of its ISIN code (ISIN stands for International Securities Identification Number, a 12 digit alphanumeric code which almost all financial instruments have): IT will identify an Italian security, GB a UK security, LU a Luxembourg security and so on.

Bitcoin in your investment portfolio – what is Bitcoin, how to use it and what it will do

By Barry Davys - Topics: Bitcoin, Blockchain, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 18th January 2021

18.01.21
Bitcoin in your investment portfolio

Love it or hate it seems to be the approach to Bitcoin. It will be the best investment ever or it is just a bubble controlled by the few people who can pull the strings, rumoured to be the Chinese.

Let’s start with “What is Bitcoin?”. Bitcoin is a piece of computer software with the ability to share pieces of the software with other people. Of course, the other people have to pay for their share of the software and the price varies according to supply and demand. In principle, there is nothing wrong with this. It worked for Bill Gates.

To get a better of understanding of Bitcoin it is worthwhile making that comparison with Microsoft. With Microsoft we know who owns the product, the products have set prices and perform a function that makes something happen, e.g. run our computer, allow us to write letters, make presentations and do our numbers on spreadsheets. Bitcoin has none of these attributes.

The way Bitcoin pricing works is much more like a commodity. If you go to Starbucks today and buy a coffee, let’s say you pay 4€. Next week you want a coffee. The same coffee now costs 5€. The coffee has not changed, only the price. The difference may be due to shortages, logistical difficulties during a pandemic, many more people wanting a Starbucks coffee, exchange rate movements etc. Bitcoin works in the same way. The price of Bitcoin is primarily set by demand as the supply is fixed. There are only so many Bitcoins in the World. At least you can do something nice with a coffee bean. Bitcoin’s primary purpose is just as something you can sell to someone else. It has no other purpose at the moment.

You would now have a valid point if you were to pull me up on this analysis. “You can use it to buy goods and services” is a fair comment to make, however, there is a ‘but’ that should follow that statement. Whilst the number of places you can use Bitcoin to make a purchase is increasing it is not widespread.

Bitcoin is super volatile, which is great on the way up and terrible when it falls after you have just bought it. Here are some important figures which tell you about Bitcoin’s volatility.

2009 – 2017 little price movement

Autumn 2017 the price rises

October 2017 $5,000

November 2017 $10,000

17th December 2017 $19,783

April 2018 $7,000

November 2018 $3,500

14th March 2020 $5,165

crypto currency

It has bounced again in recent weeks and is now at $40,714 as I write this article (9th Jan 2021). Institutional investors (fund managers, hedge funds etc) are now buying Bitcoin. Increased demand of a fixed supply commodity pushes up the price. Will this last? I do not know. Is it a bubble? Again, I do not know. However, what I do know is that institutional investors invest to a plan. They systematically take profits i.e. sell some of their holdings. They are disciplined. They manage risk by keeping a balance of different investments. Should these institutional investors take profits, other fund managers will follow and sell so as not to get caught out by a large price fall. Their careers depend on getting it right. The ability to feed their family depends on it. They analyse, have large teams doing research, watch and wait before buying and sound out other professional colleagues to ensure they sell in a timely manner. The field of behavioural finance has shown that as individual investors we use the part of our brain driven by emotion when making investment decisions, especially when there is a big price movement in an asset. This emotion based decision making often leads to poor decision making.

There is a body of opinion from Bitcoin exchanges and advocates that is putting forward the theory that Bitcoin is going to become a national currency in some countries and therefore the price is going to go ballistic (their phrase). It is unlikely that a non regulated, very volatile commodity will be used as a national currency.

Here is an example from me of the practical problems. A solicitor practice in Barcelona started to accept Bitcoin for settlement of their fees. It looked like a superb idea to show they were a forward-looking firm.

The problem comes with the volatility. Between issuing the invoice and payment by the client there is a delay. Having charged 1.03874 Bitcoins, for example, they had no idea how much they would get in the currency that would pay all the bills of the firm, such as their staff (Can we pay you in Bitcoins Mrs staff member? Ah, no!), electricity company etc. So having chosen 1.03874 Bitcoins as the fee because that would generate 4,000 in Euros, at the date of payment it could have been just €2,000 value. For this reason it is very unlikely that Bitcoin will become a national currency!

If you wish to invest in Bitcoins, it is worthwhile separating them from your primary investments. Bitcoins will then not influence your investment decisions on your main portfolio in the way that they might be if they are on the same investment platform. How much should you invest in Bitcoin? Set aside a percentage of your savings and only invest that much. Whether it is 1% or 10% will depend on your overall circumstances. However, with Bitcoin it is very worthwhile applying the rule that only invest what you can afford to lose. That way, if you lose it all it has not damaged your financial wellbeing. If it goes up 400% next week, you will be able to take some profit and perhaps spend your winnings on something frivolous.

Bitcoin profits will be taxed. Remember to put money aside from your winnings to pay tax. The amount of tax will depend on your country of residence. The annual declaration can be very difficult so keep track of all your transactions. A figure of 23% of the profit is a good guideline as the amount to put aside if you live in Spain.

investment idea

Practical Tip. A more mainstream alternative to investing in Bitcoin is the technology that Bitcoin is based on called blockchain. Blockchain has lots of uses and is good news. Uses include electronic voting in national elections, supply change management, payment systems, and anti-counterfeiting software. It can also allow companies to work together and share only what they need to for a specific project.

As an example of what is possible, there are also many Blockchain propositions for supply chain management for Covid 19 vaccines and contact tracing. For more information on blockchain, you could read “Blockchain Revolution” by Don and Alex Tapscott. You can already find many investments to include in your main portfolio such as ETFs and funds. For more information on these funds email barry.davys@spectrum-ifa.com

A final point on Bitcoin.  When someone sells a Bitcoin what does the buyer pay with? It is one of the major currencies. Sellers still want good old fashioned US dollars, Euros or Sterling when they part with their coin.  That tells us something!

Are you and your investments adapting to change?

By John Hayward - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, UK investments, UK Pensions, wealth management
This article is published on: 11th January 2021

11.01.21

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change

adapt your investments to the change

I didn’t write that and neither did Charles Darwin, even though many websites state that it is from Darwin´s Origin of Species. In a way, it doesn’t matter who wrote it. What is important is that it is not necessarily the strongest, or the most intelligent, who have survived this coronavirus. Many people have adapted their lives, with guidance, to avoid contracting the virus and/or passing it on in case they have it without knowing.

When lockdown took affect here on Friday 13th March 2020 panic was rife, which manifested itself through stockmarkets crashing across the world. If there is one thing that we have learnt about the human being, it is that he or she is likely to overreact in times of trouble. Toilet rolls, bleach, and selling off stocks and shares were the focus for many in March and April. Months later, it appears that we are not going to the loo so often, houses don´t need cleaning so regularly, and that the business world is in better shape than a lot of people realise.

I return to the “Darwin’s” theory, focusing on adaptation. Some companies were already struggling pre-Covid 19 (21st century companies with 20th century ideas), so the pandemic has accelerated their demise, whereas other companies have taken advantage of the online and digital world, made more prominent because of Covid-19, and have adapted to the demand created by Covid-19.

upward stockmarket trends

2020 was a pretty pathetic year for the British FTSE100 (Down 12%) compared to the US S&P500 (Up 18%). The FTSE100 is made up of companies from poor performing sectors, such as banks and oil, whereas the S&P500 includes technology, high quality consumer goods, and some healthcare stocks. Even then, there were some horror stories and it is the job of the wealth manager to navigate the investment storms.

Those who have used the services of The Spectrum IFA Group will have seen a significant increase in the value of their investments since March 2020. This has been down to expert wealth management on the part of the investment companies that we recommend. They have picked through the good and the bad to achieve positive results despite the political wrangling on both sides of the Atlantic and the effects of Covid-19.

Brexit

Brexit has gone (at last!). Boris Johnson has achieved what he wanted. We shall see where that leaves Britain and the consequences for those of us living in an EU country. We knew that there would be changes; deal or no deal. There will be more paperwork, more checks, more headaches, and less freedom. However, those with the desire to adapt, will. This adaptation should bring security, confidence, and an overall feeling of well-being.

So whether it was Darwin, Mrs Miggins from the cake shop, or the bloke down the tavern, who spoke of adaptation all those years ago, the important thing is to look forward, act responsibly, and ignore all the horrible and, at times, unnecessary press reports and local gossip. Not only will all the negatives affect your mental health but they could also impact your wealth. We are not doctors but we can perhaps help your wealth make you healthier.

2021 finances

Welcome to 2021

Contact me today to find out how we can help you make more from your money, protecting your income streams against inflation and low interest rates, or for any other financial and tax planning information, at john.hayward@spectrum-ifa.com or call or WhatsApp (+34) 618 204 731.

What’s the story with ESG investing and what can it do for your savings?

By Barry Davys - Topics: ESG investing, investment diversification, Investments, Spain
This article is published on: 7th January 2021

07.01.21

ESG investing is now a mainstream type of investing and a useful part of a portfolio. But what is it and why is it good for me?

A year ago, someone came to ask for advice on moving investments from UK investments to Spain investment. We discussed their position, their requirements, their reasoning behind moving the money to Spain. All the reasoning behind the thought process was very sound. However, there were some practical aspects that I highlighted that needed addressing before making the move. The issues were taxation in Spain and their requirement for sustainable and/or responsible investments.

These people were really pleased with their investments with returns over 120% in 8 years. The increase in value in these funds had been so spectacular that there was a large capital gains tax liability in Spain if they were to sell. Also, the funds also still meet their belief in ESG values.My advice was for them to keep their investments.

ESG Investing

So what is ESG investing and why have the returns been so good? Why is it a good type of investing for the coming years? ESG is short for Environmental, Social and Governance. ESG investing is investing in the shares of companies that have good practices in these three areas.

An example of a company that would tick all three elements is a company that sells solar panels and a maintenance contract for them but does not charge for the electricity that the panels produce. Many of the established players in the market sell panels and then charge for the electricity in the same way as a normal electricity company.

This is my view, but charging for the electricity produced is wrong. The source of the power, sunlight, is free. Sunlight costs the seller of the solar panels nothing and should not therefore be charged to the panel buyer. Companies that sell solar panels without charging for the electricity meet the governance criteria. They also meet the environmental aspect because it is a renewable energy. These companies are now providing social benefit because they are setting up systems for communities, e.g. apartment blocks. They are a good example of a company that meets the ESG requirements.

Why is this good for your portfolio? When the “good” companies highlight that energy is free once you have bought their panels, sales will increase. We would all like free energy having bought the panels. Other recent ESG examples include Zoom and other companies that allow us to work from home (+400% share price increase in 12 months), Geely who owns Volvo, Lotus and other brands all converting to electric cars (+70.66%) and BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager who has just declared it is moving to ESG screening for every investment it makes (+41%).

BlackRock assets are $7.81 trillion as at 31st December 2020. They are joined, in varying degrees, by the following fund managers in ESG vetting of and investing in companies with ESG credentials.

  • Fidelity
  • JP Morgan Asset Management
  • Morgan Stanley
  • PIMCO (World’s biggest bond fund manager)
  • Vanguard $6 Trn fund manager

This is a small number of the fund managers that have declared their intentions to invest in ESG assets. Are they doing this because of a collective social consciousness? They may tell us that, but the reality is the companies that can be classed as ESG are often the companies of the future. This is where the growth is and with this much collective demand from the above managers and more the sector will be well supported.

At Spectrum we believe in the benefits of ESG investing; it goes alongside our support of a number of charities. However, we also believe in it as a method of adding future value to our clients’ investments.

If you have a question about ESG investing and would like to discover more, please feel welcome to get in touch. We are also happy to review your investments to see how you can incorporate ESG investing into your savings.

As individuals, you can join the ESG movement.

Investment income taxation in Italy

By Andrew Lawford - Topics: Investment income taxation in Italy, Investments, Italy, Tax, Tax in Italy
This article is published on: 5th November 2020

05.11.20

This should be easy, shouldn’t it? Everything gets taxed at 26% – dividends, interest and capital gains. However, for anyone who has delved into the world of Italian fiscal matters, it should be obvious that the words “easy”, “taxation” and “Italy” do not belong in the same sentence.

Let’s try and examine how it all works
Basically you have two main choices: do you want to keep all of your financial assets in Italy, or will you keep some, or all, of your assets outside of Italy? While it is beyond the scope of this article to look at the solidity of the Italian economy and its financial system, you may well be reluctant, with some cause, to move all of your assets here. Maintaining assets abroad as an Italian resident can be fraught with difficulties, but careful planning can mitigate almost entirely the issues that arise. Read on for further details.

Basically you have two main choices: do you want to keep all of your financial assets in Italy, or will you keep some, or all, of your assets outside of Italy? While it is beyond the scope of this article to look at the solidity of the Italian economy and its financial system, you may well be reluctant, with some cause, to move all of your assets here. Maintaining assets abroad as an Italian resident can be fraught with difficulties, but careful planning can mitigate almost entirely the issues that arise. Read on for further details.

Assets held in Italy:
Let’s start by looking at the situation for those assets held in Italy (i.e. in an account at an Italian financial institution):

For directly-held, unmanaged investments at an Italian bank or financial intermediary, the 26% rate will apply to income flows (e.g. dividends and coupons) at the time they are received and to capital gains at the time they are realised. This system is known as regime amministrato and it is generally the default position that most people will find themselves in when they open an account in Italy, unless they opt for a discretionary asset management service (see below). Under this system, the bank or other intermediary involved makes withholding payments on the client’s behalf and no further tax is due.

You can opt out of this system and elect to make your own declarations and tax payments (regime dichiarativo), however this is likely to be a sensible option only for someone who has assets spread over a number of different banks, as it is the only way to off-set gains realised in one bank with losses realised in another. The cost of doing this is that you will have to take responsibility for the correct declaration of all your investment income, which is no easy task. It will necessitate a lot of work on your part, as well as the need to find a local tax accountant willing and able to handle this aspect of your tax return.

If you decide to use a financial adviser to help with the choice of your investments in the above context, it is worth noting that any explicit cost of the service will attract Italian VAT at 22% (and if you are not paying an explicit cost, then you should look closely at the assets you are being advised to purchase – expensive, commission-paying funds are still very much alive in the Italian market). It is not possible to deduct the advise cost from your gross results before taxation is withheld.

The weird world of fund taxation:
One of the more perverse aspects of financial income taxation in Italy is the treatment of fund investments (basically any collective investment scheme, including ETFs). These will produce what is known as reddito di capitale when they generate dividends or are sold at a profit, but a reddito diverso when sold at a loss. What this means in practical terms is that in a portfolio containing only funds, you cannot off-set losses against gains. If you do accumulate losses through selling losing investments, you will need to generate gains that can be classified as redditi diversi in order to off-set the losses. This will likely involve investments in individual stocks and bonds, which may lead to an odd portfolio construction driven by tax considerations – generally not a good basis upon which to choose one’s investments.

Let’s turn now to directly-held, managed investments held with an Italian institution. In this case, taxation of 26% will be levied annually on any positive variation in the overall account value, with no distinction being made between the various sources of the income (this is known as the regime gestito). If the account suffers an overall decrease in value in the course of a given year, this loss can be carried forward and off-set against gains recorded over the following four years. Whilst this is a relatively simple arrangement from a tax perspective, it remains inefficient in the sense that it taxes you on unrealised returns (although at least the return is taxed net of fees).

It is worth noting that the asset management fees charged on this type of service attract Italian VAT at 22%, so an agreed cost of 1% per annum becomes a 1.22% cost for the client. Italian institutions will also generally favour investments in their “in house” managed funds, even when better (and cheaper) investments are available.

Assets held outside of Italy:
There is nothing to prevent you from holding assets outside of Italy, but you do need to go into such a situation with your eyes open. You will find yourself essentially in the same situation as the person who opts for the regime dichiarativo which I described above, together with the added aggravation of having to comply with the foreign asset declaration requirements (Quadro RW), which mean that you have to declare not only the income you derive from your financial assets, but also their value and any changes in their composition from year to year. If you’d like to have an idea of the complexity of making these declarations, get in touch with me and I will send you the instruction booklet for the 2020 Italian tax return (Fascicolo 2, the section which deals mostly with financial income and asset declarations, runs to 62 pages this year, and no, it is not available in English). You cannot opt to have a foreign, directly-held, discretionary managed account taxed as per the regime gestito above, because this is only possible for accounts held with Italian financial institutions. This means that any account will have to be broken down into its constituent elements and the tax calculated appropriately. Please also note that accounts which enjoy preferential tax treatment in a foreign jurisdiction will generally not carry any such benefits for an Italian resident.

Italian-compliant tax wrappers:
There is a solution which allows you to maintain foreign assets whilst removing 99% of the hassle described above. This involves using an Italian-compliant life insurance wrapper, issued from an EU jurisdiction. There are a number of other important benefits that accrue to this type of solution for an Italian resident, the two main ones being deferral of taxation until withdrawals are made (or death benefits paid) and total exemption from Italian inheritance taxes. I am reluctant to present comparative numbers in an article of this sort, but it should be clear that if the investments and costs are the same under the various scenarios examined, tax deferral will lead to a higher final investment value, and so should always be the preferred solution.

tax in italy

My goal with this article hasn’t been to make your head spin (although I can understand that this might have been its effect), but instead to make it clear that even apparently simple rules can hide a web of complexity which will ultimately lead to an inefficient outcome for the unwary investor. My goal is to cut through the complexity and make your life as simple as possible, whilst giving you access to quality underlying investments. Yes, it can be done, even in Italy.

What type of recovery do we foresee?

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

29.06.20

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

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

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

zoom Katriona Murray

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

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

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

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

Katriona Murray work revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the point of having money?

By Barry Davys - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Moving to Spain, Retire in Spain, Retirement, Spain
This article is published on: 14th June 2020

14.06.20

The point of having money is personal to you. Looking after your money should always start with your requirements. Your life has its own twists and turns. Your hopes and dreams are just that; YOUR hopes and dreams. How you feel about money is personal to you.

In this article I give you a framework for why you may want money. Once you have the framework, you can colour in the detail in a way that suits your requirements.

Knowing your answer to the question, ‘What’s the point of having money?’ is the starting point. Money, savings, investments, whichever you wish to call it, provides you with choice. The reason for having money is that it gives you one of three things; security, freedom or opportunity. Which choice you choose is up to you. The answer may be correct for you but different for your neighbour, even if you live next door in the same size house.

Security
Security means that you have enough money to be able to settle your debts, pay nursing fees if required, pay for medical treatment and perhaps be able to help the children to buy a house. People who want security often have a home free of mortgage; their little piece of heaven that they own.

debt free home

To settle on having security means you need capital. Often people choose not to take risk with their money because they want to be certain it is there if they need it. A fall in the stockmarket will not damage the security blanket of money in the bank. Your savings are just one big emergency fund. In these times of extremely low interest rates there are only a few places to get a little investment return for this option.

More and more, I see that this form of planning is undermined by long life expectancy and inflation. Hoarding the capital without making it work can lead to the erosion of the buying power of these savings. Sadly, insecurity comes after years in retirement when people realise that what they thought was enough money, is not.

freedom and lifestyle

Freedom
Freedom is gained when your savings are invested to provide you with sufficient income to live on, whether or not you continue to work.

To achieve this position depends on what lifestyle you have. The more flamboyant the lifestyle, the harder your money will need to work.

To achieve a feeling of freedom, money is required, and it needs to work hard. You yourself should feel in a “life is good” state of mind. Your money must be making money and it must later be able to provide you with income if you want or need it. Making money means that you need to invest in shares, bonds and perhaps some property (in addition to the home where you live). If you do not have the inclination or skill to do this yourself, you should work with a professional adviser or use funds. Some investments can provide you income now and others with capital growth. The growth parts will protect against inflation and can mean you can increase your income later.

Opportunity
Do you want your life to be full of opportunities? To be a space tourist? To ride a Harley Davidson to Lapland from Denmark like Steve Forbes (Forbes magazine) did, just to see the Northern Lights? Or both? What an opportunity that would be seeing the Northern Lights from earth AND then see them from space. Or to be one of the first investors in the company that makes the software for all the driverless cars in the world? As your world is a world of opportunity there are many, many more things that you can do with your life; most people will never ever get the opportunities you do.

invest in technology

To build this life takes more money. You may have sold a business, for example. Or received an inheritance. And this money will have to work hard for you. You may have some core holdings to give you a diversified portfolio, but you will also have to take some risks to make your money work hard enough to provide you with a life full of opportunities. Take more risk with your investments, but be able to withstand an investment that doesn’t perform well. In addition to the investments used by someone looking for freedom, you may also invest in a new business, for example. This takes skill to analyse the potential of investments and you will benefit by taking advice from qualified and experienced people.

Whether you need help with deciding on your choice or you wish to discuss how to execute your plan, please contact me for assistance. An understanding of your concerns when discussing your aims and choices together with the expertise to execute the plan for your benefit can make for a strong and trusting professional relationship.

In for the long haul

By Susan Worthington - Topics: Investments, Mallorca, menorca, Moving to Spain, Spain
This article is published on: 4th June 2020

04.06.20

As a financial adviser, during lockdown I had the luxury of time to keep in touch with clients, albeit remotely.

In the first few weeks, the mission was to send out some facts and reassurance so that my clients all knew I was still there, whatever the current circumstances. But as the weeks went by, I had time to learn about how clients were reacting and whether they might feel their situation was under threat in any way. Was anything I was saying, helping them; was I missing any vital signals where help was needed?

My first experience with a major stock market crash was in 1987 and from that I learnt that the priority, when investing money, is to ensure you have a sufficient emergency reserve. Doing so will allow the upheaval to resolve itself without the desperate need to draw on investments during the most unfavourable times. Those needing income from their investments worry the most, but as long as everyone remains invested they have better potential to recover from sharp falls. March presented the toughest time.

At The Spectrum IFA Group we maintained weekly Zoom meetings with fellow advisers in Spain and from this came the concept of a questionnaire to send out, which I adopted to become The Lockdown Questionnaire.

in for the long haul

The results were reassuring and informative, giving me the opportunity to provide additional support where it was needed. It is still ongoing as not everyone has yet responded, although have told me they will do soon.

In brief, the results so far revealed the following:
8% only, had found lockdown difficult.
70% were very comfortable talking over the phone, on video chat or email.
78% were worried about their investments but understood that sitting tight was the key.
31% only, felt that now was a good investment opportunity.
78% have saved on their spending and felt in control financially.
31% felt their priorities with money had changed through lockdown.
92% which was reassuring, had enough emergency money set aside for the short term.
100% which was an excellent result, have an up to date will.

This is evidence to me that health comes first, but knowing that their money was doing the best it could under the circumstances and having regular contact does help to give peace of mind.

There is much ongoing activity for me now to follow up with. Some more hand holding, some more reviewing of income requirements, without any need to recommend a will!

If you would like to discuss managing your money in these volatile times, don’t hesitate to contact me with the details below.