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Currency Fluctuations

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Currencies, currency fluctuations, Italy, sterling
This article is published on: 17th October 2017

17.10.17

This week I want to dedicate my Ezine to the currency of living abroad.

How many people do you know in your home town or in your home country that worry about currency fluctuations? Have you ever heard anyone worry about the EUR v GBP or EUR v USD level at any one time? Maybe they look once a year when they are going on holiday and leave the post office with a smile on their face or have a sullen expression depending on the exchange rate. But for the rest of the year?

It’s not so simple for the life of the straniera/o!

Almost everyone I know is concerned to some extent about the exchange rate. Whether it is someone who is building a house and watches the exchange rate drop (you know who you are!) or people living on fixed pension incomes. I also include myself in the exchange rate trap since part of my earnings are in GBP. I understand your pain.

Of course, these are the simple aspects of currency re/devaluation and to some extent we can budget and plan for its eventuality and prepare ourselves. But what about when multiple currencies are at play in our investment portfolios. There it can create even more unusual effects.

The following comments (slightly modified by myself for easier understanding) come from Robert Walker at Rathbones Asset managers who wrote a piece about the interplay of currencies in a managed portfolio of assets. I thought it might interest you.

CURRENCIES AT WORK
With a portfolio approach that is global in nature, currency volatility is playing an important role in the reported returns to clients on a quarter-by-quarter basis. The last two years have seen substantial US dollar, British Pound and Euro volatility as confidence in the respective economic regions ebbs and flows. This has a profound effect on how the overseas assets’ performance are reported in the investor’s base currency, based on their individual circumstances.

US DOLLAR
The US dollar has been a safe haven in times of increased economic uncertainty. In the first few months of Donald Trump’s presidency, the US dollar strengthened on the presumption that tax cuts would stimulate the economy. This has subsequently reversed, as the realisation of many false or premature promises has taken hold.

BRITISH POUND
The British pound has seen its value fall significantly against the US dollar and euro due to Brexit uncertainty. Until the exact path of Brexit and the economic ramifications of this are known, it is likely that the pound will remain weak. There will be many twists and turns along the way until March 2019, not least with the Conservative’s General Election result and subsequent reliance on the Democratic Unionist Party. The current status quo is very vulnerable to further turmoil and the weakness of sterling is a by-product of this.

EURO
At the turn of 2017, markets were focussing on the possibility of anti-establishment vote in both The Netherlands and France. At the time, both countries had parties with anti-European Union policies in opinion poll ascendency and thus the consensus was to remain underweight in the Eurozone. Since that time, the euro has undergone a substantial recovery of over 14% against the US dollar as political risk subsided and economic confidence in the Eurozone improved. Against sterling, it is up over 7% this year in addition to the weakness after Brexit of 2016. Both of these currency movements have had the impact of weakening the value of US and UK assets for euro investors.

THE INTERPLAY OF CURRENCIES
Performance of globally diversified portfolios has been affected by each of these currency movements. For example, had a US investor bought euro assets at the start of 2017 the translated value would be increased by 14% due to the currency effect alone, but a euro investor who bought US assets at the start of the year would be seeing a translated loss of over 12%. Investors in sterling will have seen the value of overseas assets increase markedly during the Brexit process as the pound has weakened significantly, but euro investors with sterling exposure have seen a corresponding fall.

Over the long-term, we would expect the impact of shorter term currency movements to average out. For the pound particularly. (See comments about the Pound in the right hand column).

When managing portfolios in euros, sterling and US dollars, we ordinarily have a degree of country of residence bias to a client’s base currency. However, this is dependent on a client’s unique circumstances. Our portfolios are globally diversified, where we are trying to gain exposure to a portfolio of high-quality global assets in order to reduce risk to any one particular economic region. Indeed, currency analysis can be somewhat circular, as the underlying investments in each region are typically multi-nationals that have a global spread of currencies. This can mean that an individual portfolio may deviate against a certain measure or benchmark over the short-term, but which is most likely a temporary effect, but we feel that the spread of global investments will reward clients well over time, rather than focusing on fast changing and unpredictable currency movements.

HEDGING
Almost all investment professionals admit that forecasting future direction of currencies is a thankless task, as currencies are largely influenced by future unknown events which are, by definition, unpredictable.

As with most investments, volatility can also be driven by speculative investors such as hedge funds. Hedging currency risk, i.e. eliminating the currency impact on returns and focussing on the underlying return, is sometimes considered by investors. This can add to certainty but also more cost. In many cases, due to the inherent unpredictability of currency markets, hedging not only detracts from returns, due to the increased costs, but often proves to be the wrong action in hindsight.

If you want to review your portfolio returns over the last year/s with an eye on the impact of currency fluctuations and how this might affect your income and expected returns then you can contact me on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com or call me on 3336492356

How to be compliant…..

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Bonds, Investments, Italy
This article is published on: 3rd October 2017

03.10.17

What an interesting couple of weeks. Organising a protest in Firenze to fight for the protection of citizens’ rights in the EU, to being interviewed across multiple news channels around the world and being joined by about 100 people who turned up on the day and got an equal amount of press attention. And now, to slip back into normal life again and a work/life pattern. It all seems a little surreal.

But whilst the amazing memories are still clear in my mind, the ever present obligations of financial life continue and in this article I am going to elaborate on one which is an extremely useful financial planning tool in Italy.

I haven’t written about the benefits of the Italian compliant Investment Bond for some time and the details have moved on a little since my last musings on this topic. In this article I just want to take a look at the Investment Bond contract, the things that make it compliant for Italian tax purposes and why they can help with long term tax planning in Italy.

WHAT IS AN INVESTMENT BOND?
In short, an Investment Bond is a life assurance contract, but the life assurance part is stripped to a minimum and your money is allocated exclusively to investments. Its other name is an Investment Bond. The life assurance part is normally offered by a company as an additional 1% of the value paid out by the company on death or a minimum protection of the original investment, determined by you. Under these terms the contract qualifies as an Investment Bond and therefore is treated preferentially for tax in Italy.

Typically these companies are based in Dublin, Ireland, and due to its place in Europe and standing as a financial centre, can design products exclusively for different EU markets. In this way the money is not located in Italy but complies with local laws.

WHAT IS THE TAX TREATMENT?
Any invested monies, whilst held in an Italian compliant Investment Bond will NOT be immediately liable to capital gains tax or income tax on distributions/dividends etc.

This means that for the larger portfolios, where active management of a portfolio is taking place, the money can be moved around and invested in any way possible without incurring an immediate tax liability. Administratively, this has huge advantages as each taxable event (income or gains) do NOT have to be reported and taxed in the year in which they occur, and neither does the arduous task of calculating everything, pro rata, from the UK tax year to the Italian tax year or vice versa, for example, and/or converting all those events to EUR from other currencies on the day in which they occurred at the official Banca D’Italia EUR exchange rate. A large task even for the more monetary minded.

The monies are only taxed when a withdrawal is made and ONLY on the capital gain element of the withdrawal, not the whole amount.

This can be a highly effective tax planning tool for those seeking growth and/or income from investments. It can literally mean an income stream with very little liability to tax in the early years.

COMPLIANCY IN RECENT YEARS
In recent years the Italian authorities have been looking into the higher value arrangements that qualify under the definition of Polizza Assicurativa Unit Linked / Investment Bond to ensure that they comply. If not, tax penalties and redefinitions of the policies can arise (more on that below).

The more recent developments are as follows:
1. The policy must have the opportunity to insure a certain level of the principal investment. (But this option does not necessarily have to be taken up).

The theory here is that these vehicles are clearly being used for investment purposes as the main driver and the life assurance element is secondary. The Italian authorities now expect to see that the option to protect a specified amount of the investment, on death, is included in the policy, rather than just the historic additional 1% paid out on death.

2. ‘Self investment’ and ‘advised’ investment options are NOT unlimited.

In the past it has typically been the case that you could invest in any traded investment funds in the world. However, the Italian authorities started to look at this more closely, and rightly in my opinion.

Their argument is that monies in an Investment Bond should be invested in the ‘approved funds’ of the company OR the money should be managed by a professional asset manager (our preferred partners are Rathbones, Tilney Investment group and Prudential). In this way the investor, you and I, are at arm’s length from the investment decisions. That is, it should not be managed exclusively by ourselves when the money is in the hands of the Assurance company. In reality, the investor has quite a lot of power to restrict and allow investment decisions, but they must be within the parameters laid down above.

And lastly on this point, the ability for rogue advisers to recommend investing in offshore registered funds, unregulated investments or merely investments that pay the adviser extra commissions for finding more subscribers, are much more restricted with the Italian authority decision. This has to be viewed as a good thing, in my opinion.

3. One size does not fit all

The last point is one that affects many British holders of these investment vehicles where they may have been advised to take out an investment because an adviser in the UK, for example, recognises the tax effectiveness of the assurance structure but does not understand the details required for full compliancy under each EU member state.

The typical type of policy issued under these terms is one which is located in the Isle of Man, Luxembourg, or Switzerland. A lot of these contracts, although generically correct in structure, lack the detail for it to fully comply with the requirements for an Italian Investment Bond.

If you are a holder of a contract in one of these jurisdictions, it is worth checking the terms and conditions.

WHAT HAPPENS IF MINE DOESN’T MEET THE CRITERIA?
Of course, the big question is what happens if you own or are thinking of starting an investment contract of this type without the necessary conditions mentioned above.

In recent years there have been some notable cases where the Italian authorities have looked through the structure and ruled that the portfolio was nothing but a classical investment portfolio and that the preferential tax treatment never applied. As a result, all historical taxable liabilities; capital gains and income payments, have had to be calculated and paid immediately to the authorities.

The ruling was made on the basis of one or more of the elements mentioned above not being complied with, from too much control over investments to too little life assurance protection being offered to the client.

Therefore, it is vital, from a compliance point of view, to take a look at all our financial arrangements and more importantly to review them on a regular basis. What we may have once bought many years ago, and which complied then, may now have become obsolete and could cause tax questions later.

Reviewing existing contracts and investment arrangements has become much more important with the open border tax sharing arrangement, the Common Reporting Standard’ which has now been fully implemented.

It might just be the right time to start looking at your existing arrangements to ensure they comply before anyone starts looking.

If you hold assets directly or through historic contracts of this type and would like to review them, you can contact me below or call me on +39 333 6492356.

The fight to keep our EU rights

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, eu citizens, Italy, Residency, Theresa May
This article is published on: 25th September 2017

25.09.17

As Theresa May readied herself in Florence to deliver her BREXIT speech a small but energetic group of British expats gathered in the city to voice their opinions. The group, part of ‘British in Italy’ was lead by Spectrum’s Italian Manager Gareth Horsfall.

Gareth has been instrumental in building the groups membership and organised this peaceful protest in Florence.

The protest was organised to show solidarity for EU citizens in the UK as well as British citizens living in the EU. Gareth explains, “The motivation and reason for such activity is to fight to keep our EU acquired rights…those that could affect our freedom of movement in the future, the right to work in other EU states as an EU citizen, the right to have our qualifications recognised in our current EU state of residence and any that we may subsequently move to, the right to keep our healthcare rights and especially those of a lot of our pensioner clients who rely on it, the right to have our social security contributions taken into account from other EU states and all the interconnected rights that go with these things.”

Outside the impressive 14th century Novella church in the centre of Florence, the protesters were in good voice with many flags and banners, one reading “Denied a vote – Denied a voice”. The usual media circus was in town, and Gareth was delighted to be able to talk to many journalists to throughout the day.

Gareth Horsfall is a member of ‘British in Italy‘ which has been set up to protect and fight for the rights of Italian citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU.

The message is simple:
We should be granted all the rights that we have acquired and/or are entitled to before the UK chose to leave the EU.

The objectives are listed below:

  • British in Italy is a group of UK citizens resident in Italy concerned about the effect of Brexit on the many thousands of UK citizens in Italy and the half million or so Italians in the UK
  • Our aim is to ensure that Brexit does not penalise these individuals, all of whom made the decision to move across the Channel in bona fide and relying on their EU right of freedom of movement
  • UK citizens already in Italy and Italians already in the UK should therefore continue to have all the rights they had acquired or were in the process of acquiring while the UK was in the EU
  • We have already lobbied the UK government hard not to take these rights away from EU citizens in the UK

If you have not yet made your presence known, and/or you know someone who hasn’t then feel free to get in touch with the British in Italy group at britsinitaly@gmail.com Your name and contact information will be registered and you will be added to a newsletter mailing list. (Your information will not be shared or used for corporate purposes). Or follow them on Facebook HERE

Horsfall finishes by saying “The UK Government is failing to give an outright guarantee to EU citizens living in the UK and reacting to this the EU is threatening to restrict our own rights. We are all in this together and should fight to stop it. Its not about stopping BREXIT but just about treating people fairly and not ruining peoples lives and potentially pulling families apart.

Gareth was also part of the Exiting the EU Select committee, which met at the House of Commons back in January this year. Gareth was one of four UK citizens living in the EU who represented other UK citizens living in the EU, in Westminster.

To declare or not to declare?

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: common reporting standards, Exchange of Information, Italy, Residency
This article is published on: 20th September 2017

20.09.17

That was the question of the summer 2017!

During the long hot summer of 2017 I had a number of people calling me for advice on when and which assets to declare which to date had not been declared in Italy. A troubling question indeed.

A number of people who have been living in Italy for many years had recently received letters from their banks, mainly in the UK. This letter had been asking the individuals to inform them of their TIN number: tax Identification Number (codice fiscale or National Insurance to you and I). The main question was why would they need this and what would the consequences be of not providing it.

THE COMMON REPORTING STANDARD
If you are one of those people who read my E-zines, you will know that I have written about this subject over the last few years on numerous occasions, but its worth going over the detail again now, since an automatic sharing of financial information across borders (of which the UK/USA/Italy and most developed countries are party to) will take place before the end of September 2017, if it has not happened already. The information they will receive will be backdated to 1st January 2016.

WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE?
In short, the idea behind the CPS was modelled on a similar idea which the USA put into force before it. That was FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and was designed to circumnavigate the individual to whom any tax liability may be incurred and for the banks and financial institutions with which we hold out money/assets etc, to declare these holdings directly to the relevant tax authorities.

So it no longer became the responsibility of the individual to report their money ‘correctly and honestly’. Now, this information would be reported directly.

The rest of the world has now pretty much followed suit (except notable offshore jurisdictions which are also coming under Governmental pressure to fall in line) and hence the need to get clarification on your country of tax residence and your TIN (Tax Identification Number).

WHAT INFORMATION WILL THEY SHARE ABOUT ME?
Under the Common Reporting Standard the financial information to be reported includes the name, address and tax identification number (where applicable) of the asset owner; the balance/value, interest and dividend payments and gross proceeds from the sale of financial assets.

The financial institutions that need to report include banks, custodian financial institutions, investment entities such as investment funds, certain insurance companies, trusts and foundations.

The tax authority will receive much more information than ever before. Even information it does not need. For example, there is no wealth tax in countries like the UK, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta, but the tax authorities will still receive bank account balances. If this raises any red flags they may investigate where the money came from in the first place.

IS THIS NEW?
Exchange of financial information across Europe has been going on for a long time now and can be traced back to the introduction of the European Savings Tax Directive 2005. The Common Reporting Standard is an enhancement of this.

I explain the Common Reporting Standard as follows:

Imagine a normal spreadsheet in which all tax authorities have been entering information regarding us for years. The Italian, Spanish, French and British authorities all created their own spreadsheets with their own column headings and rows. When this was exchanged with another tax authority it would first have to be interpreted before the information could be used. The CRS went one step further. In effect, all countries are now using the same spreadsheet with the same column headings and rows and the data is much easier to interpret. With the help of computers they can identify discrepancies very easily. (This is clearly a simple explanation, but helps understand the concept)

I remember well in 2012 when I was contacted by a number of UK rental property owners who had been legitimately declaring their UK property income in the UK for tax purposes. However, as residents in Italy they had not declared anything. A clear exchange of information took place and the Guardia di Finanza did a significant number of visits to these people to fine them.

SHOULD I TELL THEM?
A logical question would be, what if I don’t tell the bank or financial institution of my TIN?

The banks would refer to the country in which they have the most information about you. It logically concludes that if you have a UK address on a UK bank account, but live in Italy, and have received a letter to confirm your TIN then the bank already suspects that your tax residency has not been correctly declared. It would be up to you to prove otherwise were you subject to an investigation.

What would happen if I gave my TIN in my country of origin?
If, for example, you gave your National Insurance number in the UK, but were living in Italy, then the UK authorities would consider you a UK tax resident and tax you there. That may be your preference, but should any institution or Government suspect that this is being declared falsely then the consequences could be severe. The logical conclusion here is that if you are making payments in Italy on a regular basis and/or sending money to an Italian bank account then this information would be red flagged.

So what should you do if you are NOT ‘in regola’ yet?
From the people that I spoke with this summer, it seemed that a number were afraid of giving this information because it would highlight any money/assets which have not been declared correctly to date. The sad news is that you are probably too late. They know already, hence why you received the letter.

My advice is always the same. The past cannot be corrected but you can change your future. Hiding and hoping the problem will go away is no longer an option. The only solution is to get your financial situation ‘in regola’.

WHAT WILL I PAY?
How you declare your money and how much you will pay is another question and one that can only be calculated by a commercialista, but it does make sense to have a look at your whole financial situation and see what damage limitation you can do by planning efficiently as a tax resident in Italy. That is my specialty and I always recommend you contact me before going directly to the commercialista because there may be ways to mitigate any tax burden before you make that first tax declaration. Once the first tax declaration is in, any subsequent changes can be difficult and costly to rectify.

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way”

Inflation – Are you prepared?

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Inflation, Italy
This article is published on: 12th May 2017

12.05.17

Let’s face it Inflation is not the most interesting of topics and not when we can have more interesting heated and political debates about Syria, Brexit, Trump and Russia, but from a Government point of view that is just what they want. The almost invisible creeping force of inflation to go almost unnoticed.

For investments, retirement and people who have fixed incomes it is by far and away the most important consideration when making plans for the future.

My bet is that it is likely to be the most significant financial issue that will affect us all in the not so distant future.

This article is about being prepared!

What is inflation?
By definition Inflation is the rise in the cost of living or an increase in the money supply in an economy. They are both intricately linked.

Since 2008 central banks around the world have created $6 trillion worth of new money.

Imagine $1 trillion
If you spent $1 million a day since Jesus was born, you would have not spent $1 trillion by now, but $700 billion. This is the same amount the banks got during their bailout.

Inflationary Effect
We now know what it is but why is it so important right now? The policies the Governments around the world have taken to prevent financial depression and deflation were always likely to cause inflation and erode our standards of living. Governments have an incentive to distort real inflation rates because it allows them to keep their inflation-linked benefits and pension payments low. It also, magically, erodes the underlying debt of a country in the same way as a mortgage. For example the debt becomes proportionately less as the value of the house increases and wages grow as well.

A simple example would be someone who bought a house in central London in the 1980s for approx £40,000. A mortgage of £30,000 taken out at the time might have been a heavy burden, (75% – Loan to Value (LTV)) but in 2017 this would be considered very small and if the house is now worth £1 million, then proportionately the debt has been eroded to 3% Loan to Value.

The heavily indebted governments around the world have a huge incentive to allow inflation to run out of control for some time to come.

History repeats itself
I always find that there is some value to the phrase ‘History repeats itself’ and not forgetting it. In researching this article I found figures which show the inflation rates of countries around the world and in most developed economies inflation has been falling (with intermittent blips) since about 1980 and has fallen from its highs in approx 1974. I was born in 1974 and am 43 years old this year. I have never lived through a period of significant inflation.

Well, that might all be about to change!
Brexit and the fall in the value of GBP has certainly caused a marked effect on prices in the UK. Inflation is on the rise there and that is unlikely to stop soon. The true effects of Brexit were never going to be apparent straight away and real economic effects always emerge approximately 18 months after decisions have been taken. The UK can realistically expect more price rises. However, Europe is also seeing signs of recovery and inflationary markers are also turning up for the USA, Germany, Spain, Ireland and even Italy.

So the real question is…is this the start of a 40 year reversal in trend? or is it just another blip?

Wages must grow
I think it might be the start of a trend but which will not take off just yet. The biggest problem holding back inflation is wage growth. It makes sense that wages have to grow for inflation to take effect. The more money is in people’s pockets, the more they will spend. However wage growth has been stubbornly slow to take off.

Corporate greed and minimum wage
The EU have now started to look at ways in which people can receive a living wage. One way is by stopping state sponsored corporate tax evasion and fairly taxing the profits of large corporations. However, this might be more of a long term objective, Another option is to introduce a fair minimum wage and this is something the EU is pressuring all members states into imposing. So whilst it may be hard to see how wages could grow naturally they may be forced up through new regulation which in itself would in turn create an inflationary effect.

Inflation, investments and interest rates
So, you might be thinking that if inflation starts to rise then interest rates will rise as well. This is very likely to be true and then why the need to invest capital instead of leaving it in the bank account.

The answer to this is very simple
For as long as money measures have been recorded, and central banks have existed, they have never, ever been able to control inflation or deflation. Once the inflationary gun has been fired the central banks are always behind the trend. They are constantly playing catch up and trying to raise interest rates whilst real inflation rises. To make matters worse, this time round, they have a real incentive to be well behind the curve and allow inflation to spiral out of control. It will assist in deflating their debts away. So what incentive do they have to apply interest rates increases which will dampen the very effect which can erode the public debt.

And what about the personal saver and investor? Let’s look at the 2 things separately:

Savers: If you earn a fixed rate of interest at 1% (bank account of fixed rate Bonds) and inflation is at 2.3% (as is currently the case in the UK) then your net return on your money is -1.3%. On a deposit of £100,000 your net annual return is NEGATIVE £1300.

Investors: Whilst the price of your asset will fluctuate, you could be earning interest and in the right assets this could be as high at 3-4%. In addition the value of your asset might also rise. History tells us that the stock market generally rises in an early inflationary environment. Inflation in developed countries has been at historically low levels,
but the outlook is picking up and this could bode well for projected investment returns.

Summary
My feeling about inflation, for what it is worth, is that we are going to see a reversal in trend and over the coming years it will start to move swiftly upwards with intermittent slow periods. It has to! There are no more monetary manipulation tools left for central governments to play with and therefore inflation must rise.

Equally governments have no incentive to slow it down, quite the opposite, and we could see the cost of living start to rise quickly once it starts.

It is hard to see when it will all start and how, but that is the joy of economics and finance. It just is and just does. (I sound like Forrest Gump).

The key for individuals like ourselves is to be ahead of the trend and start planning forward…NOW. There is no value in waiting for things to start to happen and then playing catch up.

What’s next for GBP versus EURO

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, Inflation, Italy
This article is published on: 29th March 2017

29.03.17

Whatever you think about Brexit and the effects it is having and the effects it will have I can’t think of a more sudden and bigger impact on most people’s lives than the depreciation of Sterling.

An approximate 20% fall in the currency since the heights of 2015.

Most people I know are able to accommodate this in some way, cutting back on the non-essentials and saving in other areas. However, if it falls further how will that affect us?

So, I thought I would do some digging around and contact some financial institutions to find out their opinion on the future of Sterling.

Let me start with a caveat to this article: Currencies are notoriously unpredictable. Most industry professionals accept that they can’t control them and have little ability to predict them. Predictions are about as effective as looking at ‘Il Meteo’ to see what the days weather is going to be!

HEDGE FUND MANAGERS
Whilst it is impossible to predict currency movements you can guarantee that behind the scenes there is plenty of activity and big positions being taken. I avidly remember when I spoke with someone in the financial markets the morning of Brexit vote +1. The person on the other end of the line told me that he had no idea how the markets were going to react but that fortunes had been made the morning of 24th June 2016 with currency speculators betting against GBP v EUR and USD.

These same speculators love uncertainty as it gives them more influence over the market…in theory. However, given the fact that recent key announcements don’t really seem to be devaluing Sterling any further it gives you the impression that it may have found a level of equilibrium that prices in any current uncertainty…for now.

FAST FORWARD TO MARCH 29TH – BREXIT DAY
I think it is safe to say that post Brexit day Sterling is likely to suffer marginally, purely due to the negative economic notions associated with it. The news flow during this period is, in the main, likely to be negative (unless you read the Daily Express or Daily Mail) and therefore it is reasonable to assume this will have an impact on Sterling and push it further down.

LONG DRAWN OUT NEGOTIATIONS
The negative news is probably already being prepared as I write and therefore we can expect a gush of it next week. However, stretching the time horizon out further into the process the news flow will probably slow to a trickle with occasional floods, dependent on political news on any given day. It is absolutely clear that an advanced economy which has been involved in an economic union for the last 56 years cannot extract itself from this same union in only 2 years and therefore the negotiations ‘could’ continue a lot longer than expected. A long drawn out negotiation with the EU could work in Sterling’s favour and we could see a significant rally.

INVESTMENT PSYCHOLOGY
I think it is also useful to never forget the psychology of people and our cumulative tendency to be over anxious in times of stress and over confident when times are good. This is a classic investment bias and no one is immune to it, not even the greatest minds. Our currency biases are no different. We can easily anchor to an exchange rate that we feel is a ‘natural level’ based on our own experience, but on what basis are we making these assumptions? Are we seeking out all opinion, even that which is contradictory to our own thinking or are we making these assumptions based on information that we seek out to confirm our own opinion?

Maybe Sterling is overly devalued merely on the preconceived notion that its choice to leave the EU is a bad thing. Unfortunately for us we are about to enter uncharted territory and our biases will soon be tested.

LONG TERM FUNDAMENTALS
In reality, it is good to look at the facts, even though understanding our own psychological processes around exchange rates is probably more important. But BEWARE:

What I am about to write may just allow you to ‘anchor’ your perceived idea of where Sterling should be valued based on what you already think. I would encourage you to not let my musings influence your thoughts!

Using long term macro-economic modelling, Sterling looks very undervalued versus the Euro. Without Brexit, you could easily argue that fair value should be around 1.4 euros to the pound, taking into account structural economics only. Assuming Brexit, we can work on the basis of c.1.25 but it could take years to get there.

Productivity is the key driver of this long term model – particularly productivity in the tradable goods sectors. This is likely to suffer after Brexit due to non-tariff barriers to trade (think about the additional overseas regulation and customs regimes that need to be implemented post Brexit). That said productivity growth in the EU is and has been weak and it is unlikely to surge ahead whilst the UK economy recalibrates, which should ultimately limit the damage to Sterling.

Over the medium term, the exchange rate trades within a range of values where 2 or 3 year interest rate expectations would imply it should be.

So the next time you speak with someone and you hear yourself quoting a post Brexit level of 1.25 or a long term rate of 1.4. Make sure you remember where you heard it first and pinch yourself. It’s all theory. The rate is what it is on any given day and there is nothing you can do to influence it!

Currency swings have a major impact on people’s lives. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the rest of your financial affairs: investments, pensions, tax planning etc., are working to maximum effect. If you would like to ensure that all your other financial affairs are in perfect working order then don’t hesitate to contact me on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com or call me on +39 333 649 2356 for a FREE consultation.

Taxation of UK rental income in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Exchange of Information, Income Tax, Italy, Property, Tax, taxation of rental property, UK property
This article is published on: 19th March 2017

19.03.17

Since the recent exchange of information between HMRC and the Italian tax authorities on UK rental property owners, I have been asked the question whether rental income (when taxed principally in the UK) will be taxed again in Italy as an Italian resident.

Rental income from properties is dealt with according to the law of the state where the property is situated. This means that you can deduct your expenses in the UK, in entirety and in line with UK law, and then the NET income is declared to HMRC in the UK.

When it comes to the Italian tax declaration the NET UK rental income needs to be declared, along with the tax paid in the UK.

This income is put together with any other income you may have for the year, to be declared in Italy,and a credit is given for the tax already paid in the UK, and the tax is calculated on the normal IRPEF rates (income tax rates in Italy).

In short the NET UK rental income position is what needs to be declared in Italy.

Given the recent clampdown on people who are not declaring their UK rental income in Italy, as Italian residents, this information should help to ease any thoughts of having to pay tax twice.

Of course, all this applies to properties held in other countries as well and not just the UK.

The bottom line is get your affairs ‘in regola’ because it is unlikely to cost you any more than it would in the UK, and you can sleep easy knowing you have done the right thing.

BRITISH IN ITALY

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, Italy, Residency
This article is published on: 2nd March 2017

02.03.17

As you may already be aware I am now a part of the group called ‘British in Italy‘ which has been set up to protect and fight for the rights of Italian citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU.

As we move further through the BREXIT process no doubt more information will come to light regarding the protection that the UK and EU will grant us in these negotiations.

Our message is simple:

We should be granted all the rights that we have acquired and/or are entitled to before the UK chose to leave the EU.

I would ask you to get behind this movement and help us to fight for you in the UK and in Italy, in our discussions at the UK Embassy and also in our meetings with Italian MPs. It is very important that we are seen to be representing a large number of UK Nationals living in Italy. Numbers hold a lot of credibility for us.

In 2015 ISTAT (the Italian statistics agency) recorded approximately 27000 UK Nationals registered in Italy. We are in touch with about 1000. We have a long way to go!

If you have not yet made your presence known, and/or you know someone who hasn’t then feel free to get in touch with the British in Italy group at britsinitaly@gmail.com Your name and contact information will be registered and you will be added to a newsletter mailing list. (Your information will not be shared or used for corporate purposes).

Or follow us on Facebook HERE

Our objectives are listed below:

  • British in Italy is a group of UK citizens resident in Italy concerned about the effect of Brexit on the many thousands of UK citizens in Italy and the half million or so Italians in the UK.
  • Our aim is to ensure that Brexit does not penalise these individuals, all of whom made the decision to move across the Channel in bona fide and relying on their EU right of freedom of movement.
  • UK citizens already in Italy and Italians already in the UK should therefore continue to have all the rights they had acquired or were in the process of acquiring while the UK was in the EU.
  • We have already lobbied the UK government hard not to take these rights away from EU citizens in the UK.

Remember to get in touch at britsinitaly@gmail.com

• We now call upon the Italian government, both as a national government and as a founding member of the EU, to ensure that in the negotiations over Brexit these rights are not taken away from expatriate citizens on either side of the Channel.

Remember to get in touch at britsinitaly@gmail.com

UK PUBLIC SECTOR PENSIONS, BREXIT AND ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, Italy, Pensions, public sector pensions, QROPS, Retirement, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 1st March 2017

01.03.17

I was watching a nature documentary with my son the other day and we were watching the foraging activities of grizzly bears in North America.

It was interesting from the perspective that they will forage across huge distances in search of different food types to ensure they get the proteins, minerals and vitamins they need to stock up for the long winter ahead of them.

In some ways this behaviour reminded me of the foraging that I sometimes embark upon, across the internet, to ensure that you have all the information you need to weather the seasons ahead. We have lived through some spring and summer seasons, metaphorically speaking, but politically we seem to be entering autumn and possibly winter, depending on your point of view of course. I imagine for those people I know who voted BREXIT, that this is a new dawn. However, I will stick with my view for the purposes of this blog.

FORAGING
I was foraging through the internet last week in search of some information on UK pensions and happened to stumble across an Italian fiscal website which had a summary of the Italian tax treatment of pensions from around the world.

To my surprise, my eyes fell across the following statement in relation to pensions paid from Argentina, UK, Spain, the USA and Venezuela:

‘Le pensioni private sono assoggettate a tassazione solo in Italia, mentre le pensioni pubbliche sono assoggettate a tassazione solo in Italia, se il contribuente ha la nazionalità italiana.’

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
In short, and what caught my eyes was specifically in relation to the tax treatment of public section pensions in Italy.

…….le pensioni pubbliche sono assoggettate a tassazione solo in Italia, se il contribuente ha la nazionalità italiana.’

(Public sector pensions would be those defined as local Government, doctors, nurses, police, firemen, armed forces, teacher etc).

If you are a holder of one of these types of pensions and are resident in Italy, you will likely know that under the double taxation treaty with the UK, in this case, that public sector pensions are only taxed in the UK, for those who are no longer UK resident and are therefore not subjected to taxation in Italy.

However, the above statement implies that if you are an Italian national then this pension would be taxed in Italy. (Taking into account any double taxation credit that would need to be applied). Therefore, Italian tax rates would apply and the pension would not benefit from the application of the UK personal allowance, in Italy, either.

This is clearly important, given BREXIT, and the number of people who were considering or making application for Italian citizenship as a means of resolving the issue of residency. Italian citizenship would define you as an Italian national and tax would apply to a UK public service pension.

DOUBLE TAXATION TREATY
Without wanting to take the words of a website as hard evidence, I did some more foraging and can confirm the words of the double taxation treaty (UK/Italy) as follows:

(2) (a) Any pension paid by, or out of funds created by, a Contracting State or a political or an administrative subdivision or a local authority thereof to any individual in respect of services rendered to that State or subdivision or local authority thereof shall be taxable only in that State.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of sub-paragraph (2)(a) of this Article, such pension shall be taxable only in the other Contracting State if the individual is a national of and a resident of that State.

THE BREXIT PROBLEM JUST KEEPS GETTING BIGGER
So, here we have another BREXIT problem which has now arisen as part of further investigation. I would suggest that Italian citizenship, for those with UK civil service pensions, needs to be thought out carefully and planned financially, before any action is taken.

Italy – Thinking about taxes?

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Banking, BREXIT, EU Select committee, Italy, Tax
This article is published on: 14th February 2017

14.02.17

Tax in Italy can seem complicated but with careful financial planning it needn’t be.

A summary

As a fiscally resident individual in Italy you are subject to taxation on your worldwide income (from employment, pensions or investments), assets, realised capital gains and the capital itself.  The rates depend on the types of income you generate and which assets you hold.  This means you are required to declare all your financial affairs no matter where they might be located or generated in the world.

Tax on Income

If you are in receipt of a pension income and it is being paid from a private pension or occupational pension provider overseas or you are in receipt of a state pension then that income has to be declared on your Italian tax return.  Certain exemptions apply for Government service pensions.

It is a similar picture for income generated from employment. This is a slightly more complicated issue that depends on many factors. If you have any questions in this area you can contact Gareth Horsfall on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com

Investment income and capital gains

Interest from savings, income from investments in the form of dividends and other non-earned income payments are taxed at a flat percentage rate.  The same applies to realised capital gains.

Some wealth tax may apply on the value of your investments each year as well.  This is charged on the capital value as at the 31st December each year

Property Overseas

Property which is located overseas is taxed in 2 ways. Firstly, there is the tax on the income itself and, secondly, a tax on the value of the property.

1. The income from property overseas.

Overseas net property income (after allowable expenses) is added to your other income for the year and taxed at your highest rate of income tax in Italy.

2. The other tax is on the value of the property itself.  

The value on which this is calculated is the equivalent of the Italian cadastral value of the overseas property.   The value, on which the tax is charged, depends on whether the property is located inside the EU or not.   A credit may be applicable depending on where your property is located.

Taxes on Assets

1. Banks accounts and deposits 

A fixed charge is applied, per annum, per bank account, held overseas.  Minimum balances apply.

2. Other financial assets

The wealth tax on other foreign-owned assets (IVAFE), covers shares, bonds, funds, cryptocurrencies, gold, art or other portfolio assets  that you may hold. The tax is charged on the value as of 31st December each year.

Placing your assets in a suitably compliant Italian investment structure can help reduce taxes and adminstrative burden and aid in your financial planning in Italy.

You might pay more than you need to?

This is a general list of the taxes that could affect you when resident in Italy.  If you haven’t conducted a financial planning exercise before moving to or since moving to Italy, you could be paying more than you need to.  Our experience is that most people are.

We can, in most cases, identify a number of financial planning opportunities for individuals looking to move to, or already living in Italy, to protect, reduce, and avoid certain taxes.