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Should I transfer my UK Pensions if I’m living in France?

By Philip Oxley - Topics: France, International SIPP, Moving to France, QROPS, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 12th October 2020

12.10.20

I live in France but have pensions in the UK. Should I transfer them to a QROPS, an International SIPP or just leave them where they are?

For British Nationals living in France, perhaps the primary decision to be made in relation to long term financial planning is whether or not to take any action with regards to any pension scheme/s they have in the UK.
To deal at the outset with one question I have seen asked, and increasingly so since the Brexit decision, it is important to state that it is not necessary to move your pension if you move to France. Even after Brexit, you will still have access to your pension funds. Concern that you will lose access to your pension fund is not a good reason to move it!

However, there can be good reasons to consider moving your pension once you have relocated to France. This decision should be made only on the basis of a proper analysis having been conducted on your existing schemes.

As a French resident, the primary options in relation to your pension scheme/s are as follows:
i) Leave them where they are
ii) Move them into a QROPS
iii) Move them into an International SIPP
iv) A combination of the above

Click on the sections below to find out more:

Following a professional review, sometimes our recommendation is to leave your pensions schemes in their existing arrangement in the UK. Reasons for doing this include the following:

  • you plan to move back to the UK at some point in the near future
  • your pension scheme/s are relatively small in value (e.g. less than £100,000)
  • you have a cautious stance in relation to investments, your pension scheme is a Defined Benefit scheme (sometimes known as a Final Salary scheme) and this is your only or primary source of income once you retire

One key drawback to this approach is that you will forever receive your pension in GBP, therefore always be subject to exchange rate risk and currency exchange costs. You only have to speak to someone who already receives their pension in GBP (or even read some of the posts on Facebook on this issue) to see that British Nationals have really felt exchange rate pain in recent years, only receiving €1.10 currently for each £ when once it was closer to €1.40. In addition, there is the time spent researching and using currency exchanges to try to obtain the best rate.

For example, drawing a pension of £10,000 per year and converting to Euro would have yielded approximately the following amounts over the past 15 years:

  • €15,000 in January 2007
  • €10,500 in December 2008
  • €14,250 in July 2015 and
  • €11,000 currently

These fluctuations are not helpful in your later years when you need to plan your financial affairs and seek a degree of certainty in relation to your income.

A QROPS has been the go-to product for many expats over the years. To be classified as a QROPS the scheme must meet certain requirements, as defined by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Amongst the key benefits are the following:

  • The option to consolidate multiple pensions into one administratively simple but diversified portfolio. Consolidating pension pots into a single structure is a more convenient way of tracking your pension growth and provides a far simpler structure when you start to draw your pension
  • The currency of the pension can be chosen, not just at outset, but a change in currency can be made whilst holding the pension. Therefore, if you move your pension into a QROPS in GBP initially, if a point arises in the future when the pound significantly increases in value, part of the fund or the entire fund can be moved into Euro
  • A QROPS is a pension which is held outside of the UK; therefore, it provides some protection against future legislative changes that might take place impacting pensions based in the UK. Chancellors of the Exchequer have for many years now seen pensions as an easy target for raising tax revenue
  • Moving pensions funds into a QROPS is an action that is known as a Benefit Crystallisation Event (BCE) and your pension will be tested against the UK Lifetime Allowance (LTA) at the time of transfer. Should your pension subsequently grow in value in a QROPS beyond the LTA (currently £1,073,000) there will be no further test or tax to pay. Currently, pensions in excess of the LTA can be taxed at up to 55% in the UK, depending on the type of withdrawal (lump sum or drawdown). Although in some cases, you may be able to enhance the LTA limit with different forms of pension protection
  • Tax planning opportunities for your nominated beneficiaries on the event of your death. Currently, if you are over 75 when you die (most of us hope this will be the case) then a tax liability exists for your beneficiaries in relation to UK based pensions. This liability could be greatly reduced and often no tax is payable if certain conditions are met

One disadvantage of some QROPS is the level of fees. Because of the structure of a QROPS requiring an offshore investment platform, EU based trustee (typically Malta-based) and sometimes a Discretionary Fund Manager (DFM), costs can in some cases become prohibitive. However, regardless of pension value, there is scope to control both initial and ongoing charges. With proper planning, cost should not be an obstacle to establishing a QROPS.

A SIPP has some of the advantages of a QROPS in relation to currency flexibility and consolidation, but because it remains a pension structure domiciled in the UK, the tax advantages in relation to the LTA and Death Benefits for heirs do not apply. Also, it remains exposed to any legislative changes made by the UK Government in future budgets.

However, if you plan to move back to the UK or prefer to keep your pension based in the UK, then this is an option that may be suitable.

What I mean by this, is that if you have a good, well-funded Defined Benefit (final salary) scheme and also one or more Defined Contribution (money purchase) pensions schemes, you have the option to move one or more into another structure (e.g. QROPS or International SIPP) and leave some of the schemes in place. For example, you may want to keep the security of a guaranteed pension that a Defined Benefit scheme provides but move your other DC pension schemes into a QROPS or SIPP and secure the benefits that ensue from these structures.

Other considerations

In deciding whether to go ahead and transfer your existing pensions into a different structure, typically the bar should be set at a higher level for a Defined Benefit (final salary) scheme. This type of pension provides a guaranteed income for life, offers some protection from inflation and the risk of funding your retirement does not rest with you (i.e. you are protected from the ups and downs of the stock market).

However, these schemes do lack flexibility and by exchanging the guaranteed annual income from retirement age, you receive instead a cash lump sum (and transfer values have seldom been higher than now) which you can invest and spend how you like with access from age 55 and the ability to pass the full amount onto your beneficiaries (tax-free if you die under the age of 75 and also the potential to be tax-free over the age of 75 if your pension is a QROPS).

Most Defined Benefit schemes only pay half of your pre-commutated pension to your spouse should you die, and usually a minimal amount or nothing to your children if you no longer have a spouse at the time of your death or your spouse who was a beneficiary of your pension subsequently dies. A QROPS for example allows much greater flexibility in relation to the selection of a beneficiary, allowing the funds to pass to any named beneficiary. Also Defined Benefit schemes are not entirely risk free – many are underfunded and some may be unable to meet their obligations (although the Pension Protection Fund exists to provide 90% of the guaranteed income if the scheme becomes insolvent before you reach retirement age, although there are maximum limits of compensation, i.e. £37,315 at age 65. The full amount would be paid if the scheme became insolvent if you were over the scheme retirement age).

There are two primary types of
employment pension schemes in the UK

a) Defined Benefit (or Final Salary)

• Provides guaranteed pension as a proportion of final salary based on i) salary ii) years of service iii) accrual rate (e.g. 1/60th of final salary for each full year of service)
• Payable from Age 65 (if taken earlier penalties apply for each year taken before 65)
• The pension is reduced when taking a lump sum

b) Defined Contribution (or Money Purchase)

• Pension benefits depend on the size of the fund
• Significant flexibility in relation to when to take the pension (currently from Age 55), how much to take and structure used to take the pension (annuity, capped and flexi-access drawdown, UFPLS, Scheme etc.)
• The pension fund size will depend on how and where it has been invested and the performance of those funds

Summary

This is a complex area and it is difficult to cover all relevant details within the parameters of this article. There are other considerations I have not addressed here, and this piece should be considered a high-level overview of some of the factors to consider. Perhaps the best advice I can give is the following:

  • Do not just do nothing and leave the pensions where they are because it’s the easiest thing to do
  • Do not assume the best option is to move your pension/s offshore into a QROPS just because you live in France and the UK has left the EU
  • Act now to have your pension schemes carefully reviewed. Engage with a properly regulated financial adviser and have an analysis conducted as to your options. Only then can you make a well-informed decision about what is best for you and your long-term financial security

A final point to consider is that there is currently a 25% tax applied to pension transfers into a QROPS for British Nationals living outside the EEA. After 31 December 2020, it is possible that this tax will also apply to those living in the EEA (as the UK will no longer be an EU country and the transition period will have expired). This has not yet been confirmed by the UK government but the opportunity to consider a QROPS as a financial planning option may not exist beyond the end of this year. If this is an option you want to explore, I recommend you do this without delay.

How much do I need for a comfortable retirement?

By Chris Webb - Topics: Madrid, QROPS, Retirement, Spain, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 18th March 2020

18.03.20

How much money will I need in retirement?

This is one of the most common questions I hear as a Financial Adviser in Madrid, Spain.

The answer to that question differs from person to person and the numbers I discuss with my clients vary massively. To some, having a quiet retirement with little requirements is the goal; others will want to continue playing golf and attend social events weekly. There is a huge difference in what you will need in your pocket with these different scenarios.

So, what do the experts think?
Researchers have calculated how much money a person needs per year in order to enjoy a comfortable retirement. The numbers were calculated by Loughborough’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP), The Pensions & Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) and Retirement Living Standards (RLS). A report from Loughborough University and the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association aims to help people understand how much they will need for a minimum, moderate or comfortable quality of life once they retire.

In the UK a full state pension comes in at just over £8,500, but it’s the other savings you accrue over your working life that will make the difference in people’s post-work years.

Experts found that a single person will need about £10,200 a year to achieve the minimum living standard, £20,200 a year for moderate living standards and £33,000 a year for comfortable living standards. For couples, the minimum standard came in at £15,700, moderate was £29,100 and comfortable worked out as £47,500. The results are based on consultations with members of the public and consider what is needed in retirement for home DIY and maintenance, household and personal goods, holidays, food, transport, clothing and social engagements.

The new Retirement Living Standards describe three different standards of living with associated costs for each – all established by what the public considers realistic and relevant expectations. Associated costs are made up of household bills, food and drink, transport, holidays and leisure, clothing and personal and helping others. The standards cover a range of goods and services that are relevant to most people. These and other costs, such as tax on pension income, may need to be added depending on individual circumstances.

A series of profiles and infographics have been created on the PLSA website to help people calculate their own finances. The research for the Retirement Living Standards was adapted from the approach used to produce the Minimum Income Standard – a calculation of what the public thinks is an acceptable minimum standard of living. The data was gathered through 26 group discussions with around 250 members of the public already retired or approaching retirement, from a wide range of backgrounds. Expert views were taken into account for some areas, such as transport, energy usage and food costs.

The discussions set the parameters for how higher living standards should be described and defined. Through these discussions, three retirement living standards were agreed: minimum, moderate and comfortable.

The standards:
At a cost of £10,200 per year for a single person and £15,700 for a couple, the minimum lifestyle covers all your needs plus enough for some fun – including social participation and social occasions.

The moderate lifestyle (£20,200 a year for singles and £29,100 for couples) provides, in addition to the minimum lifestyle, more financial security and more flexibility.

At the comfortable level (£33,000 a year for singles and £47,500 for couples), retirees could enjoy some luxuries like regular beauty treatments, theatre trips and three weeks in Europe a year.

Breaking down the RLS:

House: Household utility bills, decorating and maintenance, furniture, cleaning supplies, lightbulbs, cooking utensils, appliances (e.g. fridge, washing machine), garden supplies, towels, bedding, gardener/cleaner/window cleaner & funeral plan.

Food and Drink: Household food shopping, eating out, beer & wine.

Transport: Car running costs, railcard/train travel & taxis.

Holidays and Leisure: TV, DVD player, laptop, printer, speakers, CDs, stationery supplies, TV license and subscriptions, internet, activities & holidays.

Clothing and Personal: Clothing, footwear, cosmetics, toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving supplies, hair styling, beauty treatments, dentist, opticians, podiatry & minor first aid supplies.

Helping Others: Gifts, helping others (if applicable) & charitable donations

Planning early is key to getting your retirement plans in order. You can look up another of my articles here on this subject titled “It Is Never Too Early

Don’t delay your financial plans. For planning, yesterday is better than today, which is better than tomorrow. Contact me, Chris webb on 639 118 185 or chris.webb@spectrum-ifa.com if you want to discuss your own circumstances.

Sources:
Loughborough’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP).
Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA)
Retirement Living Standards (RLS)

Being prepared for BREXIT in France

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: BREXIT, France, Pensions, QROPS, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 11th March 2020

11.03.20

On 31st January 2020, the UK left the EU. However, the real effects of Brexit, for those of us living in France, will not properly be felt until after the 31st December 2020 (what an interesting New Year’s Eve that will be!) and thereafter. Hopefully, by that time we will have a clearer idea of what our rights and responsibilities are. Until then there will still be much speculation and media noise, which may be just as confusing as it has been over the past four years.

One thing Brexit has established, from the very beginning, is that British citizens living in France, or planning to settle in France, need to get their affairs in order and decide where they would like to live for the foreseeable future. As British citizens we can always return to the UK if we so choose, but if we want to continue to live in France we must show that we have lived here continuously for the last five years or that we intend to continue living here in future.

The next few months are going to be very interesting and it is more than ever important for British citizens to consider some important financial changes.

Pensions after Brexit
In 2006, the UK introduced a law making it possible for UK private pension benefits to be transferred to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS), provided that the overseas scheme meets certain qualifying conditions.

For those pensions that can be transferred there are many benefits including:

  • No obligation to purchase an insurance company annuity, at any time
  • The potential to pass on the member’s remaining pension assets to nominated beneficiaries on death with minimal or no death duty payable. By comparison, currently a tax charge at the beneficiary’s marginal rate can be applied in the UK, where the member is over age 75 at death
  • A wider choice of acceptable investments offered, compared to UK pension plans
  • The underlying investments and income payments can be denominated in a choice of currencies, which can potentially reduce exchange rate risk
  • Potential to receive a larger amount of Pension Commencement Lump Sum compared to UK schemes
  • Depending upon the jurisdiction where the QROPS is set up, income payments may be made without the deduction of local taxes, meaning that income will only be taxed in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction where the member is resident

In 2017 the UK government announced its intention to introduce a new 25% Overseas Transfer Charge (OTC) on QROPS transfers taking place on or after 9th March 2017. This charge does not, however, apply where the QROPS is in the European Union (EU) or EEA and the member is also resident in an EU or EEA country (not necessarily the same EU or EEA country) and remains EU or EEA resident for the next five full UK tax years.

Many of those who work in the industry believe that after the transition period, it may no longer be possible for British citizens to transfer their pensions into an EU QROPS without incurring the 25% charge.

QROPS may not be suitable for everyone and much will depend upon the nature of the UK pension benefits being considered for transfer, as well as the person’s attitude to investment risk. Transferring a pension to a QROPS is not a decision that should be taken lightly nor in haste and proper financial advice with an experienced adviser is essential. Even when the decision has been made to transfer the pension it may take a good few months to complete, which is why, if you are even considering this possibility, it is important to contact a local adviser to explore what your options are.

Taxes after Brexit
As tax between the UK and France is determined by the Double Tax Treaty, this will not be affected by the fact that the UK has left the EU. However, whilst not directly taxed, a lot of UK income, such as UK rental income, is added to the taxable base and increases the tax margin of the French taxpayer. If you intend to live in France, you may want to consider whether it is really in your interest to hold onto UK assets.

It is possible to protect your capital investments in France and ensure that they can grow in a tax efficient environment by way of an Assurance Vie policy. French Assurance Vies or French approved foreign Assurance Vies offer valuable benefits when it comes to income tax, inheritance tax and estate planning. Foreign portfolios and bonds are not treated as Assurance Vies and any gain is subject to tax and social charges irrespective of whether this income is taken or whether it is brought into France. If you are French tax resident, you are taxable on your worldwide income in France. Proving that you are French tax resident will be an important factor for establishing the Right to Remain in France.

Being resident in France does not necessarily mean that all your assets have to be in France or have to be in euros. There are many opportunities for holding sterling based diversified portfolios in a tax efficient manner.
For anyone intending to live in France for the foreseeable future, be aware that today’s valuable financial planning opportunities are unlikely to remain beyond the short term (31st December 2020 could be an important date in this respect). Contact me, Katriona Murray, and I will be happy to arrange a meeting.

UK Pension transfer – most common questions asked

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, pension transfer, QROPS, Spain, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 8th November 2019

08.11.19

Without even mentioning the ‘Brexit’ word, if you have a private or company pension scheme in the UK but reside outside, it’s a good idea to understand what your options are in managing and having access to them. There are a handful of subjects I am regularly asked about regarding this:

UK pension currency
If you transfer your pension outside of the UK, it does NOT have to remain in sterling; all major currencies are usually available. It can also be changed at most times and be held in different currencies. Of course, at the moment this is an even more important thought process for your retirement savings.

Access to pensions
From age 55 you can have access to as much of your UK pension as you like, although bear in mind that in Spain pension money will be subject to personal income tax, after any allowances. Therefore, you might want to arrange this so as to not incur higher taxes (there are several ways to do this).

Pensions from a previous employer
These pensions are known as dormant or frozen, and at the very minimum you should know what you have, where they are and how they work. We help clients track these down, explain how they work, what your options are and start planning to make them either more ‘healthy’ or easier to access. Some pensions may have high charges, or the pension scheme could be financially in trouble. Having all this knowledge as well as the options available will help you make an informed decision.

Can I transfer any pensions I have myself?
In short, if you are abroad, no, since the process is complex and not easy to understand if you are not in the financial world. Also, HMRC won’t allow it unless you have received advice. We have clients with different levels of experience in finance and pensions, and we work alongside them all closely, giving them the knowledge to make their decisions and managing the process for them.

If they are UK pensions and you want to keep them in the UK, then yes, you can usually do this yourself depending on the value involved.

You cannot transfer a pension to another person, although there are ways you can pass it on effectively.

Pensions transfer charges
When overseas pension transfers were started many years ago, the costs were a lot higher than running a UK pension scheme, although the benefits were greater. Now, with increased competition from providers, the charges for moving and maintaining an overseas pension are a lot lower. However, this does depend on who you perform the transfer with and what advice you are given. I still come across clients where the charges are so high it is almost impossible for the pension to grow. There are ways of helping these people, but usually by then they have lost out on many years of growth, which is really frustrating as it didn’t need to be that way. It’s so important you work with a Financial Advisor who is working for you, at your pace and advising in your best interests, not theirs.

Selecting a Financial Advisor to work with when investigating moving a UK pension
There are several points/questions you should check when deciding whom to seek advice from. These are:

1) Recommendations, you cannot beat them. Does anyone you know work with a Financial Advisor and they are happy with them?
2) Does the Financial Advisor have the necessary qualifications to give you advice?
3) How are they remunerated? Ask them how much and when.
4) Do they have any long-standing clients you can speak to? If they do and you manage to speak to them, ask them specific questions so you know they are both genuine and how it worked for them.
5) Look into their eyes… meet them several times, get a feeling for them as a person, their morals and actions.
6) Research them on the internet, or ask around and see what’s said about them.

I do know clients who have done most of this and still not had a great experience. The only additional advice I can give is to look at the pensions and companies they are recommending. If you haven’t heard of them before or you don’t get the ‘spider sense’ that they purely have your best interests at heart, then look elsewhere. Remember, they are going to be looking after your retirement. For years I have helped people evaluate their pensions, and as well as looking to help new clients, the main reason I write these articles is to help people avoid potentially working with someone that doesn’t have their best interests at heart.

How to retire like a pro!

By Chris Burke - Topics: Pensions, QROPS, Retirement, Spain
This article is published on: 24th May 2019

24.05.19

Over the years I’ve helped many clients prepare for retirement. To come up with the best solutions, there are several matters and concerns to consider that don’t automatically come to mind. Some people think they have carefully planned out their glory days, only to find out there were a few things they didn’t consider; not only on the financial side, but also on the every-day-life side of things. So, here are some of my top tips on retiring like a pro, enjoying life to the fullest and sleeping well at night.

Before going into all the financial ins and outs, stop to consider this: Where do you stand financially right now? And, what life goals or dreams do you have for the coming years? Remember, we want these years to be golden, not feel like walking on hot coals. So, starting with where you are and what you really want helps provide realistic focus.

When it comes to planning ahead for your post-work life, there are (for a great number of people) three main sources of cashflow which, when orchestrated carefully, can together ensure a comfortable retirement: company pension (or employer savings plan), social security and personal savings. For others – particularly the self-employed – retirement will entail savings, investments, assets and most likely continuing with your projects whilst learning to detach a bit. No matter which camp you lie in, knowing what you will receive from each source and then working out your monthly living budget will be is a great place to start for setting out what lifestyle you can plan.

After taking into account what monthly living allowance you will have, probably the most crucial thing on the “how to retire for dummies” list is devising and then maintaining a lifestyle you can afford. Practicing frugality whilst enjoying life is indeed a quality many fail at. It’s about knowing what you have to live on and living within those means. Being prudent with your finances does not mean being tight or ungenerous. As Coco Chanel said, “Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.” And none of us want to be vulgar. We want to be financially prepared and savvy.

Outside of whatever your retirement plan is, it is also important to ensure you have set aside, in a separate account, an ample emergency backup supply. “Emergency” meaning for any one of a hundred things that might unexpectantly pop up and require a quick financial outlay. It will help you sleep better at night.

How to retire like a pro

Retirement isn’t always all sunshine and happy days. Many retirees struggle immensely with the sudden and somewhat shocking change of lifestyle. They go from being busy and surrounded by colleagues and friends, to being at home looking for a new purpose whilst trying not to step on the toes of their partner. For some, the extreme change of lifestyle and the thought of being on a continuous holiday can be scary and depressing. However, it should be thought of as a new opportunity to work on relationships, invest in travelling, both inward and outwards, and to learn new skills.

Nowadays, many post-retirees are creating projects to generate new income as well as keeping their minds sane and boosting their overall quality of life and health. This can also help to improve your self-worth and the relationships you hold dear. It doesn’t mean you have to work from 8 to 8. It can just be involvement in projects that help to provide a balanced life.

When it comes to retiring, there’s a dirty word we all must know and understand: inflation. As Sam Ewing said, “Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for a ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair.” When we are working, salaries are supposed to keep up with inflation. However, when the salary stops and you’re living off savings, inflation is like an armed robber. There are now online inflation planners which can quickly calculate both pessimistic and optimistic inflation rates and help you formulate what to expect living, household and medical costs to be in future years.

Lastly, I would suggest having a pool of money that you leave untouched and allowed to grow, until you need it later in retirement to help offset increasing expenses. If you have income from property, this is great because it more or less keeps up with inflation rates. Otherwise, consider some inflation-protected security investments – a balanced mix of stocks, bonds, short-term investments, at different levels of risk and potential growth. Considering all options and forming a good plan is something I can help each client with.

Retirement doesn’t have to be scary. If you’d like to discuss any aspects of financial planning for your retirement, please email me for a complementary face to face meeting.

Does Qrops or transferring your UK Pension overseas work?

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, pension transfer, Pensions, QROPS, Spain, UK Pensions, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 4th March 2019

04.03.19

Those people who have a UK private or company pension and are resident outside of the UK, more often than not have the choice to transfer their pension to a QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme), that is the process of moving your pension outside of the UK. However, what are the important points to note with this, how does it differ from having your pension in the UK and most importantly, does it actually work effectively?

For just over 10 years you have been able to move your pension outside of the UK. Over that time, I have seen mixed success at doing this, with the companies providing this service changing, fees in essence reducing and the options of managing this growing. What has also changed is the benefit of doing this, alongside the advice you receive. Unfortunately, I have come across many cases where this has not worked well, and the reasons are nearly all the same: bad advice was given by the financial adviser who put their clients is funds/pensions that were overpriced and expensive.

To summarise, the current key potential benefits of Qrops would be the first step to seeing if this could be the right choice for you:

  • Pension potentially outside of future UK law changes
  • Brexit and the impact it would have on being a British person living in Spain
  • Potentially side stepping an expected 25% tax charge for moving pensions after Brexit
  • Currency fluctuation (ability to change your pension to euros when convenient)
  • Portability – the ability to move your pension in the future if needed
  • Potentially reduced tax liability
  • Inheritance – potential reduction of tax to beneficiaries or potentially lower tax on death (depending on your country of residence)
  • Peace of mind
  • Closer personal management of your pension
  • Tax efficient (working alongside a local tax adviser) potentially

And what are the key points that might mean Qrops is not right for you:

  • Returning to live permanently in the UK in the next five years (or maybe longer)
  • Pensions total value under £60,000 (the charges would be, in my opinion, punitive)
  • A company scheme where the benefits outweigh transferring
  • In the near future, wanting to take most of the money from your pension
  • Not having your pension in a Qrops managed well and expensively

From the perspective of access to your money, there is currently not much difference to having a personal pension in the UK or a Qrops. With the rule changes a few years back, you can, in essence, get access to your UK pension from age 55 in the UK and as much as you like, just as in Qrops.

Where Qrops really can help is moving an asset away from the UK and any potential rule changes, which have been regular over the recent years (mainly worse for the person owning a private pension). Couple that with Brexit and a potential 25% tax charge, then having your pension outside the UK will give you peace of mind in knowing exactly what the pensions rules would be for you moving forward. Also, given the fact that if you did ever move back to the UK (statistics show that for a British couple, there is a 75% chance one of you will go back at some point), you can transfer it back with you (there could also be tax benefits of doing this) and with some pension companies no charge.

However, perhaps the most important question is, does it work? The simple answer is yes it can, BUT it has to be set up the right way, with the right company and if you are given the right advice for what your pension is invested in. Basically, it needs to be done for your benefit, not so that the adviser can earn as much commission as possible from your pension.

Whenever I take a new client on, I always ask them if they would like to speak to an existing client to see what their experiences were, which is what I would do when performing my own due diligence.

If you would like to talk through any pensions you have and what your options are, feel free to get in touch and know that you will be given good advice, whether you become a client or not.

G transferred her pension 4 years ago; it has grown significantly over that time. “Chris has always been consultative and there when we need him.”

J transferred his pension 6 years ago. “It has grown well over that time. Whenever I have needed money from my pension Chris has arranged this for me. I would recommend him for sure.”

C transferred her pension 5 years ago. “It has grown steadily in that time (I am a cautious investor) and since then my husband and I have asked Chris to help us with our other investments.”

We are all living longer, and it’s not all good news

By Jeremy Ferguson - Topics: Financial Review, Inheritance Tax, Marbella, QROPS, Retirement, Saving, Spain
This article is published on: 5th February 2019

05.02.19

When it comes to the way in which we are leading our lives, the world in which we live has changed significantly over not that many years.

Do you remember starting the day off with a bowl of cornflakes smothered in processed sugar and full fat milk, followed by a couple of slices of white processed bread smothered in butter and marmalade (laden with sugar), then washing that down with a couple of cups of strong coffee before we rushed off to work? Then at work the stresses of the day were broken by coffee to keep you going, with a packet of sandwiches and a bag of crisps at lunch time. A sneaky stop off on the way home for a couple of pints for some, then dinner followed by bed. Sound familiar?

Through a combination of increased awareness of the dangers of processed food and sugars, non-stop articles and TV programmes warning us of health issues; people are becoming increasingly health conscious. Add to that the mass of personal trainers and nutritionists out there, and people nowadays are more active and much more aware when it comes to healthy eating and lifestyle.

If you are reading this, you probably made the decision to move to the south of Spain some years ago, and boy, how things have changed as a result. Longer days, constant sunshine, lovely salads, a relaxed life, and probably a lot more time spent outside walking, or for many, playing golf or tennis. Oh yes, and the big one, much less stress!

spectrum ifa retirement

This is all resulting in something that is causing massive issues around the Globe for all sorts of reasons. People are living longer and needing more medical help along the way, because, despite being generally healthier now, older people still have more health issues than younger people. With that comes an ever increasing stress on healthcare systems. The ageing population also means that the ratio between retirees and workers is swinging in a way that means less taxable income is there to help fund the ever increasing medical needs.

So, while it is great we are all living longer, and therefore having a longer and healthier retirement, how much attention are we paying to this fact with regards to financial health? The pension pot and savings pot we hope you have accumulated now has to last for an ever increasing length of time. Have you considered the need for adequate medical insurance before it is too late to be accepted as a client (because you are too old)? Inheritances may be left to you at a much later stage of your life, and when they are, they could also be smaller due to the fact your parents lived so much longer.

In summary, it is really very important to spend time considering all of these factors. How many of us actually look at this in detail, with an honest reality check regarding the years ahead?

One of the things I like to do with my clients is to make sure we look at the big picture, assessing what you have and how long it is likely to last. Should you be putting the brakes on the lifestyle just a bit for that added longevity financially, or are you being too cautious? It is amazing the amount of couples I meet who are being too careful with money. Or have you got it just about right?

What happens if inflation rises or falls, or the money you have invested loses value or, hopefully, makes more than you expected? Oh yes, and what happens to your income when exchange rates move?

It is always said that you cannot buy time, but strangely enough, most clients I meet here in Spain look a lot younger than they actually are, so in my view, they all seem to have managed to do just that, aided probably by all of the things we know are good about living here. So, if by talking we can remove a little more stress by getting all of those financial ducks in a row, then maybe you can cheat the grim reaper for a good many more years to come.

Retiring & income in retirement

By Derek Winsland - Topics: France, Pensions, QROPS, Retirement, State Pensions After BREXIT, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 8th June 2018

08.06.18

A major part of my role as a Financial Planner involves helping clients move towards retirement and advising those in retirement about the best and most tax-efficient way of generating their income once they stop work.

One question I’m often asked is how much money I should save to enable me to retire comfortably. A good question, it depends on what constitutes a comfortable retirement for that particular person. It’s generally quite a straightforward discussion: how much do you need now, and what will change as you approach retirement (mortgages redeemed, no more school or university fees, travel expenses to and from work for instance). Factor in extra expenses for pursuing hobbies, travelling etc. and we begin to build a picture of what retirement will look like and how long the active retirement period will last for.

In the UK, a Which? survey concluded that, in the UK at least, a couple entering retirement needed £26,000 a year to live comfortably. OK, that’s the UK and not necessarily representative of life here in France, but it is a basis for opening a discussion. The next consideration is to identify what the sources of income are – likely there will be an entitlement to UK state pension, possibly some French state pension and maybe rental income form letting out the old UK home, or Gites in France.

For those people actively thinking about and planning for retirement, it is also likely there will be some private pension provision, perhaps even membership of a final salary pension from time spent working for an old employer. And then there are the savings you’ve set aside for the day when you can put down those work tools, and say “That’s it, I’ve done my bit”.

But what income can I reasonably expect those savings to generate to supplement the other sources of income. The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries have ruminated over this question (well they would, wouldn’t they! I can imagine the topic of conversation going around the dinner table at their annual conference). The conclusion they’ve come to is (not surprisingly) based on the life expectancy of the retiree. Retiring at age 55, they believe you should draw down only 3% of your capital each year to ensure that your money doesn’t run out. This then rises to 3.5% if retiring at age 65. Other financial experts believe the figures could rise to 5% per year for a 65-year-old. This then assumes that your capital is invested to generate returns greater than the rate of inflation.

The options for the individual facing an income shortfall include:

    1. Increasing your savings
    1. Decreasing your retirement income expectation
    1. Delaying retirement
    1. Exploring alternative ways of investing available capital and pensions to obtain growth greater than inflation and certainly better than bank interest

A Financial Planner can draw up a future forecast using established assumptions for inflation, rates of investment return, the most tax efficient way of drawing down or generating income, using either life expectancy tables or any other age after discussing your family mortality history with you. This will give you your ‘number’, the amount of capital you’ll need to live comfortably.

The Office for National Statistics has recently launched an online tool on its website designed to tell you what your life expectancy is. If you’re curious, click here:

Once completed this Financial Plan should be implemented to address any recommendations for re-structuring the existing assets, and thereafter reviewed yearly, updating the investment returns achieved and the impact this has on the capital, checking any changes that need to be made to the assumptions and making any amendments that you want included. Long-lost pension funds will be identified, and the expected benefits brought into the plan, and again, any issues addressed. The move is towards handing the responsibility of retirement over to the retiree, so there is not a better time to consult a fully qualified financial planner.

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

New QROPS tax charge for 2017 – Will this change after BREXIT?

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Belgium, BREXIT, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, pension transfer, Pensions, Portugal, QROPS, Retirement, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 20th April 2018

20.04.18

In the Spring 2017 Budget, the UK government announced its intention to introduce a new 25% Overseas Transfer Charge (OTC) on QROPS transfers taking place on or after 9th March 2017. The HMRC Guidance indicates that the OTC will not be applied in the following situations:

  • the QROPS is in the European Union (EU) or EEA and the member is also resident in an EU or EEA country (not necessarily the same EU or EEA country);
  • the QROPS and the member is in the same country; or
  • the QROPS is an employer sponsored occupational pension scheme, overseas public service pension scheme or a pension scheme established by an International Organisation (for example, the United Nations, the EU, i.e. not just a multinational company), and the member is an employee of the entity to which the benefits are transferred to its pension scheme.

It is also intended that the above provisions will apply to transfers from one QROPS (or former QROPS) to another, if this is within five full tax years from the date of the original transfer of benefits from the UK pension scheme to the first QROPS arrangement.

Nevertheless, it is clear that taking professional regulated advice is essential. This includes if you have already transferred benefits to a QROPS and you are planning to move to another country of residence.

It is important to explore your options now while you still have the chance as who knows what changes will come with BREXIT. Contact you’re local adviser for a FREE consultation and to discuss your personal options

Hands off my pension!

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Italy, Pensions, QROPS, Retirement, Tax
This article is published on: 27th March 2018

27.03.18

As promised, I thought I would follow up with my last article on the complicated issue of trusts, with a less complicated issue of the tax treatment of pensions / retirement funds in Italy.

The majority of my clients are nearing, or in retirement, and so pensions and retirement plans are very much at the forefront of your minds. For the likes of me, (I am 44 years old this year), I am in the accumulation phase and I need to concentrate on building as much capital as possible for when I get older when I need to convert my earning power into an income for life. There isn’t much to say about the accumulation phase, other than how the actual fund is treated for taxation in Italy, which I will touch on below.

What I aim to achieve in this article is to explain the tax treatment, in Italy, on the income from the various types of overseas pensions / retirement funds which we are mostly familiar with. This information is taken from and I will be expanding on articolo 18 del Modello OCSE which states:

“fatte salve le disposizioni del paragrafo 2 dell’articolo 19, le pensioni e le altre simili remunerazioni pagate ad un residente di uno Stato contraente in relazione ad un passato impiego sono imponibili soltanto in questo Stato”

I will not be going into the more complicated area of taxation of Italian pensions since that is best dealt with by a commercialista. I also want to share some of the various tax stories that I have heard of in the past and clarify the situation.

WHAT IS A PENSION AND WHO OFFRS THEM?
A pension is a type of retirement plan that provides an income in retirement. Not all employers offer pensions. Government organizations usually offer a pension, and some large companies offer them and in the likes of the UK and USA you can have a personal retirement pension / plan. Most people, throughout their working life, will also be making National Insurance / Social securitry payments which go towards a national state pension as well.

WHAT IS THE ITALIAN TAX TREATMENT OF EACH?

The state pension / social security:
I have sometimes been asked if the state pension or social security is non-taxable because it is covered under some kind of double taxation treaty. I remember this being a common question some years ago and wondered if a rumour was going around. Thankfully it hasn’t raised its heads for a while but for the record the state pension /social security of another country, payable to you as a resident in Italy, is taxable in Italy at your highest rate of income tax. If you have other sources of income in retirement then they are added together and the banded rates of income tax applied.

Remember that the income types which are subject to IRPEF (Italian income tax) are retirement income, employment income and rental income.

A QUICK REMINDER OF ITALIAN INCOME TAX RATES
(IRPEF – Imposte sul reddito delle persone fisiche)

   0 – €15000   23%
   €15000 – €28000   27% (€3450 + 27% on the part over €15000)
   €28000 – 55000   38% (€6960 + 38% on the part over €28000)
   €55000 – 75000   41% (€17220 + 41% on the part over €55000)
   Over €75000   43% (€25420 + 43% on the over €75000)

The Italian pension credit…….it’s not an allowance!
This is another one of those mis-understood Italian tax benefits. (It would make sense that it is misunderstood because ‘Italian’ and ‘tax benefits’ are not words that often go hand in hand). However, if you are a pensioner (that means a pensioner at state retirement age and not someone who has retired early), then you might be eligible for a tax credit on pension income up to €8000 per annum. At this point I would like to say that this is NOT a tax allowance. It is not the first €8000 of pension income which is non taxable for everyone. That would be nice and has been proposed by some of the possible incoming political parties, but for the moment, not everyone is eligible to receive it.

It means that where you have €8000pa retirement income and below, that you could be eligible for a full tax credit on that amount. i.e the tax is calculated at 23% and then that is given back in your tax return.

The catch is that if you have more than €8000 in total retirement income per annum, rising to €55000pa then the credit is reduced (according to various quotients) to zero. The higher your TOTAL income is the less of the credit you will receive. A total income of more than €55000 per annum means no tax credit.

Government / Local Government / Armed Forces / Police / Teachers pensions etc
This next category is a catch all for any kind of Government or Local authority pension, including Teachers, Police, Firemen, Nurses, Local Authority etc. In effect, where the local or national government of the pension in question is the administrator of the fund.

In this case, if you are a non-Italian resident in Italy, then the pension is not taxable in Italy under the double taxation treaty but only taxable in the state of origin. So, for example. a British Firemen retired and resident in Italy will only have to declare the pension and pay any tax due in the UK under UK tax law. It would not be subject to Italian tax, UNLESS..

…., you are an Italian citizen, i.e have Italian citizenship.. An Italian national living in Italy would be subject to Italian income tax on their overseas local or national pension in the other state. So, in our example above the British fireman, after being granted Italian citizenship would then become liable for Italian taxation on his UK pension. This is something to consider when applying for Italian citizenship. Equally this would apply to anyone who has dual nationality, for example an Italian who has lived and worked abroad for many years and returns to Italy, or someone who has dual nationality through birth right.

Private pensions / Retirement plans / Occupational / Employer pension schemes
Private pensions do not, unfortunately, benefit from the same tax treatment as national or local authority schemes as described above and so they have to be exposed to the full wrath of the Italian income tax rates. They are added to your other income for the tax year and taxed at your highest marginal rate of income tax.

However, I want to expand on this subject slightly, in relation to the subject of trusts which we touched on in my last article.

Definition of a private pension / retirement plan
Before we can accurately define how a pension is taxed we first have to understand its structure. In the case of a UK personal pension, occupational pension and/or retirement plans they are mostly set up as irrevocable trusts. This gives limited powers to the holder of the pension because although you can instruct the trustees to do whatever you want within the tax rules of the country in which it is operated, ultimately the trustee has the final say in what you can do. They wouldn’t normally refuse your instructions to withdrawal capital, for example, but theoretically they could. This is a technical point but one which helps define the taxable liability in Italy.

Essentially, since the pension is a non-resident irrevocable trust, then the rules state that the fund itself is not taxed but any withdrawals would be taxed at your highest rate of income tax. An interesting point is that the fund itself needs to be declared for ‘monitoraggio‘ purposes and specifically your share in that fund. That creates a difficulty in something like a large pension fund e.g. Standard Life, when you need to express your share in that fund. To do that you need to know the value of the total company pension fund in which you are invested and express your fund value as a percentage of it. The truth is that this is almost impossible to find out accurately and so expressing a very low percentage is probably acceptable.

I have heard stories from various people over the years that their commercialisti declare their UK pensions as ‘previdenza complementare‘, which loosely translated means complementary pension. However, the definition does not accurately complete the story here. The reason for declaring it in this manner is that it is taxed at a preferential tax rate of 15%.

I must admit here that I don’t think is the correct way of declaring income from an overseas pension / retirement plan. The ‘previdenza complementare‘ is a vehicle used in Italy to complement the pension which is offered through Italian social security (INPS). You may argue that this has the same purpose as that of an overseas pension fund. However, this is where the similarities end.

In the case of a UK pension fund your contributions would attract tax relief during your contributory life. In the ‘previdenza complementare‘ (PC) the fund is taxable during the life of the fund. The UK scheme is also not linked to the state scheme in any way and you can withdraw money from age 55 (personal pension) or scheme retirement age (occupational pension). The PC is linked to the Italian state retirement age. Lastly, since the contributions into a UK fund are tax relieved, then income paid in form of a pension is subject to income tax at the normal rates. The Italian PC has a preferential rate of taxation starting at 15% and reducing to 9% depending on how many years you have been contributing to the fund, once you reach state retirement age. In short there are some distinct differences which lead me to believe that declaring a pension fund / retirement fund (which is a trust) as a ‘previdenza complementare’ in Italy, in incorrect. If you are in doubt then speak with your commercialista.

That is a basic review of the various types of pension / retirement incomes but is not an exhaustive list and various countries may apply different rules. You may need to check the double taxation treaty of your country for further details. However, all in all pensions are treated like other income, once in retirement and the fund needs to be declared, but not necessarily taxed in the accumulation phase.

If you have any queries about how your retirement income in Italy should be taxed, you can contact me on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com or on cell +39 333 6492356

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