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Why it Pays to Make a Spanish Will as an expat

By Jonathan Goodman - Topics: Barcelona, Residency, Spain, Uncategorised, Wills
This article is published on: 15th June 2015

15.06.15

While you are enjoying your new life and possibly a new home in Spain, it is understandable that you might not want to think too long or too hard about the future, particularly about matters pertaining to your Will and inheritance issues for your children and heirs. But this subject needs to be covered and fully understood sooner rather than later.

There are three central reasons for making a Spanish Will:

One – It avoids time-consuming and expensive legal issues that your family and heirs will have to resolve. You can – and should – make a separate Will to dispose of any assets located outside of Spain. A British Will, for example, has no bearing on your Spanish estate.

Two – Spaniards have to divide their assets equally among their family and heirs, and leave two-thirds of it all to their children. As an expat, you are exempt from this ruling and you can bequeath your assets to whomever you wish. Your estate will, however, be subject to Spanish inheritance tax, which is high when left by non-residents to non-relatives. In addition, expats resident in Spain are subject to the same taxes on any of their worldwide estate, too. Therefore, making a Will allows you to navigate these various taxes at your discretion.

Three – Your estate can become eligible to a 95 per cent reduction in inheritance tax. This reduction only applies to the first €120,000, but is not available to non-residents, so bear this in mind when drawing up a Will.

The Spectrum IFA Group in Spain are delighted to be able offer their clients a 15% discount when using the services of ‘AvaLaw‘, who over the last years have assisted clients from almost 50 different countries.

The story you are about to read is true; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent…

Mr. Rainyday and Mr. Blueskies were catching up over a beer in Barcelona on a sunny Friday morning. Mr. Rainyday had barely taken a sip of his beer before he was on his pet topic — complaining about Spain, his and Mr. Blueskies’ adopted home as of a few years ago.

‘This time its dad’s flat in Andalucía. It’s over a year and a half since his funeral, and I’ve only just got it transferred to my name. Plus, it’s cost me a fortune. There’s no way it’d be such a hassle back home. It’s a total scam!’

‘That’s funny,’ said Mr. Blueskies, ‘My dad died around the same time, had an identical apartment in the same building as your dad, and it only took us four months to get the apartment registered in my and my mother’s name. And, if I remember correctly, it didn’t cost that much, either.’

‘Really?’ asked Mr. Rainyday, ‘How’d you manage that?’

‘I don’t know. It all seemed pretty straightforward. Our advisor took care of everything for my dad. Was there a problem with your father’s Spanish will or something?’

‘Will? What will? Dad didn’t have one, but I thought you didn’t even need one in Spain?’

‘You don’t need one, but having one makes things a lot easier and cheaper for your heirs,’ said Mr. Blueskies. ‘Since my father had a Spanish will, I did not have to sworn-translate and legalize tons of documents, there were no surprises regarding the applicable law, no need to get certificates regarding which testament is valid according to the foreign law applicable to the inheritance, no need to pay lawyers to deal with all the unnecessary bureaucracy in all the countries, and no need to wait for a year or two to get the title of the apartment…’

‘I see…’ said Mr. Rainyday. ‘Anyway, what outraged me even worse than the bureaucracy, was paying the 60.000 euros of inheritance tax for the property worth 300.000 euros.’ 

‘Wow’, exclaimed Mr. Blueskies, ‘You paid that much, did you! We did not pay any taxes for inheriting my dad’s flat, since Roser advised my father to leave in his will 50% of the flat to my mother and 50% to me, so that we both could take advantage of the personal tax exemption of 175.000 euros that Andalucía had for all of us who were residing over there at that moment. What a difference, eeh, with some simple inheritance planning?’ Since Mr. Rainyday looked really sour, Mr. Blueskies changed the topic and started to speculate whether Barça is going to bring home all the 3 titles this season…

Clients of The Spectrum IFA Group are eligible for up to a 15% discount
on making a Will with AvaLaw. Contact us now for further information

You can’t please all of the people all of the time

By Rob Hesketh - Topics: Currencies, France, Residency, Retirement, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 11th June 2015

11.06.15

It’s a sad but true fact that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. While most of us dance a little jig each time the sterling pops its head over the 1.40 mark (however briefly!), others wince and reach for their calculators, working out how much less they are now worth in sterling terms. For various reasons, as we have discussed before, people decide to ‘go home’. The very fact that they describe it in those terms probably makes them all the more likely to take that decision in the first place, but the fact is that the older we get, the more compelling the argument can become to return to our roots.

There are currently two main problems for those who come to that decision today. The first is the exchange rate, and the second is the housing market. How unfair is it that many of us came to France on the back of a strong pound, then congratulated ourselves when it collapsed, only to find that when we need it to stay weak, it bounces back to bite us where it hurts? And, to compound matters, our cherished piece of French real estate turns out to be worth a fraction of our own valuation. I don’t think this is particularly a French issue though, unless we (surely not?) were persuaded to pay more than the property was worth in the first place. I learned many years ago that if you think you might want to move home at some time in the future, plan ahead. Don’t wait until you want/need to sell and bide your time. Advertise early, and wait for that elusive buyer who really wants to buy your home. Easier said than done though, I must confess, although I have in the past been successful in selling a ‘quirky’ house on this basis, and buying a much more sellable property, purely to put myself into a more flexible situation where I knew I could move quickly if I needed to. Even then some ego inflated politicians started a war and held up our move to France for quite a few months.

No, you can’t please all the people all the time, but what you can do is try to give them the best advice at all times. If you get that right, then major upheavals such as moving back ’home’ can be made less of a trial. A good example is investment advice. I estimate that currently around 5% of my clients are in the process of moving back to the UK, or are thinking about it. I know for a fact that all of them are happy that they took my advice to invest in what I class as ‘Expat Assurance Vie’ policies. I call them this because I know full well that they are designed for and aimed at the expatriate market in France. One major advantage is that they are completely portable. It is easy to convert the policy to a standard UK investment bond. You could even have stayed invested in sterling, but if you had switched to Euro, you can switch back. If the current exchange rate deters you, there is nothing to stop you going back to the UK with your investments still in Euros, to be converted when the rate goes back down (as it surely will).

In part I blame social media for this new type of expat existence. Originally, when you moved abroad, you kept in touch by mail. Good old fashioned post. If something of note happened, either abroad or in the UK, you would write to your family and tell them about it. If it was very urgent, you’d phone, but that was expensive. Nowadays little Jimmy in Tonbridge Wells starts teething and the whole world knows about it in minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete dinosaur when it comes to these matters. I have a Facebook page! But I don’t really know how to use it though. I’ve never found my ‘Wall’, and I’ve never enjoyed being poked. As for Twitter, I’ve never understood the rationale behind it, never mind how to use it. I thought retweeting was military code for a strategic withdrawal.

I suppose it all has its uses, but it makes the world a more volatile place. Sometimes you can just have too much information. Sometimes it’s better to let someone else take over and do ‘stuff’ for you.

Maybe a financial adviser for example…

Offshore Disclosures Facility

By Peter Brooke - Topics: Income Tax, International Bank Accounts, Offshore Disclosures Facility, Residency, Tax, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 25th May 2015

25.05.15

This month I had the opportunity to sit down with Patrick Maflin from Marine Accounts for a Q&A session on the Offshore Disclosures Facility.

Patrick, Firstly what is the Offshore Disclosures Facility?
The Offshore Disclosures facility is an amnesty for UK citizens who have undeclared offshore earnings. It is directly aimed at targeting offshore tax evasion. The G20 have now opted similar schemes such as the Offshore Disclosures Program (ODP) in the US & Project Let’s Do It in Australia.

What is offshore evasion?
Offshore evasion is using another jurisdiction’s systems with the objective of evading UK tax. This includes moving, not declaring or hiding (via complex offshore structures) any income, gains or assets out of the site of HMRC.

When does the amnesty end & what happens if I do not declare?
The UK disclosure facility ends on 30th September 2016. Individuals who choose not to declare their earnings can face fines of up to 200% of the tax evaded and possible imprisonment as it is now a criminal offence. Project Let’s Do It in Australia came to an end in December 2014 and the IRS have not stated when ODP will end.

How can I declare my earnings through the facility and what are the benefits?
UK seafarers can declare their earnings under the Seafarers Earnings Deduction (SED) providing that they spend more than 183 days out of the UK and work onboard a ship. If you declare now before becoming subject to investigation you will not face fines and will not have to pay tax on your earnings. However if you owe tax through work days in the UK or not qualifying for the SED exemption you will only pay 10% on top of your tax bill as opposed to 200%.

What happens if HMRC contact me first?
If they do contact you first you are faced with possibility of a tax investigation into your financial affairs and will not qualify for any penalties at the lowest rates and will have to pay the taxes you owe for up to 20 years. You could also face criminal prosecution.

What if I move my funds to the Cayman Islands, surely it is safe there?
The UK signed ten more automatic exchange agreements in 2014 including many of the classic ‘offshore centres’. The new global standard developed by the OECD has been endorsed by the G20 and now 44 jurisdictions in total. This will lead to greater tax transparency and the ability for governments to clamp down on those who evade tax.

What exactly will the new global exchange mean? What type of information will the G20 access?
The 44 jurisdictions are going to share if you have a bank, investment or custodial account and will be able to see your name, address, account number, balance and income.

When I browse the yachting forums I still see crew asking where the best place is to open an account to avoid paying tax! What do you think of this?
It surprises me that people choose to openly broadcast that they are looking to avoid paying tax and that they believe that today with the open exchange of information that this is still possible and the right course of action.

HMRC contacted over 20,000 people in 2013 about their offshore assets. In 2014 offshore banks in the 44 jurisdictions started collecting information about UK & US residents. This information will reach HMRC by the start of 2016.

Are Offshore accounts still permitted under the Offshore Disclosures Facility?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having offshore accounts & investments as long as you declare the income and gains on your tax return. This is not designed to stop people banking offshore, but to allow individuals to bring their tax affairs up to date if they have worldwide undeclared income. The principle benefits of using an offshore account is currency flexibility.

This article is for information only and should not be considered as advice.

Misinformation, not just a problem for politicians?

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

14.05.15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French social charges on worldwide investment income

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: France, Income Tax, Livret A, Residency, Saving, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 1st April 2015

01.04.15

On 26th February 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) made a very important ruling concerning the application of French social charges (prélèvement sociaux). These charges are levied to fund certain social security benefits in France, as well as the compulsory sickness insurance schemes.

If you are resident in France, you are required to pay the social charges on all your worldwide investment income and gains and the current rate is 15.5%. However, the payment of these social charges does not actually give you any automatic right to French social security benefits and health cover.

In fact, many early retirees have been refused health cover when their Certificate S1, issued by the UK, has expired, if they have not been resident in France for at least five years. Since having adequate health cover is a condition of French residency, such people have either had to work in France – perhaps even setting up their own business – or they have been obliged to take out private health cover.

It is clear that France considers social charges on investment income and gains as an additional tax, rather than a social security contribution, since the payment does not provide any automatic rights to social security benefits and health cover. However, it is the French Code de Sécurité Sociale, rather than the Code Générale des Impôts, which lays down the conditions under which these social charges are payable in France.

Thankfully, the ECJ has reached a different conclusion. In its determination, the ECJ decided that France’s social charges have a sufficient link with the financing of the country’s social security system and benefits. In addition, there should be no distinction made between those charges payable on earnings and those payable on investment income and gains.

EU Regulation 1408/71 deals with the application of social security schemes to people moving within the European Union. The Regulation provides that people should be subject to the social security legislation of only one Member State (except for very limited situations). To have anything different could lead to unequal treatment between Members States and their citizens, which would be contrary to EU principles.

Therefore, for any French resident who is the holder of a Certificate S1 that has been issued by another Member State, this means that he/she is subject to the social security legislation of the issuing State. As such, the ECJ has ruled that France cannot impose an obligation on the person to pay social charges to France, as this would result in them being subject to the social security legislation of more than one Member State. The ECJ has also ruled that this principle applies whether or not the insured person actually pays social security contributions on the income/gains concerned in the Member State that insures the person.

Since 2012, non-residents have also had to pay the social charges on any French property rental income and on any gains arising when they have sold the French property. There is general opinion now that the ECJ ruling should also bring this to an end, at least for residents who are insured in another EU State.

EU legislation overrides the internal legislation of Member States. Notwithstanding this, we will still need to wait for the French government’s response to this ECJ ruling. Arising out of this, if France accepts the ruling, it will need to amend its own internal codes to ensure compliance with the ruling.

In the meantime, taxpayers can make an application for a refund of social charges paid in 2013 and 2014, by filing a claim with their local tax office before 31st December 2015. In addition, taxpayers may also wish to refer to the ECJ ruling when submitting their French tax returns for this year, if they believe that they are affected.

On the subject of French tax returns, these are due by 19th May 2015, if submitting a paper return or if submitting on-line by 26th May 2015 for departments 01 to 19, by 2nd June 2015 for departments 20 to 49 and by 9th June 2015 for other departments. According to the ECB website, the average exchange rate of Sterling to Euros for 2014 is 0.80612.

For those of you who came to live in France during 2014, then you will need to make your first French tax declaration and declare all your worldwide income and gains. This includes income and gains that might be tax-free in another country, for example, UK ISAs, premium bond winnings and Pension Commencement Lump Sums, which are all taxable in France.

Even if the income is taxable in another country, for example a UK government pension and/or UK property rental income, the amount must still be reported in France and it will be taken into account in calculating your French income tax. You will then be given a tax reduction to take into account the fact that the income is taxable elsewhere.

It is also very important to declare the existence of all foreign bank accounts (whatever the amount in the account) and life assurance policies taken out with companies outside of France. Failure to do so can result in a penalty of €1,500 for each undisclosed bank account. However, if the total value of all unreported accounts is €50,000 or more, then the penalty is increased to 5% of the total value of the accounts, if this results in a greater amount. The same penalties also apply for undeclared foreign life assurance contracts.

Pensions – I cannot pass by without saying something on this. I have personally become so fed up with all of the UK changes that I have now taken the decision to transfer all of my own UK pension benefits into a QROPS. I have chosen the well-regulated jurisdiction of Malta and I feel that I am in control of my own retirement planning again. In short, I feel that I will now have a pension for life and not just for Christmas or for the next session of the UK parliament.

With days to go before the reform takes place in the UK, if you are affected, do you understand what this means for you? If not, would you like to have a confidential discussion with me about your situation?

Pensions is one of the major subjects that we are also covering at our client seminars this year, as well as EU Succession Regulations, French taxation, health insurance and currency exchange. We are already taking bookings for Le Tour de Finance 2015 and this is a perfect opportunity to come along and meet industry experts on a broad range of financial matters that are of interest to expatriates. The local events are taking place at:

Perpignan – 19th May

Bize-Minervois – 20th May

Montagnac – 21st May

Le Tour de Finance is an increasingly popular event and early booking is recommended. So if you would like to attend one of these events, please contact me to reserve your places.

Whether or not you are able to come to one of our events, if you would like to have a confidential discussion about pensions, investments and/or inheritance planning, using tax-efficient solutions, please contact me either by telephone on 04 68 20 30 17 or by e-mail at daphne.foulkes@spectrum-ifa.com.

Residency and Tax Residency in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Income Tax, Italy, Residency, Tax, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 24th March 2015

24.03.15

2012 was a turning point in Italian politics and the way that we, as expats, live and could continue to live in Italy.  It was the start of the New Norm (as I like to call it).

It started with the moment when Berlusconi was ousted as Premier and was swiftly followed by the non-elected Mario Monti. What was once accepted as the norm suddenly went under the spotlight. This was seen most dramatically in new tax legislation imposed on domestic and foreign assets and incomes and the sudden drive to track down and prosecute tax offenders.

There was no longer the option to live between two residencies, but the subject became much more matter of fact (see rules below for details)

It made a lot of expats question what their Italian residency meant since residency, by definition, means you are subject to Italian tax law.  For some the additional financial burden was unaffordable.  For the majority it was period of consolidation, understanding their tax reporting liabilities and looking at ways that they could plan more effectively to live in the country in which they wished to remain.

It is at this point that you may need to ask yourself the question:

What are the rules determined by Italian authorities in relation to being a resident or not?

Well, the law is clear, as follows:

An individual is considered resident for tax purposes if, for most of the calendar year (i.e. 183 days) he/she is:

*  registered with the Registry of the Resident Population (Anagrafe)

*  or has his/her residence or his/her domicile in the territory of the Italian state, as defined by Section 43 of the Italian Civil code.

According to Section 43 of the Italian Civil Code:

*  The place of residence is taken to be the place where the individual has habitual abode.
*  The place of domicile is taken to be individual’s principal place of business and interests.

In fact, residency has never been a choice. It has always been a matter of fact and a tax agency would always see it that way. If you spend the majority of time in Italy then you will be deemed tax resident as defined by the rules above.

Obvious problems occur when well-meaning estate agents suggest that you purchase your house in Italy as a resident to pay the lower VAT rate of 2% on the value of the property, versus 9% as a non-resident. But this in itself then determines that a tax return is required.  If you then decide that non residency is preferable there is the question of having to pay back the difference.

The key, as always, is in the planning. 

If you are a holiday home owner then you should rarely take residency if your clear intention is to maintain your principal residence elsewhere.

But if you want to enjoy Italy all year round and pay the lower rate of VAT on the property purchase, benefit from the good health care system, be able to buy a car here (non-residents cannot purchase a car legally in Italy), and benefit from lower utility rates then residence is required and certain legal obligations apply.

As I always say, you will pay more tax by living in Italy versus other Northern European countries and the USA.  How can we expect to pay the same for all this sunshine?!! But a rural life, for example, should see your costs fall and maybe, like me, you are searching for the lifestyle that Italy offers.

Despite all this and having lived in Italy for years, I can tell you that there are tax-reduction and financial planning strategies that can lighten the burden somewhat.  I should know!  I was the naive foreigner who moved to Italy looking for ‘La Dolce Vita’ and didn’t pay much attention to the complicated financial and legal systems here. I failed to plan adequately and have had to pay the tax man for it.   But failure to plan sharpened my senses and I now aim to help others not to fall into the same traps.

Income Tax Rates in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Income Tax, Italy, Residency, Tax, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 23rd March 2015

23.03.15

You may wonder what is so significant about the number 28000 in Italy. Well, I will enlighten you in a moment.

The majority of expats I meet who decide to relocate to Italy are either Northern European or from Anglo Saxon’ countries (certainly those of you reading this E-zine) searching for some hot weather or wishing to sample the Mediterranean lifestyle. Whatever the motivations, it doesn’t really matter! Money-matters are the purpose of this E-zine.

It is often the case (but not always) that countries in the North of Europe and the USA have financial systems which encourage saving in tax-incentivised pensions, in savings or in retirement plans. Equally they often have preferential tax rates to encourage businesses/entrepreneurs to prosper in their early years when revenues are lower. The simple idea being that if you are incentivised to make provision for yourself and/or invest back into your business, then you will be less of a burden on the state in the future. Selling a business can also act as a kind of pseudo retirement plan in itself. This means that you lock a large part of your life savings into schemes/businesses which will provide you with an income later on in life. This would seem to be a sensible strategy for both government and individuals.

The problem we have is that when you move to Italy, there are few incentives to prepare for your future in the same way. In fact, the Government takes control of the majority of your life savings (either through INPS or other mandatory pension contributions) under which you have little or no control. In addition, there are few non-taxable income allowances which have the effect of reducing disposable income for individuals and reducing capital available for reinvestment just when a business needs it the most (more on tax rates in a moment).

My interpretation of this mechanism (I am sure there are much more complex political and social issues at hand here but I am merely trying to simplify elements of the system which affect you and I) is that by locking future savings into Government controlled systems, ie. INPS, the Government can charge income tax on these monies as “earned income” in the future and hence the Government provides itself with a guaranteed income stream on which it can calculate future spending plans (dubiously…. one might add)!

Which brings me on to income tax rates in Italy and the significance of 28000…

For expats in Italy, income tax is mainly applied to the following incomes:

  • Gross income from employment
  • Gross Pension income in Italy and from overseas
  • Net rental income from overseas property
  • 72% of dividends from Ltd. Company ownership

Now, in my experience, a lot of expats living in Italy have a property in their home country which they are renting out, have income from pensions or employment in their country of origin and, in some cases (but not many), are taking dividends from a Limited company which they may own abroad.

The financial planning issue here is that when all of these are added together they can often start to breach the higher levels of income tax (IRPEF) in Italy. The rates being as follow:

EUR 0 – 15,000      23%
EUR 15,001 – 28,000      27%
EUR 28,001 – 55,000      38%

And so on…

And here lies the significance of 28000 in Italy.

The average income tax rate on income below €28,000 per annum GROSS is approximately 25%.  This would seem reasonable but there are no non-taxable income tax allowances and so therefore tax starts from Euro Number 1. Once you start to breach the 28,000 EUR GROSS band and enter the more punishing 38% income tax band (if you add on regional taxes and others), then you are realistically into 40-42% on income over EUR 28,000 p.a.

So what is the solution? 

Well, once again it all comes down to the planning.

The first and most obvious solution is to spread your income. Where possible, spread your income as a couple – for example, putting houses into joint names and spreading the income tax burden. By spreading the income you are moving a part of it into a partner’s tax bracket. If one of you has a lower taxable income than the other, then it makes sense to utilise some of the lower earning partner’s income tax bands.

Also, think about how you might be able to release money from pensions. As a resident in the UK, you can withdraw 25% of a pension plan tax free. It makes sense to do that before you move. That same withdrawal as a tax resident in Italy would be considered taxable income and added to your other incomes in that year.

In the UK (from April 2015) and in the USA you may be able to cash in some or all of your retirement plan. This particular scenario might be more complicated if there is a tax charge involved, but if you are serious about planning to reduce tax liabilities in Italy, then taking a lower tax charge in your home country before you move might be better than being subject to higher ongoing income tax rates in Italy (This would need serious consideration before a decision were made, but it could be a possibility).

And lastly, move as much of your money to unearned income sources, ie. income from directly held investments/savings. In this way you are subject to a flat tax of only 26% on the capital gains and/or the income from those investments.

As a general rule if you can split a couples’ income, generate income from investments (not from retirement plans), and some from property rental you can bring your overall tax rate down to approximately 26-30%. A level which I think is more acceptable to most (a lot depends on your income requirements as well).

Of course, I have simplified the situation here and everyone’s circumstances are different, but the methodology is the same. How can you take advantage of the lowest tax rates possible by restructuring and spreading your finances to make them more effective in Italy?

Which brings me nicely back to my initial point:  The magic number is EUR28,000.

Italy does not, presently, seem to incentivise its residents to invest in long term retirement savings plans (in fact, in the Legge di Stabilita 2015 they are discussing taxing them even more!) and so a move to Italy breaks with Anglo Saxon/Northern European mentality, when thinking about how to plan for the future. Some of the best laid long-term plans can be scuppered when those decisions include a move to another country with a financial system based on totally different principles and systems.

If you plan on waiting for tax reductions or the EU to force changes, you could be waiting a long time. Planning your way around the system/s seems to be the optimum choice rather than waiting for the Government to do anything about it for you.

If you are already a resident in Italy and want to plan more effectively or are considering moving and wondering how you might plan things before you arrive, you can contact me directly on Tel: +39 333 649 2356, or please use the form below.

Living in France with assets in Sterling

By Rob Hesketh - Topics: Currencies, France, Investments, Residency, Uncategorised, wealth management
This article is published on: 19th March 2015

19.03.15

Last month I ended my article with the following paragraph:  Clients who have Sterling assets do not need to convert them to Euro to make use of the products available to them outside the UK.  Those clients who have transferred their assets in Sterling are most probably quite pleased that they did not convert, but what about now?  What if we hit 1.40, or 1.45?  For my money the only way is down from there, back to my preferred levels.  If we do get to 1.40, I will certainly be looking long and hard at my Sterling funds, with my finger hovering over the deal button.

Well, it did indeed happen, and as I write this sterling is worth over 1.40 Euro.  Did my finger hover over the ‘deal’ button?  Yes it did.  Did I press that button?  No I didn’t.  I need to make two things perfectly clear here.  Firstly, what I’m about to type must not be regarded as advice.  I’m just telling you what thought process I went through.  Secondly, we’re not talking mega bucks (or pounds) here, certainly not for the meagre amount that is lurking in our one and only UK bank account anyway.

It’s quite difficult to express the reason for not changing that sterling into Euro, but I’ll give it a go, at the risk of sounding somewhat deranged. Every one of my pounds somehow feels to me to be worth more than €1.40.  That is of course irrational.  Anyone who thinks the true rate should be in the region of 1.25 should bite the hand off anyone who offers him 1.40 or better.  Yet I didn’t want to do it; I just couldn’t bring myself to sell my shiny £1 coins in exchange for what looks like a bunch of supermarket trolley tokens.  Immediate apologies to ‘le Tresorie’ at this point.  I suspect that part of me is being a bit greedy looking for a Euro collapse, but would that necessarily persuade me?  Potentially not.  The weaker a currency becomes, the less inclined I might be to buy it.  In essence, I think I’m more likely to buy Euros at 1.40 when the rate is on its way down than when it’s on the way up.  I did tell you that I used to be a foreign exchange dealer; funny bunch they are.

The other hot topic at the moment is of course pensions.  I know that there is a risk that you might be getting fed up of hearing this, but I am largely opposed to the ‘pension freedom’ that is just around the corner for the UK pension market.  I am opposed to virtually all kinds of tax grabs, and I see this as just another example, albeit dressed up as a fabulous opportunity for the over 55’s  Or maybe that opportunity is for anyone who can take advantage of the over 55’s, including conmen; salesmen, and taxmen.

For me, the writing is on the wall regarding UK based pensions.  They are ‘in play’. Shedding all access restrictions is designed to provide a huge tax income boost for the UK coffers.  If it doesn’t work, they will look for another way to get their hands on our savings.  Even if it does work, there will come a time when more cash is needed to bale out the UK economy.  Pensions will then come under more fire, and more ways will be found to raid the coffers.

I will not be a part of either process.  My pension funds are safely housed away from the UK jurisdiction.  They will be used as pension funds should be used; to provide an income when I retire, whenever that might be.  Hopefully that won’t be any time too soon as I’m enjoying myself too much to stop, but when the time comes I won’t be relying on a UK state pension alone.  That would not be an attractive proposition.

QROPS is an extremely welcome result of the European freedom of movement of capital.  We should all grasp the concept and use it to ring-fence our future incomes.

Are you thinking of moving to France?

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

10.03.15

Question:

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

Answer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whether you want to register for our newsletter, attend one of our road shows, Le Tour de Finance or speak to me directly, please call or email me on the contacts below & I will be glad to help you. We do not charge for reviews, reports or recommendations we provide.

Can You Avoid Spanish Inheritance Tax?

By John Hayward - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Investments, Residency, Saving, Spain, Tax, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 27th February 2015

27.02.15

Savings with UK banks and investment companies could form part of a Spanish Inheritance Tax (IHT) calculation.

If you have money in a Spanish bank, the Spanish tax authorities know about it. If you have money in a UK bank, they probably know about this too due to information passed over by the UK tax authorities. Of course, if you have over €50,000 in a UK bank account you will have reported this to Spain within your Modelo 720 form.

For a Spanish tax resident inheritor, Spanish IHT is due on worldwide assets. Therefore, a Spanish resident wife, inheriting from her husband, could pay tax based on their Spanish property and other Spanish assets PLUS tax on the overseas assets.

The English Will does NOT stop the Spanish tax authorities claiming Spanish IHT (Succession Tax) on overseas assets. The Will governs the distribution of the estate, not its taxation directly.

We can help mitigate, delay and even sometimes completely avoid Spanish IHT by placing money in a Spanish compliant insurance bond based outside Spain. Suitably arranged, the bond could save many thousands of euros in inheritance tax.