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All this talk of a flat tax

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Income Tax, Italy, Retirement, Tax, tax advice, Tax Relief
This article is published on: 8th June 2018

08.06.18

The current political environment in Italy is one which I find very interesting, notably in how it is perceived in foreign media and presented to us through the usual media outlets. In particular, I reference the constant use of the word ‘Populism’ and ‘Populist Government’. I confess that I had to have a quick look at the definition of populism before writing this Ezine and was interested in finding out that the exact defintion, according to Wikipedia, is:

‘Populism is a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against a privileged elite’

I have a confession to make that if I can pick and choose only this broad defintion of Populism then I think I can fit myself into a part of the populist ideal. (Clearly it is more complicated than this but I am merely trying to make my point, and as a regular reader of my E-zine’s you will understand my usual approach!)

However, I think it is worth exploring the idea that the Lega and M5S coalition have put together of a flat tax. Although a flat tax for eveyone, no matter how rich or poor is completely obscene in my opinion the ‘flat tax’, proposals, which will launch at 20% for businesses as of July 1st 2018 and 15% – 20% on 1st Jan 2019 for individuals, assuming the Government holds together, actually make a lot of sense to me.

A radical reform of the Italian income tax system is about to take place, and one which is long overdue in my opinion. Not for any populist reasons, but for more practical reasons which I will expand on below.

The proposed flat tax regime
If you want to have a look at the Contratto per il Governo di Cambiamento, then you can do so HERE. It makes interesting reading, if not full of more blurb than actual facts at this stage. However, its a start.

So, going back to the issue of the flat tax. The proposal, soon to be put into force, is to reform the tax regime into 2 flat tax rates, namely 15% and 20%. This sounds very new and certainly will win a lot of those populist votes. But first let’s take a look at how income is currently spread in Italy and the following chart shows just who it would affect:

It’s quite interesting to note from this chart that 80% of the tax paying population of Italy earn up to €29000. The median declared income is €19000pa. Those may sound strange numbers but when you consider the current Italian tax rates (see chart below), you can start to form an idea that there is probably a little bit of fiddling of the figures. After €28000pa in reddito complessivo the tax rate jumps from 27% to 38%. With this in mind, the proposal of a flat tax could potentially bring in alot of, currently, undisclosed (let’s call it what it really is: ‘in nero’) money to the Government coffers.

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

€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)

How might it work in practice?
The new proposal is to have a flat tax of 15% on a combined ‘reddito famigliare’ of upto €80,000pa. If your ‘reddito famigliare’ is above €80,000pa then the flat tax rises to 20%.
A proposed maximum tax of €3000 would apply for every member of the family where they have a individual ‘redditto complessivo’ of no more than €35000pa. This would be limited to families where the ‘redditto famigliare’ is between €35,000- €50,000 pa.

In short, the most generous tax deductions are for those who have a ‘redditto famigliare’ between €40000 and €60000pa.

A straniero example……
This all sounds very exciting and some what overly generous for a country which has historically taxed its citizens up to the eyeballs. However, let’s use an average straniero example to see what difference it would make.

Let’s assume that we have a retired couple, with state pensions (€8000pa each) and private pensions of €18000 and €3000 respectively. They also own a property in their home country which generates a UK income of €8000pa (jointly owned). They have investments and savings, but for the purposes of this example they are not relevant as the proposed measures are for income tax only.

Under the current regime the income of each individual would be subject to taxation.

Spouse 1: €8000 + €3000 + €4000= Total €15000pa The tax rate applicable would be 23% therefore the tax would be €3450

For the purposes of this example I am not including any benefits, or credits that might be avaiable to any one individual or another

Spouse 2: €8000 + €18000 + €4000 = €30000pa Spouse 2 exceeds both band 1 and 2 and will enter the higher rate tax bracket creating a taxable liability of €7720

THE TOTAL INCOME TAX BILL WOULD BE: € 11170 per annum

Under the new proposals both spouse 1 and spouse 2 would pay a flat tax of 15% on their combined income , meaning a total tax bill of €6750

A SAVING OF €4420pa

Let’s take a breath and calm down for a moment
So, before we all start getting very excited we all know the Italian Government is not the most coherent at the best of times and we are in an unprecedented era. It may be that this proposal is watered down yet and we get a half way house offer, but I expect that simplification and lower tax rates are on the cards. In the end the country still has to balance the books and attract foreign investment. If they don’t have enough money coming into the Government coffers to keep the system running smoothly (for lack of a better word :0)) then the money will soon dry up and punitive tax rates will have to be imposed to reap that which has been lost.

My soap box moment
And so I move onto my favouritie part of this E-zine. My soap box moment. You see, I have been wanting to write this formally for a long time but never really had the opportunity to do so. I would go on record as saying that I am actually in favour of this radical overhaul of the Italian tax system and whilst I see this proposed flat tax regime as being a little unequally distributed, I do think its necessary and despite what the bankers, economists and bureaucrats tell us, I actually think it would be a good thing for Italy.

The entrepreneurial zone
I have always waxed lyrical that, what I like to call the entrepreneurial zone, in Italy, is completely dead. Any good economics book will tell you that 80% of employment and growth in a society comes from small to medium sized businesses. That is the shop that opens and gets so many customers that they need to employ a young person to manage the business in the mornings, or a new online business which grows rapidly and needs to employ 5 new people to manage operations. It’s worth repeating that 80% of growth in an economy and job growth comes from this area. Not the Vodafone’s of this world or the multitude of other multinational businesses that pop up on the high street. It’s the small businesses and one man bands that grow into medium sized firms that cumulatively turn over billions in revenue each year. This is real growth. And this is what Conte ( the new Prime Minister) talked about in his first address to Parliament when he said that he wanted Italy to grow its way out of debt and not have to impose more austerity. He is absolutely right. The economics speak for themselves.

Which brings me back to the entrepreneurial zone. This is the area which I think is the most important. To take a business from nothing: an idea, a start up, to revenue of €50,000 each year and onto €250,000 each year you need incentive. It is in the Governments’ interest to incentivize you because you are going to employ the people and pay the taxes that will contribute towards 80% of the running of that country. And from there you may have the skills to turn that business in a multi million euro revenue business employing hundreds of people and contributing back even more into the running of the society. The problem with Italy is that after €28000pa in revenue they effectively chop you off at the knees (the tax rates rise astronomically + there is the dreaded social security contributions to pay. INPS) and let you see if you can hobble along and survive whilst they come running after you to chop off your arms, and then take the rest. It’s like being chased by a mad axe man without your legs and seeing if you can hobble faster than he can catch up with you before he hacks the rest off. It just doesn’t work. In my opinion, this is one of the main problems in Italy and why I think both Di Maio and Salvini have got the right idea when it comes to taxation. (The rest of their policies are open to debate, although some of those also have a lot of merit!)).

I am reminded of the conversations I regularly have with clients who recount stories of their children who set up businesses in Italy and either struggle on barely being able to keep the businesses afloat and or eventually closing down. A young business needs all the revenue it can get in that ‘ entrepreneurial zone’, that area between €0 and €100,000 pa. If a business is going well most of that income is going to be re-invested anyway and used to employ people or purchase goods and services. Europe has to support Italy at this time and allow that zone to flourish and provide opportunities to young and old entrepreneurs alike.

So who is responsible for change
There is always a counter argument for every case and clearly in this case, given the cultural back drop to Italy’s tax collection issues there will be economists who will argue that if income tax revenue were to drop drastically by lowering rates so much then how will Italy, ‘The State’, balance its books, after all there is nothing to say that people will suddenly start declaring all their income because the tax rate is more favourable. That is why the proposed tax regime has to be followed by some hardline clampdowns on tax evasion. Otherwise, it just won’t work.

I am going to follow these proposals closely, and feed back to you, to keep you abreast of any legislation changes. (Watch out for the summer months as they like to slip new laws in whilst everyone is on holiday). I am completely in favour of a total overhaul of the Italian tax system and dispute what the media, economists, and supposed experts say (I sound like a Brexiteer). I think drastically cutting tax rates in Italy, whilst having a short term impact on Government revenue would attract foreign investment in droves ( I mean if you had the chance to set up a factory in Huddersfield or one in Umbria, which would you choose?), it could increase investment rapidly, create jobs, create subsidiary businesses servicing the bigger ones, incentivize larger business to relocate because of the tax rates and could create a new economic boom for Italy. That being said, if it isn’t put into place with some heavy Governmental supervision then it could all fall apart and Italy’s days in Europe would be numbered. And therein seems to be the folly of the whole idea. Europe, whilst I love the European project dearly, has not treated countries like Italy favourably and should it continue on its current path without allowing any kind of change and only implementing austerity, then the likelihood is that Italy would eventually decide to Italexit.

Government has to lead
Italy, like any government around the world has to take the lead in forcing through sensible change. The young business people I know who are barely making ends meet are never going to fully declare every euro they earn when they have families to feed, medical treatments to take care of and childrens schooling costs to pay. And given the choice of making a ‘few’ euros ‘in nero’ and being able to look after the family versus paying into a corrupt state which merely extracts the money from you by osmosis for its own nefarious means, the choice is simple. Most families, if not all, will take that risk. They just have to. Or they move abroad!

So I am in favour of Di Maio and Salvini’s tax plans. I hope they manage to find a solution that will help everyone, mainly the poor and the entrepreneurs who want to prosper but don’t have the ability to do so because of draconian tax measures which should have been ditched long ago. It won’t be an easy ride, but I hope it’s a success. And in the end, should it pay off it may just keep Europe together. Can you imagine Di Maio and Salvini going down in the history books as the saviours of Europe!

(You don’t need to write to tell me that my artistic licence has been abused in this article, just enjoy and let’s see what happens. I, for one, am moderately positive about the future if they can bring about positive change in the tax system in the way in which they are proposing to do).

Given the proposed changes in taxes in Italy, it will be an important time to take a look at your own tax and financial planning arrangements and make sure that they are as tax efficient as possible.

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

How Do I Find My Pension?

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Pensions, Retirement, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 19th April 2018

19.04.18

I have been asked this question, more than once. Some clients are embarrassed to ask. Others have simply lost sight of their pension for one reason or another and have no idea how to track it (or them) down.

Why am I telling you this? Well, recently the UK Government announced that there is over £400 million of lost pensions sitting with various pension and insurance companies in the UK – left behind by former employees who have either moved abroad, are unaware that they had a pension (it’s more common than you would think), or simply have not kept track of their pension. In fact, figures show that four out of five people will lose track of at least one pension over the course of a lifetime.

How can this happen?
It is surprisingly easy for people to lose track of their pension(s). Firstly, because people frequently move around for work. As the former Minister for Pensions, Baroness Ros Altmann said:

“People have had on average 11 jobs during their working life which can mean they have as many work place pensions to keep track of…”

That’s a lot of paperwork to keep on top of and to be fair, most people will only really think of their pensions when they are close to retirement. Which brings me to the second point.

We can and do lose contact with the companies which administer our pensions. The most common reason for this is that pension and insurance companies have merged, and hence brand names have disappeared. For example, a company called Phoenix Life owns more than 100 old pension funds. Its list includes schemes from Royal & Sun Alliance, Scottish Mutual, Alba Life, Pearl Assurance, Britannia Life and Scottish Provident. This invariably leads to a lot of frustrated people looking for their money. It will perhaps surprise you that neither the Association of British Insurers nor the Financial Conduct Authority have a comprehensive list of which company owns which funds.

OK, how can I track down my pension?
Glad you asked. We can help with that, of course. We would need as much information from you as possible which, depending on the type of pension, would include:

Personal Pension

  • The name and address of the pension scheme (you may find that this has changed)
  • The bank, building society or insurance company that recommended or sold the scheme
  • Policy/NI Number

Work Pension

  • The company you worked for and if they have changed names/address since you left
  • Dates you worked there
  • When you started contributing to the scheme and when you finished
  • Employee/NI number

Obviously, the more information that you can provide, the easier it will be to locate your money. However, we will work with what you’ve got to explore all possible options.

Some companies are more efficient and responsive than others when it comes to handling enquiries on historic pensions, even when the original policy documentation is available. It can take years to locate and recover lost funds. You can fight the battle yourself; or we can pursue on your behalf until we get a satisfactory outcome.

Another reason to review your work pension(s) is that transfer values for defined benefit, or final salary, schemes are at record highs. Depending on the company, valuations are higher than most people anticipate. For example, a pension projected to pay £8,000 per year could have a transfer value of over £285,000, well in excess the average house value in the UK!

I’ve got my pension(s). What next?
Depending on your age and circumstances, transferring an existing pension into a new scheme may be beneficial, including if you have more than one pension. Consolidating existing arrangements removes the need to monitor numerous pensions and, perhaps more importantly, allows you to optimise returns from a single, personalised investment strategy, often with greater flexibility over the timing and amount of payments and in your preferred currency.

Ahead of any potential transfer, the first step is to determine whether a transfer is in your best interests. A responsible adviser will always complete a detailed and objective review of your current position and plans. A transfer may not be appropriate, for a variety of reasons – for example if it means the loss of valuable guaranteed benefits – so it is essential to consult only a suitably authorised, qualified and experienced adviser. A proper assessment will enable you to make an informed decision on whether a transfer is best for you.

If you do proceed with a transfer, as part of the exercise you should also expect ongoing advice on matters such as investment performance and outlook, together with guidance on the suitability of the scheme following, or ahead of, a change in your circumstances.

For help with locating and reviewing your UK pension(s), please contact me either by email emeka.ajogbe@spectrum-ifa.com or phone: +32 494 90 71 72.

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

Pension Healthcheck – Tips and Advice for 2018

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, pension transfer, Pensions, QROPS, Retirement, spain
This article is published on: 2nd March 2018

02.03.18

Whether you are thinking about the amount of pension you want in the future or are approaching retirement, a pension health check might be the answer you are looking for. With the UK government bringing in autoenrolment (the process by where companies who employ at least 1 person have to make sure they save into a pension) which has been massively successful, it is clear that as the years go by and with people living longer, it is more important than ever to save for the future. A pension healthcheck is your chance to ask general questions, be proactive and start planning for your retirement. Every year that you don’t start a pension, the amount of money that you will require becomes a lot more expensive for you to achieve, due to the effects of compound growth.

The UK population is projected to continue growing, reaching over 74 million by 2039. It is also getting older with 18% aged 65 and over and 2.4% aged 85 and over. In 2016 there were 285 people aged 65 and over for every 1,000 people aged 16 to 64 years (“traditional working age”). Years ago, people generally retired at 55 and perhaps lived until 66/67 meaning 12 years of retirement income. Now, retirement starts at 60/65 and the average life expectancy is Europe is around 85. So mathematically, you can see the issue, which is why 89% of final salary pension schemes in the UK are financially in trouble: their calculations were not initiated on this model of retirement and life expectancy.

Are pensions the answer?
This is debatable for many circumstances, particularly in Spain where you do not receive tax relief on large pension contributions. Many years ago it was different, when you could put tens of thousands of pounds into a pension and receive tax relief, or a company paid into it for you. However, in today’s world most people don’t fall under this scenario.

What IS the answer to retirement planning?
Make sure any assets you own work for you, including rental properties, investments, inheritances or money saved regularly. Yes, you can receive tax relief on money you save into a pension purse, however, this money is usually blocked (except in the case of critical illness or disability) until you are allowed to have it and has to always act like a pension, i.e. less flexibility and adhering to pension rules.
Therefore when thinking about retirement you should focus on the following tips to truly give you flexibility, confidence in your retirement and peace of mind:

Maximise Property Assets
If you own property, is it earning you the real value of your money invested in it? For example, a property investor today would usually want to receive a 7% return on their investment to make it worth their while:

Annual rent of property: €15,000 pa
Property Value:€300,000
Annual yield:annual rental, divided by property price, x 100 = 5%.

This may or may not take into account any expenses on the property you have. Are you also paying an agency to look after your property? Here are some areas to work on:
Is the rent high enough given the amount of money invested?

Can you reduce the costs of running the property, i.e. maintenance/agency fees? If they have been managing it for a while and there isn’t too much for them to do, ask them to ‘sharpen’ their pencil. More often than not they will, as they won’t want to lose the regular income you provide them.

Investments/stocks/shares/funds
How are these performing? Dividend paying shares (that is those with the payments /bonuses given to you, reinvested) historically are one of the best performing investments (including property).
Are they outperforming the markets, or being managed less erratically? That means not going down as sharply as the markets do and giving a less volatile return, which in turn gives you security of capital invested

The key areas to note here are:

  • Performance
  • Fees
  • Trust in advice given

Pensions
Are you currently saving into a pension and if not, what are you doing instead (as I said above it doesn’t have to be a specific pension purse). Have you accumulated more than one pension, if so what are they all doing, how are they being looked after and where might you be when you retire?

Key points to find out:

  • Details/values/contact details of any pensions you have
  • What are they invested in and how are they performing?
  • What are your options?

When you have gathered all the necessary information (or the advisor can gather this for you with your authority), you can then sit down with a professional and talk through your options and what journey your life might take. You can also look at maximising your National Insurance contributions (a mathematical no brainer in many people’s circumstances, even if you live outside the UK) and planning what you can do to make sure moving forward you are maximising your assets and turning them into a comfortable retirement.

€200,000, achieving a 6% net return over a 27 year period would achieve 1 million Euros…….with good advice, planning and consistent reviews.

Will your pension sustain you through retirement?

By Daphne Foulkes - Topics: France, Pensions, Retirement, State Pensions After BREXIT
This article is published on: 16th February 2018

16.02.18

It is widely known that Europe’s ageing population is a problem for EU Member States. Quite simply, people are living longer and this impacts on the sustainability of State pension systems, referred to as the first pillar. Member States may attempt to address this issue by raising State pension ages and increasing the number of years that people need to qualify for a full State pension. However, this then impacts on the standard of living that retirees can expect to attain, unless additional provision is made.

In some Member States, employees may benefit from occupational pension schemes that are sponsored by their employer. These are known as second pillar schemes and if a promise of a defined benefit pension related to salary and service is on the horizon, then this is highly advantageous. However, employers too are feeling the strain of funding such promises and so are increasingly closing defined benefit schemes and putting in place alternative defined contribution plans. There is no benefit promise and the employee will get whatever the eventual ‘pension pot’ purchases. In short, the risk of meeting the target benefit is passed on to the employee.

Third pillar pensions are also ‘money purchase’ and these sit on top of the first and second pillars. Voluntary by nature, these plans can make the difference between a comfortable or a poor retirement. Such additional pensions may also provide a ‘bridge’ to State retirement pension commencement, if the benefits can be accessed before the State retirement age. However, without appropriate and regulated advice, the saver may find out all too late that their aspirations for a financially secure retirement are not met. Saving sufficient amounts and investing the monies wisely are both essential requirements, but so too is taking advice.

Pension entitlement is a complicated subject. Regular reviews with the adviser should be carried out to check that the ‘pension pot’ is on target to achieve objectives. Generic on-line advice is unlikely to be enough, particularly if the person has accumulated several ‘pension pots’. Moreover, if a person has had a cross-border career, how does the ‘pension pot’ acquired in one State dovetail with one in another State? How are the State pensions earned in each Member State impacted by the EU State pension co-ordination rules? How do the diverse tax rules across Member States affect the outcome for the saver? These are just a few of many questions that should be addressed by the adviser – a robot cannot do this!

In June last year, the European Commission launched its proposal for a Regulation on a pan-European Personal Pension Product (PEPP), as a third pillar pension. In States where the first and second pillar systems are not well-developed, the PEPP may offer a solution for citizens who may be facing a poorer retirement. In other States, the PEPP should provide more choices to its citizens.

Whilst the PEPP initiative is welcomed, the Regulation as drafted, already presents some barriers to becoming a successful cross-border pension arrangement. The PEPP has the potential to contribute to the Capital Markets Union, but only if the barriers are overcome. Regulatory and fiscal rules diverge between the 28 Member States and so pragmatism and co-operation are needed to reach a solution. If the tax incentives are insufficient, and subject to change after an arrangement has commenced or even harmonised, the PEPP is unlikely to succeed.

The PEPP Regulation proposes a limited number of investment strategies be made available by PEPP providers. This includes a “safe investment option”, as a default option, which should provide a capital guarantee. The merit in capital guarantees for pension products is questionable, as these are expensive to provide. The result being that to support the capital guarantee (if in fact a real guarantee can be provided – and by what institution?), this would require low-yielding investments and consequently at retirement, the capital may be insufficient to provide an adequate level of income to supplement other pensions. Thus, the reference to a “safe investment strategy” could be misleading to the saver.

However, rather alarming is the proposal that the PEPP saver can waive the right to receive advice, if he/she selects the default investment option. It is arguable that PEPPs should not be sold on a non-advised basis, even in these circumstances. The Regulation as currently drafted could lead to the saver losing purchasing power, since an obligation to provide inflation-proofing has not been included.

Furthermore, the impact of national pension entitlements, varying decumulation options and retirement ages, particularly if the PEPP saver has cross-border accumulated benefits, strengthens the need for the PEPP saver to receive appropriate professional advice. Hopefully, the European Commission will also come to this conclusion.

This article was published on The European Federation of Financial Advisers and Financial Intermediaries website
Daphne Foulkes is a Board Member of the FECIF

Is your Pension close to the UK Lifetime Allowance?

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Lifetime Allowance, pension transfer, Pensions, QROPS, Retirement, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 6th October 2017

06.10.17

With careful planning you can avoid the penal 55pc tax hit on pensions valued at more than £1 million

To find out how to avoid penal taxation on larger pension pots contact your local Spectrum adviser to arrange a free, no obligation consultation.

Lifetime allowance (LTA): what does it mean for your pension?

  • You need to monitor how much you’re putting into your pension funds and how well your investments are performing. Money held in a personal pension, including workplace schemes and SIPPs, Final Salary pensions, all count towards the limit, but the state pension doesn’t
  • If you have a defined contribution scheme or a SIPP the total fund value is assessed against the limit. This will be tested when a Benefit Crystallisation Event (BCE) arises. There are 13 different BCE’s. However the most common would be taking your PCLS, buying an annuity, transferring to a QROPS, reaching age 75, death etc. Each time an event occurs your pension is tested against the LTA limit
  • Generally if your final salary pension is worth more than £50,000 a year you’ll be over the £1m lifetime allowance
  • If you have a mixture of pensions, with benefits taken at different times, then it can get quite complicated to work out, how much LTA was used when and how much you have going forward
  • The LTA excess charge is 55% if the excess is taken as a lump sum and 25% if it is taken as an income. (If taken as income then the net amount is then subject to income tax at the members highest marginal rate, which usually works out to be a total tax of around 55% in total)
  • There are certainly very good ways to reduce the potential LTA liability in the future. This could include applying for protection to increase the LTA limit, however there are restrictions to apply
  • Furthermore if you live abroad there could be other options with International Pensions, such as QROPS, to help reduce or remove future liabilities
  • With our pensions specialists we are able to review your pensions, work out your current situation and then work out clearly your current situation and what the best way forward to help minimise any future tax liability with your pension

Planning to retire to France – don’t get caught in the tax trap!

By Sue Regan - Topics: Assurance Vie, France, Pensions, QROPS, Retirement, Tax
This article is published on: 18th September 2017

18.09.17

Retiring to France can be dream come true for many people. The thought of that ‘place in the sun’ motivates us to save as much as we can whilst we are working. If we can retire early – so much the better!

In the excitement of finding ‘la belle maison’ in ‘le beau village’, we really don’t want to think about some of the nasty things in life. I am referring to death and taxes. We can’t avoid these and so better to plan for the inevitable. Sadly, some people do not plan before making the move to France and only realise this mistake when it is too late to turn the clock back.

For example, investments that are tax-free in your home country will not usually be tax-free in France. This includes UK cash ISAs and premium bond winnings, as well as certain other National Savings Investments, all of which would be taxable in France. So too would dividends, even if held within a structure that is tax-efficient elsewhere. All of these will be subject to French income tax at your marginal rate (ranging from 0% to 45%) plus social contributions, currently 15.5%.

Gains arising from the sale of shares and investment funds will be liable to capital gains tax. The taxable gain, after any applicable taper relief, will be added to other taxable income and taxed at your marginal rate. Social contributions are charged on the full gain.

If you receive any cash sum from your retirement funds, for example, the Pension Commencement Lump Sum from UK pension funds, this would be taxed in France. The amount will be added to your other taxable income or under certain conditions, it can be taxed at a fixed rate of 7.5%. Furthermore, if France is responsible for the cost of your healthcare, you will also pay social contributions, currently around 7.4%.

Distributions received from a trust would also be taxed in France and there is no distinction made between capital and income – even if you are the settlor of the trust.

As a resident in another country, it would be natural for you to take advantage of any tax-efficiency being offered in that jurisdiction, as far as you can reasonably afford. So it is logical that you would do the same in France.

Happily, France has its own range of tax-efficient savings and investments. However, some planning and realisation of existing investments is likely to be needed before you become French resident, if you wish to avoid paying unnecessary taxes after becoming French resident.

I mentioned death above and as part of the tax-efficient planning for retirement, inheritance planning should not be overlooked. France believes that assets should pass down the bloodline and children are ‘protected heirs’, so they are treated more favourably than surviving spouses. Therefore, action is needed to protect the survivor, but this could come at a cost to the children – particularly step-children – in terms of the potential inheritance tax bill for them.

Whilst there might be a certain amount of ‘freedom of choice’ for some expatriate French residents, as a result of the introduction of the EU Succession Rules, this only concerns the possibility of being able to decide who you wish to leave your estate to and so will not get around the potential French inheritance tax bill, which for step-children would still be 60%. Therefore, inheritance planning is still needed and a good notaire can advise you on the options open to you relating to property.

For financial assets, fortunately there are easier solutions already existing and investing in assurance vie is the most popular choice for this purpose. Conveniently, this is also the solution for providing personal tax-efficiency for you. There is a range of French products available, as well as international versions. In the main, the international products are generally more suited to expatriates as a much wider choice of investment options is available (compared to the French equivalent), as well as a range of currency options (including Sterling, Euros and USDs).

If possible, you should seek independent financial planning advice before making the move to France. A good adviser will be able to carry out a full financial review and identify any potential issues. This will give you the opportunity to take whatever action is necessary to avoid having to pay large amounts of tax to the French government, after becoming resident.

Even if you have already made the move to France, it may still worth seeking advice, particularly if you are suffering the effects of high taxation on your investment income and gains or you are concerned about the potential inheritance taxes for your family. A full review of your personal and financial situation enables us to identify any issues and recommend solutions that will meet your long-term goals and objectives.

The above outline is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action on the subject of investment of financial assets or on the mitigation of taxes.

Update – Le Tour de Finance, Domaine Gayda, 6th October 2017
This year’s event is now fully subscribed but we are keeping a reserve list in case of any cancellations, so please let me know if you would like to be added to the list. Alternatively, if you would like to have a confidential discussion about your financial situation, please contact me either by e-mail at sue.regan@spectrum-ifa.com or by telephone on 04 67 24 90 95.

The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter

EU Pension Transfer from the EU Institutions – It is EUr money

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, EU Pension Transfer, France, Luxembourg, pension transfer, Retirement, Switzerland
This article is published on: 15th August 2017

15.08.17

Have you ever worked for any of the below institutions for less than 10 years? Go ahead, and have a look:

• European Commission
• European Council
• European Parliament
• EEAS
• European Court of Justice
• Eurocontrol

If yes, then carrying on reading this article, as an EU Pension Transfer will definitely be of interest to you. If not, then you’ll probably want to stop reading, unless you know someone in the aforementioned position.

To Whom It May Concern, if you have worked for less than 10 years at the EU Institutions (and have left), you will not have qualified for the gold plated, much coveted, EU Pension. I say much coveted, as no one is really making pensions like them anymore; as they are very, very expensive for the employer to maintain. Yet, they can be very, very good for you, the employee. Anyway, I digress. That is for another article.

As you will know by now, you have to work at the EU Institutions for at least 10 years (this can be interrupted, as long as the total is 10 years) before you qualify for the pension. If you leave before that time, then you are eligible for a severance grant which you can transfer into a scheme that has been approved by the EU. As it states in the EU Staff Regulations handbook:

“An official aged less than the pensionable age whose service terminates otherwise than by reason of death or invalidity and who is not entitled to an immediate or deferred retirement pension shall be entitled on leaving the service:

a. where he has completed less than one year’s service and has not made use of the arrangement laid down in Article 11(2), to payment of a severance grant equal to three times the amounts withheld from his basic salary in respect of his pension contributions, after deduction of any amounts paid under Articles 42 and 112 of the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants;

b. in other cases, to the benefits provided under Article 11(1) or to the payment of the actuarial equivalent of such benefits to a private insurance company or pension fund of his choice, on condition that such company or fund guarantees that:

I. the capital will not be repaid;
II. a monthly income will be paid from age 60 at the earliest and age 66 at the latest;
III. provisions are included for reversion or survivors’ pensions;
IV. transfer to another insurance company or other fund will be authorised only if such fund fulfils the conditions laid down in points I, II and III.”

The last 4 points are the most important to note as your money will not be transferred unless the approved receiving organisation adheres to those criteria.

WHY WOULD I TRANSFER?
Essentially, you have to, unless you like losing large sums of money. If you have not transferred by the time you have reached pensionable age, then your money disappears and is absorbed by the EU. If you die before you claim your money, then it is also lost. It will not be transferred to any beneficiaries as it is not a pension. When you leave, the amount that you leave behind is frozen and only increases at a very low interest rate; no further contributions are made on your behalf. So moving it when you leave allows you the opportunity to invest it into funds that could grow your money substantially over the years (depending on how close you are to retirement). For example, if you left the institutions at 40 years old, you would have at least 25 more years to grow your money. If you leave earlier, then you would have longer.

Moving it would also allow you better protect your financial future, make provisions for your partner or dependents/beneficiaries. It can be of benefit even if you decide to return to the EU Institutions.

There may be circumstances where it is not appropriate for you to transfer the money at that time, your particular situation will be evaluated by our pension specialist who will compile a report detailing the appropriateness of the potential transfer.

SOUNDS GREAT! WHAT NEXT?
We will conduct an evaluation of your situation and also the accumulation of your money at the EU. Once we have confirmed and agreed with you that transferring out is the right option for you, we will work with an approved provider to who complies with the requirements as stated above who will help set up your new pension. Then, as part of our ongoing service, we will review your pension and personal circumstances every quarter to ensure that you are always updated with the latest information. Even if you move countries, our service will continue.

We have established contacts with case handlers in the Office for the Administration and Payment of Individual Entitlements (the department responsible for calculating and transferring your money), and have developed the knowledge and expertise to ensure a smooth transfer, putting you in control of your money and helping you make the right decisions, as and when they are needed.

So, if you have no longer work for the EU Institutions and have less than 10 years’ service, you don’t like losing large sums of money, wish to protect your financial future, and potentially provide for your dependents/beneficiaries, then contact me either by email: emeka.ajogbe@spectrum-ifa.com or phone: +32 494 90 71 72 to see whether an EU Pension Transfer is suitable for you.