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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 Spectrum IFA - 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.

What can I do to minimise any potential impacts of a tough Brexit process?

By Amanda Johnson - Topics: Article 50, Assurance Vie, BREXIT, Company Pension Schemes, Defined benefit pension scheme, Final Salary Pension, final salary schemes, France, QROPS, Retirement, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 11th May 2017

11.05.17

This is a question many expatriates are mulling over, now positioning for the upcoming negotiations has started. First and foremost, I remind my customers that the process to leave the EU is widely anticipated to take the full two years set out in article 50, so the only immediate areas people should focus on are changes in the U.K. and French budgets.

As the negotiations progress however, there are steps you can take which will ensure that any effects to you are minimised:

  1. Does your adviser work for a French registered company, regulated in France?

Working with adviser who operates and is regulated already under French finance laws means that any change in the UK’s ability for financial passporting will not affect you.

  1. Is your Assurance Vie held in an EU country, not part of the U.K.?

Again, any issues the U.K. may have to solve regarding passporting are negated by ensuring your Assurance Vie is already domiciled in another EU country.

  1. Have you reviewed any U.K. Company pension schemes you hold, which are due to mature in the future?

The recent U.K. Budget saw the government levy a new tax on people moving their pensions to countries outside the EU. There is no certainly that this tax will not be extended to EU countries once the U.K. has left the union.

The process of leaving the EU is very much unchartered waters and whilst I certainly do not recommend anyone acts hastily, a review of your financial position in the next few months may avoid future headaches.

Whether you want to register for our newsletter, attend one of our road shows 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.

Keeping On Track

By Chris Webb - Topics: Estate Planning, Financial Planning, Madrid, Pensions, Retirement, Saving, wealth management
This article is published on: 5th May 2017

05.05.17

Speaking with my many clients one of the most talked about topics is “I wish I had done something sooner” or “I wish I had put a plan in place”.

All too often in our younger years we race through the nitty-gritty details of our finances and neglect to focus on crucial “future proofing” in the process. In our 20’s we tend to spend, spend, spend. In our 30’s we try to save, but starting a family or purchasing property make it difficult. In our 40’s we’re still suffering the hangover from our 30’s and inevitably the work required to provide for your financial future becomes increasingly harder.

But if you adopt a marathon approach to money (opposed to a sprint – see my article on this topic), it can allow you to take a more holistic look at your overall financial picture and see how decisions that you make in your 20s and 30s can impact your 40s, 50s and into your retirement years.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, being financially healthy boils down to two things. The level of debt you have and the level of savings/investments you have. The only real difference is how you approach both subjects, as this will change with age .

Tips in your 20’s

1. Debt – Loans And Cards
It’s easy to think that making the minimal payments and delaying paying them off, to save more, is a good idea, but this strategy rarely works. The more you make the more you tend to spend, so getting round to clearing off these debts never comes any closer. As you go through the 20’s cycle, additional costs will start being considered, like starting a family or purchasing a house therefore the ability to clear your debts just doesn’t materialise.
This is why now is the time to work on breaking the credit card debt or loan cycle for good.

2. Start An Emergency Fund
While you’re busy paying down your debt, don’t forget that you should always be planning on having a “savings buffer” in the bank. To help accomplish this goal you should transfer funds straight from your “day to day” account into a deposit account. One where your aren’t likely to get access through an ATM which reduces the temptation to spend it on a whim. Ideally, you should aim to have three times your take-home pay saved up in your emergency fund.

3. Contemplate Your Future – Retirement

At this point in your life, retirement is far off, but it can be important to start saving as early as you can. Even small amounts can make a big difference over time, thanks to the effect of compound interest. Start saving a small percentage of your salary now to reap the rewards later in life. See my articles on compound interest and retirement planning to see the difference it can make.

Tips in your 30’s

During this decade, your financial goals are likely to get a bit more complicated. Some people will still be paying off credit card debt and loans, whilst still working on the “emergency account”. So what’s the secret to juggling it all? Rather than focusing on one goal you should be looking at the biggest of your goals, even if there are three or four.

1. Continue Reducing Debt
If you’re still paying down your credit card balances then considering consolidating onto one card with an attractive interest free period should be your first task. Failing that you need to concentrate on the card with the highest interest rate and reduce the balance ASAP. The most important thing to consider with debt is the interest rate, If you have low interest rates (I’d be surprised) then there’s no major rush to pay them off, as you could manage the repayments and contribute to other financial goals at the same time. If your interest rates are quite high then the priority is to clear these debts down.

2. Planning For Kids
Little ones may also be entering the picture, or becoming a frequent conversation. Once this is a part of your life you’ll start thinking about the cost implications as well. Setting aside a small amount of funds now to cater for the ever increasing costs of bringing up a child will reduce the financial stress later down the line. If you have grand plans for them to attend university, potentially in another country, then knowing these costs and planning for these costs should be part of your overall financial planning.

3. Assess Your Insurance
The thing that most people forget. Big life events such as getting married, having kids, buying a house are all trigger points for reassessing what insurance you have in place and more crucially what insurance you should have in place. If you have dependents, having sufficient Life cover is paramount. Other considerations should be disability, critical illness and even income protection.

4. Start that Retirement Plan
It’s time to stop just thinking about setting up what you call a Pension Pot, it’s time to take action. Starting now makes it an achievable goal, leaving it on the back burner because you’re still too young to think about retiring is going to come back and haunt you later in life.

Tips in your 40’s

This is the decade where you need to make sure you’re on top of your money. At this point in your life, the ideal scenario would be to have cleared any debts and to have a nice healthy emergency fund sitting in a deposit account.

1. Retirement Savings – Priority
During your 40s it’s critical to understand how much you should be saving for retirement and to analyse what you may already have in place to cater for this. In my opinion it’s now that you need to start putting your financial future/ retirement ahead of any other financial goals or “needs”.

2. Focus Your Investments
Although you may not have paid much attention to “wealth management” in your 30s, you’ve probably started accumulating some wealth by your 40s. Evaluate this wealth and ensure there is a purpose or goal behind the investments you have done. Each goal will have a different time horizon and potentially you will have a different risk tolerance on each goal. The further away the goal is the more you can afford to take a “riskier” option.

3. Enjoy Your Wealth
It’s about getting the balance right. Hopefully you’ve worked hard and things are stable from a financial point of view. You need to remember to enjoy life today as well as planning on the future. As long as important financial goals are being met there is no harm is splashing out on that dream holiday, and enjoying it whilst you can.

Tips in your 50’s

You may find yourself being pulled in different directions with your money. Do the children still require financial support, do your parents require more support than before ?, The key thing to remember is to put your financial security first, and yes I know that sounds a bit tough…….. You still have your retirement to consider and probably a mortgage that you’d like to clear down before retirement age.

1. Revisit Your Savings and Investing Goals
Your 50’s are prime time to fully prepare for retirement, whether it’s five years away or fifteen. At this point you should be working as hard as possible to ensure you reach your required amount. This means that careful management of your assets is even more critical now. It’s time to focus on changing from a growth portfolio to a combined growth, income and more importantly a preservation portfolio. What I’m saying here is it’s time to really analyse the level of risk within your asset basket.

2. Prioritise – Your Future V Kid’s Future ( It’s a tough one….)
During their 50’s a lot of clients struggle with figuring out how much they can afford to keep supporting a grown child, especially when they’re out there earning themselves. The bottom line is that although it can be tough you have to continue to put yourself. first. The day of retirement is only getting closer and unless your planning has been disciplined there’s a possibility you may need to work longer than anticipated, or accept less in your pocket than you hoped for.
You are number 1…….

3. Retirement Decisions and considerations
You should begin to revisit your estate planning, your last will and testament, power of attorney if you feel necessary and confirm that your beneficiaries on any insurance policies or investment accounts are all valid.
Once you’ve covered off the administration part then I’d suggest you sit back and look forward to the biggest holiday off your life……..have a great time !!!

Spanish State Pension system about to go Bankrupt?

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Pensions, Retirement, Spain
This article is published on: 4th April 2017

04.04.17

During 2017 or early in 2018, the Spanish State Pension system is due to run out of money. At one point, the reserve fund the government created for this was standing at 66 million Euros.
Why has this happened?
During the crisis, millions of jobs were lost, and with them, an almost parallel reduction in contributions to the Social Security. Furthermore, a large part of the new jobs are precarious – temporary, part-time or free-lance – and with low salaries. This means that contributions to the system are way below expectations and the minimum required for it to be able to meet outgoings with incomings.
While this has been happening, payments to retirees have been increasing. In the last 11 years the number of actual pensioners has increased by over a million (8.3 million up to 9.4 million). The average pension amount paid out has also increased, from €647 per month to €906 from 2006 to 2016. In 2007, 79 billion Euros was paid out in pensions, compared to 117 billion in 2016, an increase of 48%. In real terms, the annual deficit for the year is 19 billion Euros.
This issue of funding pensions is made even harder by the lack of people in employment. In many European countries it’s normal for 50% of the population to be in work, in Spain it’s only 40%.
Ideas on how to solve the problems being explored
These range from not putting a cap on contributions (this would generate more income in the short term, but mean more pensions payable in the long run). A more popular idea is to allow those people retired to still work and receive their entire pension, which would generate increased state contributions. Gaining more support is the change to stop those who are not contributing to the system to not receive state pensions/handout, such as widows and orphans. These would instead be funded from current tax revenues.
In essence Spain may have to look at what many other countries are changing, such as making people contribute for more years and lower percentages to effectively cut the average pension payments. As well as increasing Social Security contributions. But what does remain clear is, if you are ONLY relying on the state to fund your retirement, you could be looking at grave consequences.
To talk through what your retirement looks like, and what you can do to shape it, feel free to contact Chris.
(Source ‘The Corner’ Fernando Barciela)

QROPS Pension Transfer

By Chris Webb - Topics: Company Pension Schemes, Final Salary Pension, final salary schemes, Pensions, QROPS, Retirement, Spain, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 20th March 2017

20.03.17

If you ever worked in the UK, no matter what your nationality, the chances are you were enrolled in a private pension scheme. The UK government continues to tweak legislative changes affecting the expat’s ability to move this pension offshore. On the surface, these changes appear to limit transfer options, but in reality they have strengthened the legal framework offering expats continuing advantages.

Background

When you leave the UK your private pension fund remains valid but is frozen, or deferred, until you reach retirement age. The pension income you then receive is taxable in the UK no matter where you are based in the world. Once you die the pension will continue in the form of a spouse’s pension if you are married; otherwise it will cease. When your spouse dies, all benefit payments come to an end.

If you take any part of your fund and then die before you fully retire, a lump sum can be paid to your spouse.
In April 2006 Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) introduced pension ‘A’ day. This liberalised UK private pensions and allowed people leaving the UK to transfer them overseas, often to a new employer. In doing this the UK complied with European legislation which allows all citizens the freedom of movement of their capital. Thus ‘Qualified Recognized Overseas Pension Schemes’ (QROPS) were born.

Recent Chamges 2017

During the March UK budget there was a very unexpected announcement regarding pension transfers out of the UK. The headline was :

“HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has announced that Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) transfers for individuals not in the European Economic Area (EAA) will be hit with a 25% tax charge”.

At first glance it sent shockwaves through all concerned with pension transfers, after a moment to digest the news it became much clearer that there were exceptions to the rule, detailed below:
1. The QROPS Trustee is in the EEA and the client/member is also resident in an EEA country (not necessarily the same EEA country);

2. The QROPS and the member is in the same country; or

3. 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 important to understand that if a client was to move outside of the EEA within 5 years of the transfer then the tax rate would apply.

In most of the cases I deal with this new tax ruling will not affect the transfer. Since moving to Spain all but one of the transfers I have implemented are EU based.

Implementation

QROPS are not necessarily the right thing in every single case. In order to decide whether it would be advantageous to transfer your pension or leave it in the UK, with the intention of drawing the benefits in retirement, please contact me so that I can carry out a personalised evaluation. There may be compelling arguments, outside of the evaluation alone, which are often overlooked and may affect you in the future.

One of these is that a large number of UK schemes are currently in deficit to the point that they will be unable to pay future projected benefits. This would mean that even though it looks as though there are arguments to leave your UK pension in situ it may actually be wiser to transfer it.

In order for you to make the best decision you need to professional advice on what would be the best situation for you. This will entail seeking details of the current UK schemes, including transfer values, the types of benefits payable to you and options going forward when you get to a retirement date and when you die.

Advantages & Disadvantages of a Transfer Between a QROPS and a SIPP

Advantages

Lump Sum Benefits
QROPS – If you transfer your benefits under the QROPS provisions to a Malta provider, in accordance with the rules of this jurisdiction, you may be able to take a pension commencement lump sum of up to 30% (unless you have already taken this lump sum from the UK pension). Under the current HMR&C (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) rules to qualify for the lump sum option you must be age 55 or over. Your remaining fund is then used to generate an income without having to purchase an annuity. The 30% pension commencement lump sum is only available once you have spent 5 full, consecutive tax years outside of the UK (in terms of tax residence), if you are within the first 5 years, we strongly advise you to limit the pension commencement lump sum to 25%. From 6 April 2017 this 5 year period has been extended to 10 years.

SIPP – The maximum Pension Commencement Lump sum from a SIPP would be 25%.

No Liability to UK Tax on Pension Income
QROPS – This will be paid gross and you declare the income in the country you are resident in as long as the QROPS jurisdiction has a Double Tax Treaty (DTT) with the country that you are resident in. Transferring under the QROPS provisions ensures that, if tax is due on pension income, it will only be taxable in the country of your residence.
SIPP – This should be able to be paid gross, although many clients find this to be a very awkward process to solve as the pension company does not always talk to the HMRC and therefore at least for the first year or two the pension is paid net of basic rate tax and sometimes even on an emergency tax basis. This can be reclaimed, but will involve more paperwork than that of a QROPS.

No Requirement to Purchase an Annuity
There is no longer a requirement to ever purchase an annuity with either your UK pension or in the event you make a transfer under the QROPS provisions. Therefore the rules below are the same for a QROPS and a SIPP.

With both a QROPS and a SIPP the maximum age you must start to draw an income is from age 75. The Pension commencement Lump Sum must be taken by this age or the option to take it after this age is lost.

The budget changes in the UK has meant that from April 2015 the restrictions imposed from drawing a pension income from a UK Pension Plan will be scrapped. This means that investors will be able to take the whole of their pension as a lump sum if they wish from age 55. The first 25% would be the standard Pension Commencement Lump Sum but the remaining amount would be subject to your marginal rate of income tax. The Malta QROPS have now followed these changes to allow full flexibility also.
This would not be possible with a Final Salary pension. It would need to be transferred to a SIPP or QROPS to utilise these options.

Secure Your UK Pension Pot

Some defined benefit schemes in the UK are in deficit. Since the deficit forms part of the balance sheet of the company, this can present a huge risk to your pension fund.
Transferring your UK benefits to a SIPP or QROPS provisions could enable you to have full control of these funds without worrying about the financial situation of your previous employer.

Ability to Leave Remaining Fund to Heirs

QROPS – All death benefits will be paid out from the Malta QROPS with 0% death tax no matter what age an individual is.
SIPP – The recent UK Budget has changed how death benefits will be paid to their heirs in the future. If death occurs before age 75 then any remaining balance in a pension fund can be paid tax free to any beneficiary. Otherwise if a member passes away after the age of 75 then there would be a tax charge, any lump sum benefit would be subject to the beneficiaries marginal rate of income tax.

A transfer under the QROPS provisions will allow the member to leave lump sums without deduction of tax to heirs no matter what age they pass away, so it is clear and simple. (this is not applicable to Defined Benefit schemes). The below table shows the situation more clearly.

Defined Benefit Plans

UK Pension –
(generic pension benefits)
Scenario Death Benefits
SRA Married couple 1st to pass away 50% income to Spouse
Married couple 2nd to pass away 0% of total plan
Single but with grown up children 0% of total plan
Lump sum to future heirs 0% of total plan

 

QROPS- Malta
Scenario Death benefits
SRA Married couple 1st to pass away 100% of fund value to any beneficiary
Married couple 2nd to pass away 100% of fund value to any beneficiary
Single but with grown up children 100% of fund value to any beneficiary
Lump sum to future heirs 100% of fund value to any beneficiary

SRA – Selected Retirement Age

The tables are based on the usual death benefits being taken in retirement. Some plans may have slightly different death benefits which may be higher or lower than 50% income provided on death and guaranteed periods for the first 5 years. Please check the exact benefits within your scheme for a full exact comparison.

Currency
A standard UK pension will usually only be invested and pay benefits in Sterling, which means the member runs an exchange rate risk in respect of pension income, in addition to incurring charges in converting the pension payments to the currency of their country of residence.
A transfer under the QROPS provisions means that the pension payments can be made in the local currency, thus potentially eliminating exchange rate risk.

Lifetime Allowance Charge (LTA)

QROPS – There is no LTA charge within a QROPS so transferring larger plans to a QROPS may not be caught in this reduction in the future. Careful planning will be needed with your adviser if you are close to the limit in the UK. (a transfer to a QROPS is a crystallisation event, so will be tested against the LTA at that stage, any benefits above the LTA at time of transfer will be subject to a 25% tax liability.

SIPP – This is a restriction on the total permitted value of an individual’s total accrued fund value in UK registered pensions, currently £1m. Those who exceed this value face a potential tax liability of 55% on the excess funds on retirement at any time when there is a “benefit crystallisation event” that exceeds the LTA. A benefit crystallisation event is any event which results in benefits being paid to, or on behalf of, the member and so includes transfer values paid to another pension scheme, as well as retirement benefits.

Disadvantages

Charges
QROP & SIPP If you have a pension(s) with a combined transfer value of less than £50,000 then the charges may be prohibitive.

Loss of Protected Rights
QROPS & SIPP – A transfer may result in the loss of certain protected rights, including Guaranteed Annuity Rates, Guaranteed Minimum Pension, a protected enhanced lump sum, or rights accrued under a defined benefit scheme. (These are shown in the section “Analysis of Your Existing Pensions”).

Returning to the UK
If you return to the UK, then the QROPS administrator will have to report this ‘event to HMRC and the pension scheme will become subject to UK pension regulations again.
If it is your intention to return to the UK in the near future then a transfer under the QROPS provisions is usually inappropriate. If this was the case then we can help with our UK SIPP offering which may be more appropriate.