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Where am I resident and where should I be paying tax?

By Mark Quinn - Topics: non-habitual residency in Portugal, non-habitual resident, Portugal, Tax, tax advice, Tax in Portugal
This article is published on: 12th April 2022

12.04.22

There is a lot of confusion around the difference between residency, tax residency, Non-Habitual Residency and domicile so this week I will try and cut through this complexity.

Legal residence
Legal residence is the right to reside in a country. So, if you are an EU citizen, you have the automatic right to reside in any other EU country without the necessity for a visa. If you are coming from outside the EU, you must apply for a visa to establish your residency rights.

Legal residence is important as it determines how long you are allowed to spend in a country and your right to benefits such as healthcare and social security. Legal residence however does not impact or determine your tax status.

Tax residency
Generally, tax residency is determined by your physical presence in a country and Portugal, along with many other countries, uses the 183-day rule for determining tax residency.

Understanding your tax residency is important because it determines which country has the taxing right over you and can avoid double-taxation issues when you have links to more than one jurisdiction.

It is possible to have legal residence in Portugal, but not actually be a tax resident e.g. if you have the right to stay in Portugal but you do not spend enough time in Portugal in a given year to be considered tax resident.

Non-Habitual Residence (NHR)
NHR gives successful applicants a special tax status in Portugal for 10 years, but its name is somewhat misleading, as you must be a resident to apply for it.

‘Non-habitual’ actually refers to the requirement that you must not have been resident in Portugal in the 5 years prior to application, so it is aimed at attracting new people to Portugal.

Where do i pay tax

Domicile
Domicile is something that is often confused with residence. It is a very complex area, but the very loose definition of domicile is ‘where you are considered to originate from’. It is a common-law concept and is most likely to be a consideration for British nationals, individuals married to British nationals, or those who are not British but either hold assets in the UK or spend a considerable amount of time in the UK.

Your domicile does not affect your income tax position in Portugal but it can have tax implications, most notably UK Inheritance Tax. (We will elaborate on domicile in next week’s article).

Myths

  • Many people are under the misconception that, as long as they are paying tax somewhere, they are meeting their obligations but it does not work that way. It is crucial you have a clear understanding of where you are resident to avoid being taxed in more than one jurisdiction
  • Registering yourself in Portugal does not automatically make you a tax resident. It is determined by your physical presence, so it is important to check your tax residency every tax year, as it could change
  • Your nationality or citizenship does not change by coming to live in Portugal and becoming resident, although you do have the option of applying for Portuguese citizenship after 5 years

Planning

  • Have a clear understanding of the tax residency rules of the country you are leaving. e.g. you can be tax resident in the UK by spending as little as 16 days there, or if leaving Spain a presumption of residence can remain if your family or your economic interests remain there
  • Prior to departing your current country of residence, utilise any remaining annual allowances and pension contributions, consider reorganising your affairs via inter-spouse transfers, and unwind any structures free of tax that may otherwise be taxed on arrival in Portugal
  • It may also be possible to create periods where you are not considered tax resident in any country or establish residency in another country prior to moving to Portugal for tax planning purposes

Mark Quinn is a Chartered Financial Planner with the Chartered Insurance Institute and Tax Adviser, qualifying with the Association of Tax Technicians.

Spanish tax on UK property

By John Hayward - Topics: Spain, Tax, Tax Declarations, Tax in Spain, UK property
This article is published on: 29th March 2022

29.03.22

In February I wrote about the impact on investments with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and inflation rearing its ugly head. For the last month or so, the movement of global stock markets has attracted comparisons to a violin player’s arm joint and the undergarments of a professional lady. This is possibly the future for investments for a while although there appears to be more positive than negative movement (at the time of writing in case there has been a sudden catastrophe).

In the meantime, away from the uncertainty of how much a tank of fuel will cost in 6 months’ time, I want to mention something regarding Spanish tax on UK property.

31st March 2022. The end of the declaration period for everyone’s favourite, the Modelo 720. Although this is not a tax declaration, it does highlight assets and how these might be taxed in the future, whether this be capital gains tax, wealth tax, inheritance tax, or income tax. Focusing on the latter, I believe that it is generally not appreciated that a tax resident in Spain has to pay income tax on a UK property, even if it is not rented out.

It is (fairly) well known that, if you are a not tax resident in Spain, and you own a property in Spain, and you receive rental income, you have to pay Non-Resident Income Tax (NRIT) or Non-Resident Imputed Income Tax (NRIIT) if you do not receive rental income, perhaps both depending on how much of the tax year (1st January to 31st December) it is rented out. Imputed rent is a fictional amount of rent that the Spanish tax office decides is what you are receiving based on the cadastral value. It works the other way around. That is, if you are a tax resident in Spain with a UK property, and you do not rent it out, you still have to pay tax on the imputed rent.

How is the tax calculated? UK properties do not have a thing called a cadastral value. Some have said on the (not always reliable) worldwide web that it would be the rateable value that would be used. The actual rule is that, if there is no cadastral value, the tax is based on 50% of the original purchase price with the application of a rate of 1.1%. That gives you the imputed rent. It is this figure that would be used for income tax purposes.

For some people, this may not introduce a problem, especially when considering the double tax treaty between the UK and Spain. It is the fact that those who should have been declaring this “income” have not been and my message could prompt a chat with their tax agent. The Spanish tax office is regularly sweeping up what they (or their computer) see as outstanding items, often up to 4 years old in line with Spain’s statute of limitations.

Contact me today for more information on how we can help you to protect your assets from unnecessary taxation and make more from your money, protecting your income streams against inflation and low interest rates, or for any other financial and tax planning information, at john.hayward@spectrum-ifa.com or call or WhatsApp (+34) 618 204 731.

Selling a property in Portugal | Tax relief

By Mark Quinn - Topics: Portugal, Tax, Tax in Portugal
This article is published on: 17th January 2022

17.01.22

As I covered in my last blog post, capital gains tax is charged on the sale of all property in Portugal irrespective of your residence status, and if the property qualifies as your main residence.

There are two situations in which the capital gain is exempt from Portuguese tax:

  • If you invest the proceeds of sale into another main home in Portugal, or EU/EEA
  • If the proceeds of a property sale are reinvested in an approved long term savings plan or pension

Any portion not used to purchase another main home, or reinvested in a savings plan/pension, will be taxed.

Whilst the first exception is relatively straightforward, the second exemption method is slightly more involved and there are certain conditions that must be met, such as (but not limited to):

  • On the date of transfer of the property the taxpayer, spouse or unmarried partner is in retirement or is at least 65 years old.
  • The investment into the structure is made within six months from the date of sale.
  • The property sold is the main home.
  • Withdrawals from the structure are limited to a maximum of 7.5 % p.a. of the amount invested.
  • You must declare your intention to invest the funds in such a structure on your tax return in the relevant year.

We can advise on the conditions and structure options in which to hold a qualifying investment.

I want to sell my property in Portugal | How much tax do I have to pay?

By Mark Quinn - Topics: Portugal, Property, Property Tax, Tax, Tax in Portugal
This article is published on: 11th January 2022

11.01.22

Capital gains tax is charged on the sale of all property in Portugal. Whilst this is less of a problem if you have found your dream home and want to spend many years living there, it is a more significant consideration if your intention is to buy a property for the short term or for investment purposes.

If you purchased the property prior to January 1989 there is no tax on the gain realised on sale. In all other instances, 50% of the gain is taxable and inflation relief can also be applied if the property was held for more than 2 years. The gain is then added to your other income for the year and taxed at the scale rates of income tax.

Despite the potential for high rates of tax on sale, there is main residence relief available if you reinvest the proceeds into another main home in Portugal (or the EU/EEA). Certain other conditions apply but in general, the gain will be exempt from taxation if all the proceeds are reinvested. Any portion not used to purchase another main home (or reinvested in a savings plan/ pension) will be taxed.

Property tax Portugal

In recent years a new relief has been introduced which allows reinvestment into a qualifying long term savings plan or pension. This will be looked at next when we discuss downsizing, as this is a  very useful relief for those wishing to downsize later in life.

These 2 reliefs can be used in conjunction with each other allowing for greater tax planning opportunities.

Please note, Non Habitual Residence (NHR) status does not have an impact on the taxation of Portuguese property. The tax treatment is the same for NHR and normal residents.

If you are non-Portuguese resident, all of the gain is taxable at 28% for individuals.

HOW TO INVEST – Stocks – They Don’t Have to be Taxing

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Belgium, Branch 23 investments, Equities, Investments, Luxembourg, Stock Markets, Stocks & Shares, Tax
This article is published on: 24th March 2021

24.03.21

In my previous article, I described what stock options are and how they can be utilised by both companies and individuals to create wealth. Now, I will look at some of the tax liabilities that you may be subject to and how you may be able to mitigate them when you decide to take up your option to purchase the stock. I will be focussing on the Belgian market, but we are also able to help if you are based in other countries, so do not hesitate to contact us with a specific enquiry.

HOW DO I ENSURE I AM NOT TAXED ON MY STOCK OPTIONS?
Short answer? You cannot. If the option is quoted on a stock exchange, the amount to be taxed is calculated on the basis of its closing price on the day immediately prior to the offer date. If the option is not quoted, then the amount to be taxed is 18% of the underlying share multiplied by the number of option rights held. As with all tax due in Belgium, these need to be reported to the tax authority.

WHAT WILL I BE TAXED AFTER I DECIDE TO TAKE UP MY OPTION?
At the time of writing, the Belgian rate of tax on stocks, shares and equities is 30% on the dividend income received; this tax is known as Withholding Tax. Companies that are established in Belgium are obligated to withhold this tax from investment income received.

If the dividends received into a Belgian bank account are coming from a foreign company, then the bank is obligated to apply the withholding tax. In addition, a withholding tax set at the rate set by the country the dividends are coming from must also be applied. This can be reduced if Belgium has a double taxation treaty with said country.

Let’s look at a quick example. A popular country of origin for stocks, shares or equities is the US. The US can charge a withholding tax of 30% on top of the Belgian withholding tax. Belgium retains a double taxation treaty with the US. This subsequently reduces the US withholding tax by up to half, whilst the Belgian withholding tax remains. On top of this, on January 1, 2018 the Belgian government introduced a withholding tax exemption threshold of up to €800 on dividends to encourage people to invest.

assurance vie

HOW DO I HOLD MY VESTED STOCK IN A TAX EFFICIENT MANNER?
I wrote an article on Branch 23, an investment bond solution available in Belgium for investors who wish to invest in a tax compliant way and also plan for inheritance and estate tax planning. Your stock, shares and equities can be held within this solution and you would not be liable to withholding tax on your investments for as long as you hold the bond. You will pay 2% Insurance Premium Tax when you initially invest and that covers your taxation liability (including Withholding Tax and Social Insurance Contribution that can add up to 59.58%) for however long you hold the bond.

To understand more how I can help you manage your stocks and shares/equities that you have accumulated in a more tax efficient manner, please contact me at emeka.ajogbe@spectrum-ifa.com or +32 494 90 71 72.

Form D6, Modelo 720, Declaracion de la Renta and Wealth Tax reporting dates

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Form D6 Spain, Modelo 720, Spain, Tax
This article is published on: 15th January 2021

15.01.21

Whether you have lived in Spain for a while, or are new and trying to understand when you need to submit to the various deadlines, including taxes and overseas assets, I have listed below in an easy to read format what you have to declare and when, to help make your life more simple. These have been the same for the last few years and so should remain moving forward. If you would like help in understanding, declaring and any other questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.

End of January 2021

FORM D6
Stocks, bonds and investment funds that are outside of Spain and are not Spanish compliant. (this is to compliment and not replace Modelo 720). Failure to comply with the obligation to submit this Form D6, can lead to a fine of up to 25% of the undeclared amount, with a minimum of €3000. Late declaration entails penalties ranging from €300 in the first 6 months to €600 after that deadline.

End of March 2021

MODELO 720
This is a declaration of assets outside of Spain value of €50,000 or more. Once declared you only need to do this again if the value of any asset (e.g. a bank account) has risen by more than €20,000). The authorities can fine you anywhere between 100 and 10,000 euro for failure to meet the requirements (as of 2019, the European Union considers Spain to be breaking EU law with these sanctions for people who file the Modelo 720 late).

End of June 2021

Declaración De La Renta
Your annual tax return, showing all assets and worldwide incomes, must be declared for assessment by this date. Not all assets will be taxable, depending on how they are structured. In Spain the financial year runs from January through to December, and in June you are declaring for the previous calendar year’s finances.

Wealth Tax declaration – Catalonia
Wealth tax is applied if your worldwide assets are more than 500,000€ with an additional allowance of up to 300,000€ for your main residence. The tax is based upon your net wealth: assets minus liabilities. In Catalonia the rates of tax start at 0.21% and rises to 2.75% depending on your wealth each year and is taken from the 31st December the previous year. There are ways of mitigating this tax by having your assets structured correctly.

What role do Chris and The Spectrum IFA Group perform?
I am a financial planner/Wealth Manager and we specialise in optimising clients’ assets, including strategies to minimise taxes both now and in the future. We manage clients’ savings, investments and pensions whilst understanding what these are and the role they will play in their lives. I do my best to continually keep clients informed of anything they need to know in respect of these topics.

Investment income taxation in Italy

By Andrew Lawford - Topics: Investment income taxation in Italy, Investments, Italy, Tax, Tax in Italy
This article is published on: 5th November 2020

05.11.20

This should be easy, shouldn’t it? Everything gets taxed at 26% – dividends, interest and capital gains. However, for anyone who has delved into the world of Italian fiscal matters, it should be obvious that the words “easy”, “taxation” and “Italy” do not belong in the same sentence.

Let’s try and examine how it all works
Basically you have two main choices: do you want to keep all of your financial assets in Italy, or will you keep some, or all, of your assets outside of Italy? While it is beyond the scope of this article to look at the solidity of the Italian economy and its financial system, you may well be reluctant, with some cause, to move all of your assets here. Maintaining assets abroad as an Italian resident can be fraught with difficulties, but careful planning can mitigate almost entirely the issues that arise. Read on for further details.

Basically you have two main choices: do you want to keep all of your financial assets in Italy, or will you keep some, or all, of your assets outside of Italy? While it is beyond the scope of this article to look at the solidity of the Italian economy and its financial system, you may well be reluctant, with some cause, to move all of your assets here. Maintaining assets abroad as an Italian resident can be fraught with difficulties, but careful planning can mitigate almost entirely the issues that arise. Read on for further details.

Assets held in Italy:
Let’s start by looking at the situation for those assets held in Italy (i.e. in an account at an Italian financial institution):

For directly-held, unmanaged investments at an Italian bank or financial intermediary, the 26% rate will apply to income flows (e.g. dividends and coupons) at the time they are received and to capital gains at the time they are realised. This system is known as regime amministrato and it is generally the default position that most people will find themselves in when they open an account in Italy, unless they opt for a discretionary asset management service (see below). Under this system, the bank or other intermediary involved makes withholding payments on the client’s behalf and no further tax is due.

You can opt out of this system and elect to make your own declarations and tax payments (regime dichiarativo), however this is likely to be a sensible option only for someone who has assets spread over a number of different banks, as it is the only way to off-set gains realised in one bank with losses realised in another. The cost of doing this is that you will have to take responsibility for the correct declaration of all your investment income, which is no easy task. It will necessitate a lot of work on your part, as well as the need to find a local tax accountant willing and able to handle this aspect of your tax return.

If you decide to use a financial adviser to help with the choice of your investments in the above context, it is worth noting that any explicit cost of the service will attract Italian VAT at 22% (and if you are not paying an explicit cost, then you should look closely at the assets you are being advised to purchase – expensive, commission-paying funds are still very much alive in the Italian market). It is not possible to deduct the advise cost from your gross results before taxation is withheld.

The weird world of fund taxation:
One of the more perverse aspects of financial income taxation in Italy is the treatment of fund investments (basically any collective investment scheme, including ETFs). These will produce what is known as reddito di capitale when they generate dividends or are sold at a profit, but a reddito diverso when sold at a loss. What this means in practical terms is that in a portfolio containing only funds, you cannot off-set losses against gains. If you do accumulate losses through selling losing investments, you will need to generate gains that can be classified as redditi diversi in order to off-set the losses. This will likely involve investments in individual stocks and bonds, which may lead to an odd portfolio construction driven by tax considerations – generally not a good basis upon which to choose one’s investments.

Let’s turn now to directly-held, managed investments held with an Italian institution. In this case, taxation of 26% will be levied annually on any positive variation in the overall account value, with no distinction being made between the various sources of the income (this is known as the regime gestito). If the account suffers an overall decrease in value in the course of a given year, this loss can be carried forward and off-set against gains recorded over the following four years. Whilst this is a relatively simple arrangement from a tax perspective, it remains inefficient in the sense that it taxes you on unrealised returns (although at least the return is taxed net of fees).

It is worth noting that the asset management fees charged on this type of service attract Italian VAT at 22%, so an agreed cost of 1% per annum becomes a 1.22% cost for the client. Italian institutions will also generally favour investments in their “in house” managed funds, even when better (and cheaper) investments are available.

Assets held outside of Italy:
There is nothing to prevent you from holding assets outside of Italy, but you do need to go into such a situation with your eyes open. You will find yourself essentially in the same situation as the person who opts for the regime dichiarativo which I described above, together with the added aggravation of having to comply with the foreign asset declaration requirements (Quadro RW), which mean that you have to declare not only the income you derive from your financial assets, but also their value and any changes in their composition from year to year. If you’d like to have an idea of the complexity of making these declarations, get in touch with me and I will send you the instruction booklet for the 2020 Italian tax return (Fascicolo 2, the section which deals mostly with financial income and asset declarations, runs to 62 pages this year, and no, it is not available in English). You cannot opt to have a foreign, directly-held, discretionary managed account taxed as per the regime gestito above, because this is only possible for accounts held with Italian financial institutions. This means that any account will have to be broken down into its constituent elements and the tax calculated appropriately. Please also note that accounts which enjoy preferential tax treatment in a foreign jurisdiction will generally not carry any such benefits for an Italian resident.

Italian-compliant tax wrappers:
There is a solution which allows you to maintain foreign assets whilst removing 99% of the hassle described above. This involves using an Italian-compliant life insurance wrapper, issued from an EU jurisdiction. There are a number of other important benefits that accrue to this type of solution for an Italian resident, the two main ones being deferral of taxation until withdrawals are made (or death benefits paid) and total exemption from Italian inheritance taxes. I am reluctant to present comparative numbers in an article of this sort, but it should be clear that if the investments and costs are the same under the various scenarios examined, tax deferral will lead to a higher final investment value, and so should always be the preferred solution.

tax in italy

My goal with this article hasn’t been to make your head spin (although I can understand that this might have been its effect), but instead to make it clear that even apparently simple rules can hide a web of complexity which will ultimately lead to an inefficient outcome for the unwary investor. My goal is to cut through the complexity and make your life as simple as possible, whilst giving you access to quality underlying investments. Yes, it can be done, even in Italy.

How much tax do you pay in France?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, Tax, tax tips
This article is published on: 3rd November 2020

03.11.20

It’s strange to think that this time last year I was in Quebec with my husband and children. Whilst autumn colours in Canada were absolutely splendid, I have really been enjoying seeing the colours of the trees and vineyards in my local area.

France is now in lockdown for at least the month of November. However unlike the previous lockdown schools will remain open and people can still go to work. Although I have become a lot more comfortable working from home online I enjoy my drives to see my clients. If you would like to speak to me about any matter, even if your annual review is not due at this time, please feel free to let me know and I would be happy to arrange a face to face meeting or an online video call. I can come and see my clients because that is my work but it may also be a way of preventing clients feeling isolated when they cannot see other people.

Being flexible is very important at this time. We don’t know what will happen in the future or how Christmas may be celebrated but what we do know is that

1) We have survived lockdown before so we know what works and what needs changing
2) We know that lockdown was effective in bringing the number of cases down
3) We have made enormous progress on understanding the virus and how to treat it, we are also getting ever closer to a vaccine. We just have to keep calm and carry on!

As you know in November, the Taxe d’Habitation is due (by 16th November or 21st November if paid online). This is a tax for all residents of buildings on 1st January. In 2020, 80% of French households will be considered exempt from paying this tax. In July 2019 Macron said in 2021 the higher income households would see a 30% reduction in their taxe d’habitation increasing to 65% in 2022 and 100% in 2023. So basically this tax will cease to exist after 2023.

As regards income tax, the tax levels have increased by 0.2% for the tax on income earned in 2020 to take into account the inflation forecast for 2019-2020. The new tax barriers are:

Between 0 and €10,084 0%
From €10,084 to €25,710 11%
From €25,710 to €73,516 30%
From €73,516 to €158,122 41%
From €158,122 45%
French Tax Changes 2019

Just how is my tax calculated in France?

If you have looked at your tax statement and wondered how the tax is calculated, you may find the following rough guide to be useful.

If a couple has a total of €30,000 of income, their taxes would be as follows. €30,000 divided by 2 = €15,000

No tax for the first €10,084 but 11% on the difference between €10,084 and €15,000 (€4916 x 11% = €541). This amount is then multiplied by the number of people (or tax parts) so the total tax for this couple would be €1082.

For a couple with €60,000, the income is again divided between them (€60,000/2 = €30,000).

There is again no tax for the first €10,084, the next amount would be €25,710-€10,084=€15 626 at 11% which is €1719.

The difference between €30,000 and €25,710, i.e. €4290 would be taxed at 30% resulting in €1287.

The final tax would be (€1719 + €1287) x 2 = €6,012 total tax.

Once the tax is calculated then the tax reductions for home help expenses or charitable donations are deducted. For more information please request our free tax guide on our website.

If you have French investments or interest earning accounts and your taxable income (as shown on your 2020 tax return for your income earned in 2019) is less than €25,000 (or €50,000 for a couple) for interest, or for dividends €50,000 (or €75,000 for a couple) you must inform your bank or financial institution before 30th November 2020 so that they don’t withhold the 12.8% income tax on your income in 2021.

Wishing you all a wonderful November. Stay home, stay safe, stay in touch!

The results are in…

By Chris Webb - Topics: Investment Risk, Moving to Spain, Spain, Tax, Tax Efficient Savings, Tax Relief, UK investments
This article is published on: 10th June 2020

10.06.20
Spectrum IFA Survey

I trust you are all safe and well and enjoying the additional bit of freedom that moving into Phase 1 has afforded us herein Spain. By the time you read this there is every chance we are into Phase 2 allowing even more freedom. It’s been a long haul for Madrid to get there and there are mixed feelings about how long it has taken…

Personally, I´d rather be safe than sorry, so whilst there have been frustrating times over the last few months, it is probably for the best. Recently I sent a survey out to my clients, who are based all over the community of Madrid. The survey was twofold:

Secondly, being in lockdown has given us all the time and opportunity to evaluate our personal situations. To address administrative tasks we had put on the back burner and to look at all aspects of our financial wellbeing, whether that be assessing emergency cash reserves, job security or even making sure an up to date will was in place.

The response to my survey was fantastic with many responses. Some just answered the questions but the majority also wrote additional comments, which gave a greater insight into their situation. It was interesting for me to read the results and compare the answers to how my family have felt and what we had looked at changing or updating.

Spectrum IFA Survey Results

I´d like to share some of the results from the survey, but I won’t detail all the questions as this Ezine would be never ending.

It might be beneficial for you to compare the data with your own situation or feelings.

1. Only 30% felt that lockdown was a struggle; the vast majority were not concerned by the restrictions.
2. 80% were comfortable with the transition to online communication, whether that be email or video calling.
3. 100% were concerned about their investments – completely natural when you were watching the fall out on the news.
4. 42% were concerned for their jobs.
5. 95% had sufficient emergency cash reserves to see them through – something we always encourage when dealing with our clients.
6. 50% had excess cash reserves sitting idle in the bank.
7. 62% believed that NOW was a great time to get invested and put more money into the markets. Of that number 55% proceeded and bought in at the discounted prices available.
8. 57% had an up to date will in place. Some admitting to doing it recently after my article titled “The Folder”.
9. 80% felt that their insurance policies were sufficient for their situation; however 40% of these people have requested further information and alternative quotes.

The results made for interesting reading and it was great to see that a lot of people had reviewed things and were keen to look at alternative options.

Tax in Spain and the UK

As a company we have a huge network of 3rd party companies that can assist our clients with all the points raised in the survey.

In Madrid I can recommend teams of lawyers who will offer a free initial

consultation and discounted rates, providing they come from me as a direct referral. This is great for anybody that needs to review their will – you can have the initial conversation at no cost and then pay for the will upon completion.I can recommend teams of accountants or gestors to assist with tax returns, inheritance, and other administrative issues.

During lockdown I also set up a collaboration with an expat insurance broker, which allows us to assist with health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, house insurance and more. The great thing about this relationship is that ALL quotations and policy documentation are in English. Whilst most of you will speak and understand Spanish perfectly well, there are times when something is easier “to get” when it’s in English.

If you want to review your insurances, or just obtain alternative quotes to compare with what you already have, get in touch – there is no charge for a quotation.

Do not delay reviewing your will, insurances, or investments.

Planning yesterday is better than today, which is better than tomorrow.

PS. If you did not receive the survey and want to complete it, send me an email and I´d be happy to share it with you.

Inheritance Planning & French Residency

By Occitanie - Topics: France, Inheritance Tax, Moving to France, Succession Planning, Tax, Wills
This article is published on: 9th June 2020

09.06.20

Welcome to ‘Spectrum in Occitanie, Finance in Focus’.

The Covid-19 pandemic still dominates the news and will inevitably remain at the forefront of our thoughts for some time. Last month we focused on the financial consequences of this virus and we may well return to this subject in future editions. However, in this issue we are going to focus on the very important, and often neglected, subject of Wills and Inheritance Planning. Succession laws in France differ significantly from those in the UK and careful planning is required to mitigate French inheritance tax.

As a reminder, we are Sue Regan, Rob Hesketh, Derek Winsland and Philip Oxley. Together we form Spectrum’s team in the Occitanie.

As touched on in last month’s Newsletter, now is probably a good time to revisit the subject of inheritance planning – an integral part of any financial planning review.

Despite the importance of making sure one’s affairs are in order for the inevitability of our demise, very few people actively seek advice in this area and, as a result, are unaware of the potential difficulties ahead for their families and heirs, not to mention potential tax bills which can be quite substantial for certain classes of beneficiary. With some sensible planning you could save your intended beneficiaries a great deal of stress and dramatically reduce their inheritance tax bill.

The basic rule is, if you are resident in France, you are considered also to be domiciled in France for inheritance purposes and your worldwide estate becomes taxable in France, where the tax rates depend upon the relationship to your beneficiaries.

Fortunately, there is no inheritance tax between spouses and the allowance between a parent and a child is reasonably generous, currently €100,000 per child, per parent. For anything left to other beneficiaries, the allowances are considerably less. In particular, for step-children and other non-related beneficiaries, the allowance is only €1,594 and the tax rate on anything above that is an eye-watering 60%!

There are strict rules on succession and children are considered to be ‘protected heirs’ and so are entitled to inherit a proportion of each of their parent’s estates. For example, if you have one child, the proportion is 50% of the deceased parent’s estate; two children, one-third each; and if you have three or more children, then three-quarters of your estate must be divided equally between them.

You are free to pass on the rest of your estate (the disposable part) to whoever you wish through a French will and, in the absence of making a will, if you have a surviving spouse, he/she would be entitled to 25% of your estate.

You may also be considered domiciled in your ‘home country’ and if so, this could cause some confusion, since your home country may also have the right to charge succession taxes on your death. However, France has a number of Double Taxation Treaties (DTT) with other countries covering inheritance. In such a case, the DTT will set out the rules that apply (basically, ‘which’ country has the right to tax ‘what’ assets).

For example, the 1963 DTT between France and the UK specifies that the deceased’s total estate will be devolved and taxed in accordance with the person’s place of residence at the time of death, with the exception of any property assets that are sited in the other country.

moving-to-france

Therefore, for a UK national who is resident in France, who has retained a property in the UK (and does not own any other property outside of France), the situation would be that:

  • any French property, plus his/her total financial assets, would be taxed in accordance with French law; and
  • the UK property would be taxed in accordance with UK law, although in theory, the French notaire can take this asset into account when considering the fair distribution of all other assets to any ‘protected heirs’ ie. children

If a DTT covering inheritance does not exist between France and the other country, with which the French resident person has an interest, this could result in double taxation, if the ‘home’ country also has the right to tax the person’s estate. Hence, when people become French resident, there are usually two issues:

  • how to protect the survivor; and
  • how to mitigate the potential French inheritance taxes for other beneficiaries

Protecting the survivor
There are various ways in which you can protect your spouse:

European Succession Regulation No. 650/2012
Many of you will no doubt have heard about the EU Succession Regulations that came into effect in 2015 whereby the default situation is that it is the law of your place of habitual residence that applies to your estate. However, you can elect for the inheritance law of your country of nationality to apply to your estate by specifying this in a French will. This is effectively one way of getting around the issue of ‘protected heirs’ for some expats living in France.

Adopting a ‘community pot’ marriage regime or family pact
There are other tried and tested French structures available to fully protect the rights of a spouse, that don’t rely on the notaire having an understanding of the succession laws of other countries.

You could choose to have the marriage regime of ‘communauté universelle avec une clause d’attribution intégrale au conjoint survivant’. Under this marriage regime, all assets are owned within a ‘community pot’ and on the death of the first person, those community assets are transferred to the survivor without any attribution of half of the assets to the deceased’s estate.

However, adopting a ‘community pot’ marriage regime would not be suitable for families with step-children. This sort of arrangement could be subject to a legal challenge by the survivor’s step-children as they could miss out on their inheritance due to the fact that there is no blood relationship with the step-parent.

In this situation, a family pact (pacte de famille) could be the solution, whereby families agree in advance who will inherit and when. Of course, this would only really work where there is an amicable relationship between parents and children, as the children are effectively waiving all or some of their right to inherit.

There are a number of other ways in which you can arrange your affairs to protect the survivor, depending on your individual circumstances, and we would always recommend that you discuss succession planning in detail with a notaire experienced in these matters.

Mitigation of inheritance tax
On whichever planning you decide, it is important to remember that the French inheritance tax rules will still apply. So, even though you have the freedom to decide who inherits your estate, this will not reduce the potential inheritance tax liability on your beneficiaries, which, as mentioned above, could potentially be very high for a step-child. Hence, there will still be a need to shelter financial assets from French inheritance taxes.

By far and away the most popular vehicle in France for sheltering your hard-earned savings from inheritance tax is the Assurance Vie. The assurance vie is considered to be outside of your estate for tax purposes and comes with its own inheritance allowances, in addition to the standard aIllowance for other assets. If you invest in an assurance vie before the age of 70 you can name as many beneficiaires as you like, regardless of whether they are family or not, and each beneficiary can inherit up to €152,500, tax-free. The rate of tax on the next €700,000 is limited to 20% – potentially making a huge saving for remoter relatives or step-children.

Let’s look at a simple example of the inheritance tax position of a married couple with two children, comparing the IHT position with and without investing in assurance vie:

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It is clear to see from this example that by wrapping their medium to long term savings in an assurance vie, this couple have saved each child €30,500 in IHT.

Of course, the more beneficiaries nominated, for example grandchildren, siblings, etc, the greater the IHT saving overall. Beneficiaries can be changed or added to the assurance vie at any time. Remember, also, that beneficiary nominations are not restricted to family members, so, whoever you nominate gets the same allowance.

The inheritance allowance on premiums paid to assurance vie after age 70 are less attractive at €30,500 of the premium (capital investment) plus the growth on the capital shared between all named beneficiaries, and the remaining capital invested is taxed in accordance with the standard IHT bands.

Nevertheless, an assurance vie is still a worthwhile investment after the age of 70 as, in addition to the inheritance tax benefits, assurance vie offers personal tax efficiencies to the investor such as gross roll-up of income and gains whilst funds remain in the policy and an annual income tax allowance of €4,600, or €9,200 for a couple, after 8 years.

So, in order to ensure that your inheritance wishes are carried out, some planning may be required and there are investment opportunities to mitigate the IHT for your chosen beneficiaries.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss your particular circumstances.

The Spectrum IFA Group – Occitainie
occitainie@spectrum-ifa.com