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French Inheritance Planning

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Le Tour de Finance, Succession Planning, Uncategorised, Wills
This article is published on: 9th September 2016

09.09.16

In May, I wrote about tax-efficient savings & investments in France, including Assurance Vie (AV), which is the most popular type of investment in France for medium to long-term savings. If you did not see the article, you can find it at www.spectrum-ifa.com/tax-efficient-savings-investments-france/

I had intended to return to discuss the benefits of AV for French inheritance planning, in the following month. But then we had the result of the Brexit vote and that caught my attention just a little more!

So now I am getting back to basics of what works for successful French inheritance planning for financial assets – regardless of whether the UK is in or out of the EU – and regardless of nationality. Without a doubt, this is the AV, as this is an excellent planning tool for protecting the survivor, providing you with freedom of choice about who you can leave your financial assets to, as well as mitigating the potential inheritance taxes for your beneficiaries.

In France, there are strict rules on succession and children are ‘protected heirs’, each being entitled to inherit a proportion of their parents’ estates. For example, if you have one child, the proportion is half; two children, one-third each; and if you have three or more children, three-quarters of your estate must be divided equally between them.

However, for a quirk of historical reasoning, the death benefits paid from an AV fall outside of your standard estate. Therefore, you can leave the proceeds of your AV to whoever you wish and so get around the French ‘forced’ succession rules. I know that there will be many out there who are saying that you can do this anyway now, as a result of the EU Succession Regulations. Well that’s true, but maybe it’s not quite as straightforward as one might think – or at least hoped!

The problem is that even though the EU Regulations have been in place for more than a year now, these have not been widely tested. Notaires and cross-border legal specialists are still trying to get to grips with how these Regulations actually work in practice. So I, like many other professionals, still hold the view that if there is a tried and tested ‘French way’ to achieve your objectives, then this should be used. Early articles that I wrote on this subject can be found at www.spectrum-ifa.com/the-eu-succession-regulations/

The EU Succession Regulations do not change the potential French inheritances taxes that are payable, but an AV does. Whilst there are no French inheritance taxes between spouses and partners who have entered into a legal civil partnership (known as a PACS, in France), for other beneficiaries, the tax rate varies according to their relationship to you. For example, step-children (and other non-blood beneficiaries) are taxed at a punitive 60%!

For amounts invested in an AV before age 70, each beneficiary (whatever their relationship to you) is entitled to a tax-free allowance of €152,500. Taxation is limited to 20% on amounts paid above the allowance up to €700,000, and at 31.25% for amounts exceeding €700,000 per beneficiary). There is still no tax between spouses and PACSd partners, whatever amount is transmitted.

There is no limit to the number of beneficiaries that you can name. Hence, whatever your family situation, it is possible to pass on your capital to whoever you like, without them suffering excessive rates of French inheritance tax. Thus, the survivor can be fully protected and then the capital can subsequently pass to your other beneficiaries, following the death of the survivor.

For amounts invested after age 70, the inheritance allowance for all your beneficiaries combined is reduced to €30,500 (plus the investment return on the total amount invested). In effect, therefore, it is only the amount invested that exceeds €30,500 that would be taxed at standard French inheritance tax rates.

Sadly, social contributions are now charged on any gain in the policy paid out as a death benefit. Even so, when the above inheritance planning advantages are taken into account together with the personal tax savings, this makes the AV a very attractive proposition.

Inheritance planning is a highly specialised and complicated subject. Everyone’s family situation and level of wealth is different and it is very important to seek professional advice, so that the best course of action for you can be established.

The benefits of AV and tax-efficiency is a subject that we cover in our popular financial seminars across France – “Le Tour de Finance – Bringing Experts to Expats”. Overall, our industry experts will be presenting updates and outlooks on a broad range of subjects, including:

  • Financial Markets
  • Assurance Vie
  • Pensions/QROPS
  • French Tax Issues
  • Currency Exchange

The date for the local seminar is Friday, 7th October 2016 at the Domaine Gayda, 11300 Brugairolles. Places are limited and must be reserved, in advance. This venue is always very popular and with less than a month to go, the event is likely to soon be fully booked. Therefore, you should contact us as soon as possible if you would like to come to the seminar. I will be at the event with our other advisers in this area, Rob, Derek and Sue.

In practice, financial advice is needed more than ever in uncertain times. Doing nothing can often be an expensive mistake. Hence, if you are not able to attend the seminar and would anyway like to have a confidential discussion with one of our financial advisers, you can contact us by e-mail at limoux@spectrum-ifa.com or by telephone on 04 68 31 14 10 to make an appointment. Alternatively, if you are in Limoux, call by our office at 2 Place du Général Leclerc, 11300 Limoux, to see if an advisor is available immediately for an initial discussion.

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 the investment of financial assets or on the mitigation of taxes.

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.

Every Cloud

By Derek Winsland - Topics: BREXIT, europe-news, France, Inflation, Interest rates, Pensions, QROPS, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 8th September 2016

08.09.16

With the exception of a weakening pound and falling interest rates, we are yet to see the full impact of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. Perhaps we may not ever see it if Teresa May and/or others decide against triggering Article 50 to herald the start of the process. We currently sit in a ‘phony’ period where no-one knows quite what will happen, causing doubt and uncertainty to set in. We await with bated breath the latest results to come out of the Treasury and the Bank of England.

The latter recently reduced interest rates to an historic low of 0.25%, at the same time announcing a new round of Quantitative Easing. Falling interest rates are either a good thing or a bad thing depending on which side of the saver/borrower fence you occupy. Clearly borrowers are happy, but for savers, especially those who rely upon their capital to supplement their retirement income, it’s not such a happy picture. Indeed, I am seeing this most days I speak to people about their finances. Thankfully, we are able to make investment recommendations that will generate higher levels of returns to counter falling interest rates, but these don’t suit everybody. But like most things I find in financial services, there’s generally a positive that accompanies a negative, if one looks close enough.

One such area relates to the impact falling interest rates has upon pension transfer values. In my last article I touched upon the way transfer values from occupational (defined benefit) schemes are calculated. Without going into chapter and verse, a fundamental part of the calculation process uses gilt interest rates to determine the transfer amount. Although the schemes have a certain amount of leeway in interpreting the rules, the bottom line is that low interest rates result in much higher transfer values having to be quoted by scheme trustees. This makes the decision on whether it suits an individual’s purpose to transfer somewhat easier to determine.

The observant amongst you will recall I mentioned TVAS in my last article, and the (somewhat out-of-date) rules that the FCA still clings on to. Remember critical yields? Well, a higher transfer value will result in a more achievable critical yield becoming attainable, so making the decision to move to a personal pension such as a QROPS, easier to make. Sure there are variables and these are more or less important depending on who you are and what your circumstances are. Carrying out a full analysis of your own particular situation, Spectrum’s advisers can place you in an empowered position to make your choices, so, if you have a defined benefit scheme that you’ve either never reviewed, or one that hasn’t been looked at for a while, perhaps now is the perfect time to do so.

Every cloud……!

Coveting the shiny stuff – Gold

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, Investment Risk, Investments, Italy, Saving, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 7th September 2016

07.09.16

Dear Readers, please forgive me for I have sinned. It has been quite some time since my last post and during this time I confess I have been having impure thoughts.

I have been dreaming that the UK did not vote to leave Europe. I have been dreaming that Sterling had not fallen 12% against the Euro since June 23rd and that pasta was not now 10% more expensive in the UK, I have been having impure thoughts about low(ish) inflation in the UK and not rampant price increases after BREXIT. Lastly, I have been dreaming that interest rates would rise and not fall further into negative territory, basically charging customers to hold money with them.

Forgive me for my sins and lead me not into new temptation…………GOLD

There is a lot of talk going around at the moment about gold being the best investment to hold and certainly since BREXIT it has proven its case. However, gold has some signifcant shortcomings alongside other forms of investment. Essentially, it is of pretty much no use and it does not produce any yield. True gold has some decorative and industrial uses but demand is limited and doesn’t really use up all of the production. If you hold a kilo of gold today it will still be a kilo of gold at the end of eternity (taking into account any chance events which may affect the gravitational effects on earth).

THE INVESTMENT CHOICE DILEMMA

PILE A
Today the worlds total gold stores are approximately 170,000 tons. If all this gold was melded together it would form a cube of about 21 metres per side. Thats about as long as a blue whale. At $1750 per ounce, it is worth about $9.6 TRILLION.

PILE B
Warren Buffet, who is not a fan of gold as an investment, is famously quoted as saying that with the same amount of money you could buy ALL US cropland (which produces about $200 billion annually), plus 16 Exxon Mobils (which earns $40 billion annually). After these purchases you would still have $1 trillion left over. (You wouldn’t want to feel strapped for cash after such a big spending spree, so best to leave some spare cash lying around)

So the Investment choice dilemma is who, given the choice, would choose PILE A over PILE B?

In 100 years from now the 400 million acres of farmland would have produced an immense amount of corn, wheat, cotton, and other crops and should continue to do so. Exxon Mobil will probably have delivered back to shareholders, in the form of dividends, trillions of dollars and will hold assets worth a lot more. The 170,000 tons of gold will still be the same and still incapable of producing anything. You can cuddle and hug the cube, and I am sure it would look very nice but I don’t think you will get much response.

So, taking all this into consideration, you would be forgiven for thinking that gold really doesn’t have a place in anyone’s portfolio. I think you would be wrong.

Gold may not produce any yield, but with people in Asia, especially China and India, gold is very popular. In addition, it is also proving very popular for nearly ALL central banks around the world. Are all they all going mad, or do they have specific reasons for holding gold?

Well, despite Warren Buffets’ musings above, gold has to be seen in todays world as another form of money as central governments continue to print more traditional money, uncontrollably, and the paper currencies that we use in everday life become more and more worthless.

We must remember that the history of gold is that it rose, on its own, as a tradeable form of money in the world. No one has been forced into using gold as a form of money, whereas paper money is controlled by the state and has never been adopted voluntarily, at any time.

So this is where Waren Buffets argument falls down, because actual money in itself has exactly the same characteristics as gold. Its value! (Gold has some minor commercial uses, but its true value is in its store of value). Therefore, it should not be considered an investment, but actually another form of money/currency. In its basic form it is a form of barter and exchange.

Unlike paper money which can just be created without limit and at next to no cost, gold is both scarce and expensive to mine. It takes 38 man hours to produce one ounce, about 1400 gallons of water, enough electricity to run a large house for 10 days, upto 565 cubic feet of air under pressure and lots of toxic chemicals, cyanide, acids, lead, borax, and lime. (Just writing this makes me feel sick about the environmental impact of mining gold).

So, in summary the problem with the PILE A and Pile B scenario is that it assumes that gold is a form of investment, whereas in reality it should be considered another form of money.

For 6000 years gold has been an effective store of value.

The correct comparison that should be made is gold versus cash. Imagine a gigantic pile of cash. This pile of cash would be as equally inert and equally unproductive as gold, in itself.

The only way you could earn anything from gold or cash, in this case, is by depositing it with a bank and earning interest, at which point you relinquish your ownership (it becomes the property of the bank) and you then become an unsecured creditor to the bank itself, i.e if the bank fails it has the legal right to take all your gold and cash. Sound familiar? It might be better to hold true gold in a safe at home!

The question is whether you invest directly in gold or the gold mining companies themselves?

Timing the markets

By Pauline Bowden - Topics: Costa del Sol, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, Uncategorised, wealth management
This article is published on: 29th August 2016

29.08.16

Staying the course

Every market cycle has both up days and down days. Often, a few very good days account for a large part of the total return. Staying the course ensures that investments will be “in” the market on the good days. Some people try to time market movements by selling stocks when they think the market is about to decline and by buying stocks when they think the market is about to rise. Resist being a market timer. By trying to time the market, you potentially miss out on market rallies that could substantially improve your overall return and long-term wealth. Thus, what’s most important is not timing the market, but rather time IN the market. Staying the course when confronting difficult markets may prove very rewarding in the long run. Consistently predicting which days will move in which direction, though, is virtually impossible and can be very costly.

Diversifying your portfolio

Diversification may reduce the overall volatility of your entire portfolio, thereby helping you achieve greater long-term returns. It is important to remember, however, that diversification does not protect against loss in broadly declining markets. Like markets in general, different investment styles come in and out of favour in Cycles Rather than trying to predict which investment is likely to be the best performer in the future, investing in a well-diversified portfolio can help you to seek returns whilst managing for volatility. Diversification strategies may be especially important in a volatile market environment, when sector rotations and market fluctuations happen continuously.

The Importance of Protection and Protecting What’s Important

By Pauline Bowden - Topics: Costa del Sol, Life Assurance, Spain, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 25th August 2016

25.08.16

Life Assurance is not the most popular of topics, as no-one wants to think about dying!

Most people have mortgages, loans, household bills, perhaps education fees, the payment of which is totally dependant on the income of the “bread winner”. Most Life Assurance policies are taken out to replace that income should the bread winner die or where there are children in a family to cover the life of the housewife/husband.

If your partner died, would you give up work to look after your children? A Life Assurance policy can provide the funds necessary to employ a carer/housekeeper.

Business partners too are financially dependant on each other. Should one of the partners in your company die, Life Assurance can provide a lump sum payment to buy the shares from the widow/er and help with the costs of finding new staff.

There are two main types of Life Assurance:

  • Term Assurance. This pays a lump sum on death or diagnosis of terminal illness within a set period of time. Often used for mortgage protection/family protection.
  • Whole of Life. This pays out whenever you die. Often used for Inheritance Tax, funeral expenses or for family protection.

So, how much life cover do you need?

Employer schemes generally provide 4 times the annual salary but in order to provide sufficient capital to fully protect the financial future of a family, most Financial Advisers would recommend up to 10 times the annual salary.

And how much will it cost?

The cost of Life Assurance varies according to age, sex, medical and family history etc.
To find out more about this subject call Pauline Bowden now on 95 289 0383 for a confidential and personal consultation.

Parkinson’s Law

By Victoria Lewis - Topics: France, Investments, Saving, Tips, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 24th August 2016

24.08.16

Are you familiar with Parkinson’s Law? Originally it stated that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

Parkinson’s Law is the title of the book written by Englishman Cyril Northcote Parkinson in 1958 and today, the more recent understanding of the law is a reference to the self-satisfying uncontrolled growth of the bureaucratic apparatus in an organization.

The Law is also applied to money and wealth accumulation: expenses always rise to match income. Parkinson’s Law can explain why many people retire poor and why some people succeed, whilst others fail.

The law says that, no matter how much money people earn, they tend to spend the entire amount and a little bit more. Their expenses increase in line with their earnings. Many people earn today several times more than they were earning at their first jobs. But somehow, they seem to need every single penny to maintain their current lifestyles. No matter how much they make, it is never enough.

The key to financial success – break the (Parkinson’s) law
Parkinson’s Law explains the trap that most people fall into. This is the reason for debt, money worries and financial frustration. It is only when you have sufficient willpower to resist the urge to spend everything you make that you begin to accumulate money – the perfect environment to help you achieve financial independence.

Reduce your outgoings
If you ensure your expenses increase at a slower rate than your earnings, and you save or invest the difference, you will become financially independent in your working lifetime (and retirement).

Measure the difference between your earnings and the costs of your lifestyle, and then save and invest the difference. You can continue to improve your lifestyle as you make more money.

Take action
Here are two things you can do to apply this law immediately:

  1. Imagine that your financial life is like a failing company that you have taken over.  Stop all non-essential expenses. Draw up a budget of your fixed, unavoidable costs per month and resolve to limit your expenditures to these amounts. The aim is to make sure that your ‘company is making a profit’.

Carefully examine every expense. Question it as though you were analysing someone else’s expenses and look for ways to economise. Aim for a minimum of say, 10% reduction in your living costs.

  1. Resolve to save and invest 50% of any increase you receive in your earnings from any source. Learn to live on the rest. This still leaves you the other 50 percent to do with as you desire!

Autumn Tour de Finance seminars

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: BREXIT, France, Le Tour de Finance, Spectrum-IFA Group, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 16th August 2016

16.08.16

At this time of the year, it’s pretty difficult for anyone to think about financial planning. The sun is shining, families are visiting, or perhaps we are taking our own vacations somewhere else. Tax, investment markets, pensions and inheritance planning are usually the last things that people want to think about, but this year is proving to be a pretty exceptional year.

September brings the rentrée and it’s also a time when reasonable assumptions can usually be made about what might happen in financial markets over the rest of the year -although this year may be a challenge!

There is at least one ‘big political event’ up ahead that might keep the markets guessing and who knows what the outcome of the US Presidential Election will be? Can anyone ever depend again on forecast polls to gain some insight, after the shock result of the EU Referendum?

On the UK, could there also be a General Election? If not this year, next year? Will Theresa May really be able to resist the pressure that is likely to ensue and stay firm to the statement she made in her leadership campaign not to call a snap election?

Brexit is of course a big question – will it happen or not? If so, when? No-one really knows, but in the meantime, markets remain on high alert and sensitive to the potential outcomes of a Brexit.

As a result of Brexit, the Bank of England has drastically cut its forecast for UK growth for 2017. The interest rate has also been cut to a historic low of 0.25% and this may not be the last reduction for this year. Combined with the prospect of an increase in inflation, due to a weaker Sterling, the prospect for any meaningful return on cash has diminished still further. How will this affect you? What will happen if interest rates stay permanently lower and not just for longer?

There are other things that could affect the way that markets perform over the rest of the year and into 2017. What is the prospect for global equity and bond markets? Are we reaching the peak of the current market cycle? Should you be taking short-term ‘protective’ actions to protect your wealth for the long-term? Do you need to take action with your pension funds to make sure these last as long as you do?

Le Tour de Finance

All very interesting questions and fortunately, we are again holding our popular financial seminars across France – “Le Tour de Finance – Bringing Experts to Expats”, which is a perfect opportunity for you to discuss some of these questions directly with experts. Our industry experts will be presenting updates and outlooks on a broad range of subjects, including:

  • Financial Markets
  • Assurance Vie
  • Pensions/QROPS
  • French Tax Issues
  • Currency Exchange

The date for the local seminar is Friday, 7th October 2016 at the Domaine Gayda, 11300 Brugairolles. Places are limited and must be reserved, in advance. This venue is always very popular and so early booking is recommended.

In practice, financial advice is needed more than ever in uncertain times. Doing nothing can often be an expensive mistake. Hence, if you would like to attend the seminar or would anyway like to have a confidential discussion with one of our financial advisers, you can contact us by e-mail at limoux@spectrum-ifa.com or by telephone on 04 68 31 14 10. Alternatively, drop-by to our Friday morning clinic at our office at 2 Place du Général Leclerc, 11300 Limoux, for an initial discussion.

One final thing to share with you is the news that our Languedoc team is expanding. Sue Regan has joined us as an adviser and so now we have six advisers covering this region. Sue lives at Cruzy and so is well placed for visiting clients in Narbonne, Beziers and the surrounding areas. She can be contacted directly by telephone on 04 67 24 90 95 or by email at sue.regan@spectrum-ifa.com. Sue will also be at the Gayda event with Derek, Rob and myself.

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 here

Portugal’s Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) Tax Code & Golden Visa Regime

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: golden visa regime, non-habitual resident, Portugal, Residency, Tax, tax advice, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 5th August 2016

05.08.16

It is not an exaggeration to say that Portugal’s NHR and Golden Visa regimes offer two of the most beneficial tax and residence arrangements available in the world.

The NHR Tax Code

  • The NHR tax code is designed to attract foreign individuals to Portugal to entice investment and increase employment opportunities in Portugal
  • NHRs are Tax Residents of Portugal but they can benefit from preferential tax rates and in many cases, receive income and interest, which is totally exempt from Personal Income Tax (PIT)
  • Any person who has not been resident in Portugal in the past 5 years and who subsequently becomes resident of Portugal may be entitled to apply for this status
  • The NHR is valid for 10 years – and may well be extended in the future
  • Individuals who qualify must apply by 31st March in the year following registering as a resident of Portugal

Tax Treatment of *Foreign Source Income (generated outside Portugal)

Category Taxation in Portugal
Pension Tax Exempt
Real Estate Rentals Tax Exempt
Interest Tax Exempt
Employment Tax Exempt
Capital Gains Tax Exempt
Self employment Exempt-as long as obtained from abroad

* Sources of income from any of the 81 “Black Listed” territories will not qualify under the NHR tax code

Portugal Source Income

Any income generated in Portugal will be taxed at a flat rate of 20% instead of at the normal progressive rates: up to 48%

Certain professions, such as architects, engineers, doctors, university professors, auditors and tax consultants and other esoteric occupations may also obtain a favoured tax status.

In essence then, anyone who qualifies for residence in Portugal and who can meet the NHR criteria can obtain the these tax privileges .

Importantly, as well as taking tax advice in Portugal, candidates for the NHR tax Code should ensure that they have informed their home country’s tax authorities that they are leaving to avoid any risk of double taxation.Please note, however, that other countries may challenge such residency status by arguing that in accordance with their domestic rules the relevant person should be considered resident in such jurisdiction. If that becomes the case, i.e. if there is a conflict of residency where two countries consider the same individual resident in both their respective jurisdictions, the tie-break clause established under the tax treaties will apply.

In the case of the United Kingdom, the new Statutory Residence Test (SRT) “maze” can exclude a claim of non UK residence, or inhibit the number of days one can visit the UK in the first three years of non-UK Residence unless certain steps are taken.

How can we help?

  • We can advise and assist in obtaining NHR with suitably qualified Portuguese associates and assist in obtaining applying for the NHR tax code treatment
  • We can refer clients to our UK tax advisors who will ensuring that the correct procedures are adopted so that the SRT non-resident status is met. This will ensure, with the agreement of HMRC, no UK tax returns being necessary in the future
  • Likewise, our qualified Portuguese associates, will provide the necessary forms under the Portugal Double Tax Agreements to ensure any UK non- Government pension income is paid gross

Golden Visa

Who Can Apply for the Golden Visa
Third State citizens involved in an investment activity, either individually or through a company conducting, at least, one of the following operations in national territory for a minimum period of five years:

I) Capital transfer with a value equal to or above 1 million Euros;
II) Creation of, at least, 30 job positions;
III) Acquisition of real estate with a value equal to or above 500 thousand Euros.

It covers shareholders of companies already set up in Portugal, or in another EU State, with a stable residence in Portugal and with tax obligations fulfilled.

  • The investment function established for the Golden Visa has to made and maintained for a minimum of 5 years from the date of which the Golden Visa is established
  • The Golden Visa is initially valued for 1 year, renewable for each 2 year period required
  • Holders of the golden visa may need to evidence that they have stayed on Portuguese territory for at least 7 days in the first year and 14 days in the subsequent 2 year renewal periods
  • After the 6th year, the Visa holder is eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship, if they so desire

How can we help?

In conjunction with our Portugal Legal associates we can guide applicants through all aspects the process of obtaining the Golden Visa permit.

Tin Hat Time at the FCA

By Derek Winsland - Topics: FCA, final salary schemes, France, Pensions, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 1st August 2016

01.08.16

In the wake of the fourth Parliamentary Review into the Financial Conduct Authority and its handling of high-profile incidents, comes the latest criticism from the Financial Services Complaints Commissioner who accuses the FCA of “an unwillingness to face up to and address its shortcomings”. He went on to say he had seen a tendency at the FCA to find reasons for excluding cases from the complaints scheme in circumstances where they should not have been excluded. Oh dear, smacks of Big Brother getting too big for his boots and believing itself to be above the law?

It is currently squirming with embarrassment over the antics of Sir Phillip Green and the BHS pension scheme, and this is fostering the belief in the industry that it is too focussed on the advisory sector and overlooking the problems that Pension Freedoms is having on occupational pension schemes, especially Defined Benefit (DB) or ‘final salary’ schemes.
You will no doubt be aware that the legislation passed in April 2015 relaxed the rules over how benefits could be taken from pensions. Gone was the insistence that a “pension is a pension – its job is to provide your income in retirement.” Although this is true, the old-fashioned rules take no consideration of lifestyle and personal choices. A casualty of this new form of thinking is the annuity, where you handed over your pension pot to an insurance company in return for an income for the rest of your life. A great concept except that the insurance company kept your money when you died. Under the new rules, you could use your pension pot to draw income off in retirement (or even before retirement now). This ‘income’ could be regular or ad-hoc in support of other income like state pensions for example.

Crucially, the new rules addressed the world in which we live and choose to live. An example of this could be where a member of a DB pension scheme (or a number of schemes over his/her working life) may decide on a change of career, to move to France to buy a property with an attached Gite to rent out. That is a lifestyle choice that perhaps suits that individual. Personal choice.

Under current (and out of date) FCA thinking, the default assumption is that it would not be appropriate for that individual to transfer the accrued benefits from such DB pension schemes, unless it can be proven that such a transfer is in that client’s best interest. How is this tested? Through the Transfer Value Analysis System or TVAS. Results are shown in the form of critical yields and hurdle rates. Sound complicated? You bet! Except it doesn’t allow for lifestyle choices or individual circumstances, which to the member are of far more importance. As advisers we’re told we must advise and inform the client of what’s in his or her best interest, even if it doesn’t gel with that person’s view. Believe me, those conversations are not easy. The FCA, meanwhile, sits in Canary Wharf, navel-gazing while all this is going on. The more cynical amongst us think the FCA has far more on its plate like finding ways to boost its coffers now it’s been told to stop bank-bashing and fining them for their latest misdemeanours.

There is hope on the horizon, however. The new chief executive of the FCA, Andrew Bailey has promised a greater focus on pensions, hopefully this won’t be an exercise in covering their backsides, but rather a genuine attempt to move with the times, providing much-needed and valuable guidance to the people they serve, the consumer. Let’s all hope that this is sooner rather than later and that the FCA doesn’t get distracted too much wrestling with the bear called Brexit.

If you would like more information on our view of how the investment markets are likely to play out into the future, ring for an appointment or take advantage of our Friday Morning Drop-in Clinic, here at our office in Limoux. And don’t forget, there is no charge for these meetings.

An overview of tax treatment in Portugal 2016

By Robbin Davies - Topics: Portugal, Tax, tax advice, tax tips, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 28th July 2016

28.07.16

The Portuguese tax year runs from 1 January to 31 December and the tax system comprises of state and local taxes which are generally calculated based on income, property ownership and expenditure.

Portuguese residents are taxed through IRS (Personal Income Tax) on their worldwide income and on a self assessment basis. The income of married taxpayers is based on the entire family unit, and married couples must submit a joint tax return. However, spouses of individuals residing in Portugal for fewer than 183 days in the calendar year, and who are able to prove that their main economic activities are not linked to Portugal, may file a tax return in Portugal disclosing the tax resident individual’s income and their part of the couple’s income.

Income is split into the following categories: revenue from employment, business and professional income, investment income (including interest), rental income, capital gains and pension income. Defined tax deductible expenses are deducted from gross income for each separate category – giving a net taxable income for that category.

A splitting procedure applies to married couples by dividing the family income by two prior to the applicable marginal tax rate being determined. Total taxable income is taxed at progressive rates varying from 14.5% on income under €7,000 to 48% for income over €80,000 to arrive at a final tax liability, then multiplied by two in respect of married couples. There has existed a “Solidarity Tax” of 2.5% which is charged on income over €80,000, and progressively up to 5% for income over €250,000, but this will cease at the end of the 2016 tax year.

Investment income (such as capital gains, interest and dividends etc,) is currently taxed at a rate of 28%. Likewise, rental income is also taxed at 28%, but in both cases tax residents in Portugal may elect for the scale rates to be applied, but once this method is chosen, it will be applied to all income sources. Any tax withheld is considered to be a payment on account against the final total tax liability.

Income from self employment is category B income and is taxed either under a ‘simplified regime’ or based on the taxpayer’s actual accounts. If a taxpayer has earnings below a certain ceiling, they are liable to taxation according to the ‘simplified regime’ whereby 20% of income from sales of products or 80% of income arising from other business and professional services is taxed with a minimum taxable amount due. No expenses deductions are permitted under the simplified regime. If the simplified regime is not applicable then net profits or gains made by an individual are assessed in accordance with the same rules that apply to company tax assessment. Earnings from self-employment or independent activities in Portugal are subject to tax, whether or not an individual is tax resident in Portugal, and may be withheld at source. Tax credits are potentially available for medical expenses, school fees, life and health insurance premiums and where appropriate, mortgage interest, but they are subject to certain conditions. There are other credits available, for example for contributions into retirement schemes and the purchase of eco-friendly renewable energy. Deductions are also available for limited donations to charities, and for payments of alimony that has been determined by a court decision.

It should be noted that with effect from 2010, all foreign bank account holdings are required to be disclosed on income tax returns. In addition, Portugal has a list of of jurisdictions that it considers to be “tax havens”. This list includes the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and income from these jurisdictions is taxed at the higher rate of 35%. There do exist alternatives to these jurisdictions which are approved by the Portuguese Tax Authority. Likewise, whilst Trust income is considered liable to taxation, this varies depending on whether the payments from such entities arise from distribution by, or dissolution of, the trust. Nevertheless, where estate planning is concerned, this can be of considerable interest.

Non-Habitual Resident scheme
This attractive regime for new residents with substantial assets is still available for those persons who have not been tax resident in Portugal during the previous five years, whether employed or retired. It provides for substantial tax exemptions during the first ten years of residence. Spectrum IFA Group would be pleased to discuss the structure and implications of the scheme.

Disclaimer
This is not an exhaustive list of taxable items, and changes may occur during the current tax year, but it is designed to give an overview of the most import and key issues. Taking professional advice from a designated tax-advisor is essential, and Spectrum IFA Group is well positioned to assist in finding the appropriate institution or individual to provide such advice.