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Political shock in the UK

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Currencies, Italy, sterling, UK General Elections, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 13th December 2019

13.12.19

Dear Readers of my articles

I am writing you a very short email today after what appears to be somewhat of a political shock in the UK. I will refrain from further comment until I have had time to let things sink in and I can discuss possible financial consequences in a rational manner.

However, where one loses another gains, as the saying goes, and one of the fortunate consequences of this vote in the UK is that it will bring, I think, short termed optimism and bear favourably on pounds sterling. I doubt this will continue as the reality of leaving the EU strikes home once again, and let’s not forget that a NO Deal scenario is now a real possibility again.

My point is that as I write this GBP: EUR has bounced to 1:21. If you have money in GBP and you need to convert to EUR you might be staring at a very favourable rate. I am not making any assumptions on where it will go during the course of the day, weeks ahead or even months, but compared to the last few years the exchange rate is quite attractive for sterling conversion to euro.

It was predicted that this would happen after a Tory majority win, so take advantage where you can.

Enjoy the day ahead as news comes in and we start to find out what the future holds for UK politics.

Does Qrops or transferring your UK Pension overseas work?

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, pension transfer, Pensions, QROPS, Spain, UK Pensions, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 4th March 2019

04.03.19

Those people who have a UK private or company pension and are resident outside of the UK, more often than not have the choice to transfer their pension to a QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme), that is the process of moving your pension outside of the UK. However, what are the important points to note with this, how does it differ from having your pension in the UK and most importantly, does it actually work effectively?

For just over 10 years you have been able to move your pension outside of the UK. Over that time, I have seen mixed success at doing this, with the companies providing this service changing, fees in essence reducing and the options of managing this growing. What has also changed is the benefit of doing this, alongside the advice you receive. Unfortunately, I have come across many cases where this has not worked well, and the reasons are nearly all the same: bad advice was given by the financial adviser who put their clients is funds/pensions that were overpriced and expensive.

To summarise, the current key potential benefits of Qrops would be the first step to seeing if this could be the right choice for you:

  • Pension potentially outside of future UK law changes
  • Brexit and the impact it would have on being a British person living in Spain
  • Potentially side stepping an expected 25% tax charge for moving pensions after Brexit
  • Currency fluctuation (ability to change your pension to euros when convenient)
  • Portability – the ability to move your pension in the future if needed
  • Potentially reduced tax liability
  • Inheritance – potential reduction of tax to beneficiaries or potentially lower tax on death (depending on your country of residence)
  • Peace of mind
  • Closer personal management of your pension
  • Tax efficient (working alongside a local tax adviser) potentially

And what are the key points that might mean Qrops is not right for you:

  • Returning to live permanently in the UK in the next five years (or maybe longer)
  • Pensions total value under £60,000 (the charges would be, in my opinion, punitive)
  • A company scheme where the benefits outweigh transferring
  • In the near future, wanting to take most of the money from your pension
  • Not having your pension in a Qrops managed well and expensively

From the perspective of access to your money, there is currently not much difference to having a personal pension in the UK or a Qrops. With the rule changes a few years back, you can, in essence, get access to your UK pension from age 55 in the UK and as much as you like, just as in Qrops.

Where Qrops really can help is moving an asset away from the UK and any potential rule changes, which have been regular over the recent years (mainly worse for the person owning a private pension). Couple that with Brexit and a potential 25% tax charge, then having your pension outside the UK will give you peace of mind in knowing exactly what the pensions rules would be for you moving forward. Also, given the fact that if you did ever move back to the UK (statistics show that for a British couple, there is a 75% chance one of you will go back at some point), you can transfer it back with you (there could also be tax benefits of doing this) and with some pension companies no charge.

However, perhaps the most important question is, does it work? The simple answer is yes it can, BUT it has to be set up the right way, with the right company and if you are given the right advice for what your pension is invested in. Basically, it needs to be done for your benefit, not so that the adviser can earn as much commission as possible from your pension.

Whenever I take a new client on, I always ask them if they would like to speak to an existing client to see what their experiences were, which is what I would do when performing my own due diligence.

If you would like to talk through any pensions you have and what your options are, feel free to get in touch and know that you will be given good advice, whether you become a client or not.

G transferred her pension 4 years ago; it has grown significantly over that time. “Chris has always been consultative and there when we need him.”

J transferred his pension 6 years ago. “It has grown well over that time. Whenever I have needed money from my pension Chris has arranged this for me. I would recommend him for sure.”

C transferred her pension 5 years ago. “It has grown steadily in that time (I am a cautious investor) and since then my husband and I have asked Chris to help us with our other investments.”

As a British citizen living in France who can look after my financial affairs if I become incapacitated?

By Tony Delvalle - Topics: Estate Planning, France, Trusts, United Kingdom, Wills
This article is published on: 14th December 2018

14.12.18

There has been a huge rise in the number of lasting powers of attorney set up as dementia and Alzheimer’s have become the biggest cause of death.

Power of attorney arrangements allow an individual’s financial and health affairs to be looked after by someone else, the attorney, if they lose mental capacity in the future.

Several million “lasting” agreements have been registered since 2008, when they replaced “enduring” power of attorneys, amid concerns that the rules were too easy to abuse. There are two types of agreement – one covering finances and property, and another for health and welfare. Finance and property is far more popular.

The sharp rise in new agreements – which are set up on average when the donor is 75 – comes as the Office for National Statistics reveals deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s accounted for almost one in eight deaths in 2015 – a total of 61,686 people – overtaking heart disease as Britain’s biggest killer. It is steadily on the increase.

Many people are still exposed as the majority of people have not appointed a power of attorney. It is possible for someone to take control of your financial or welfare decisions after an individual becomes mentally incapable, this can be a lengthy and complicated process with extra cost, which can cause distress at an already difficult time.

Without power of attorney, friends and family have to retrospectively apply to the Court of Protection and prove why they should assume responsibility. This process incurs court fees and can take up to 16 weeks, leaving money locked into accounts until a decision is made. Add to this an international dimension and it is certainly a complicated problem.

As a British citizen in France you can do either a UK lasting power of attorney or a French mandat de protection future. The choice between which one is best will depend where you intend to live now and the future and where is the main part of your estate.

Let’s look at the UK and French legal systems available in cases of incapacity. The two different types of lasting powers of attorney in case of incapacity in England are Health and Welfare, and Property and Financial, whereas in France there is only one the mandat de protection future.

UK Health and Welfare covers

  • Daily routine
  • Moving into a care home
  • Life sustaining treatment

UK Property and Financial covers

  • Managing bank or building society account
  • Collecting benefits or a pension
  • Selling their home

French Mandat de protection future covers all aspects of a persons financial and health well being.

1) As a British citizen living in France, which law would govern the administration of your estate in case of incapacity?
– French law will be applicable under the provisions of the Hague Convention

2) What does French Law use to protect people from incapacity? The Mandat de protection future is one choice and covers all aspects of a persons financial and health well being.
* Trusteeship
* Guardianship

3) Could you prepare for a physical or mental incapacity by appointing somebody you trust to administer your estate, pay your debts, manage your income in France?
Yes of course.

4) Would that power of attorney be applicable and enforceable abroad?
Yes it would be efficient in most countries and in 100% of the countries who ratified the Hague Convention such as England and Wales. In other words you could prepare a LPA or mandat de protection future and both should be applicable.

5) Does the French power of attorney have a limited scope? Can the attorney sign a deed of sale on your behalf?
a) Notarial mandate (notarial deed extend the power of the guardians up to the possibility of selling the estate)
b) Mandate not supervised by the Notaire (mere administration by an appointed trustee + the Judge)

So both are legal and which one is best for you may depend on a number of factors. What your assets are, where they are held and in what way, jointly, individually, what you want from them, inheritance planning etc.

The most important thing is to do something. Taking good legal and financial advice before you do to see what is best for you and avoid potential future problems when you least need them is imperative.

Possible effects of Brexit in Spain

By Charles Hutchinson - Topics: BREXIT, Spain, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 6th December 2018

06.12.18

At 11pm on March 29, 2019, the United Kingdom will officially leave the European Union.

Much has been written about the millions of Europeans living in the UK and the millions of Britons living in Europe, but little about the tax consequences for Britons who are non-resident in Spain but have interests in the country, mainly owning real estate properties.

Britons could lose the following tax benefits in Spain when the United Kingdom leaves the EU:

Non-resident income tax on real estate: the Spanish Government imputes a benefit in kind to owners of holiday houses that is taxable as income. By definition, a house owned by a non-resident cannot be their main home, so every non-resident owner of a house in Spain, even if it is not rented out, has to declare an imputed income and pay taxes on that income annually. The income tax rate is 19% for those living in an EU member state, Iceland and Norway, but it is 24% for the rest.

Therefore, Britons could end up paying 24% tax on the imputed income instead of current 19%.

Rental income tax: non-resident owners of Spanish properties who get income from renting them out are liable to Spanish non-resident income tax on the gross income. However, those living in an EU member state, Iceland and Norway are entitled to offset some costs from their rental income and therefore are taxed only on the net profit.

Therefore, Britons could end up paying 24% tax on gross income with no deductibles, compared to the current 19% on net profit.

Inheritance and gift tax: regional governments are empowered to regulate this tax, the consequence being that the tax liability will vary depending on the region. The difference can be substantial.

Non-residents are subject to Federal law, which is normally less favourable than Regional law. However, those living in an EU member state, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein can choose the application of the most favourable legislation for their situation, Federal law or Regional law (in which the properties of major value are located).

Therefore, Britons could lose the right to apply for Regional law. In Andalucía, for example, there is a threshold of 1 million euro, meeting certain requirements, to which Britons could not be entitled.

This is just a short list of the possible tax consequences of Brexit. The UK may join the EEA (European Economic Area) like Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. If the Norway-style agreement is adopted, a major part of EU law could still apply, but that is by no means clear at this point.

*Source: JC&A Abogados (Santiago Lapausa)

The Gift of Giving

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, Tax, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 19th October 2018

19.10.18

In my family, there are a lot of birthdays at the end of the year and before you know it Christmas is upon us. With only limited space for physical gifts like clothes or toys, sometimes cash gifts or contributions to the children’s savings plans are more than welcome! But how much can you give your children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces? As we will see, whilst the rules on official gifts and inheritance allowances are very clear, there seems to be much more flexibility on smaller gifts for special occasions.

Gifts from a UK resident to a French resident – UK tax applies
If you receive gifts from a UK resident, such gifts are generally subject to UK tax rules. However, if the recipient has lived in France for at least six of the ten tax years preceding the year in which the gift is received, French tax rules will apply. Inheritances are covered by the Double Tax Treaty between France and the UK but gifts are not. Inheritances are not taxable even if the recipient has been living in France for more than six years. If a double tax situation were to arise then the tax paid in the UK would be deducted from any tax payable in France. French tax is also payable if a UK resident gifts an asset that is situated in France.

A gift is defined as anything that has a value, such as money, property, possessions. If a person were to sell their house to a child, for less than its market value, then the difference in value would count as a gift.
Gifts to exempt beneficiaries are not subject to Inheritance Tax. These include:

  • Between husband, wife or civil partner, provided that they reside permanently in the UK
  • Registered UK charities (a list is available on the gov.uk website)
  • Some national organisations, such as universities, museums and the National Trust

HMRC also allows an annual exemption of £3,000 worth of gifts to people other than exempt beneficiaries each tax year (6 April to 5 April), without them being added to the value of the estate. Any unused annual exemptions may be carried forward to the next year, but only for one year.

Each tax year, a UK tax resident may also give:

  • Cash gifts for weddings or civil ceremonies of up to £1,000 per person (£2,500 for a grandchild or great-grandchild, £5,000 for a child)
  • Normal gifts out of their income, for example Christmas or birthday presents, provided that they are able to maintain their standard of living after making the gift
  • Payments to help with another person’s living costs, such as an elderly relative or a child under 18
  • Gifts to charities and political parties

These exemptions may be cumulated, so a grandchild/nephew/niece could receive a gift for their wedding and their birthday in the same tax year. However, if the wedding or civil partnership is cancelled, the gift for this event will no longer be exempt from Inheritance Tax.

There is an unlimited amount of small gifts allowance of up to £250 per person during the tax year provided that the person making the gift hasn’t used up another exemption on the same person (such as the £3,000 annual exemption limit).

In the UK, Inheritance Tax is payable (at 40%) on gifts made in the 3 years before the donor’s death. Any gifts given between 3 to 7 years before death are taxed on a sliding scale known as ‘taper relief’. Gifts given more than 7 years before death are not counted towards the value of the estate. Inheritance tax will apply if the gift is more than £325,000 in the 7 years before the donor’s death.

Gifts from a French resident to another French resident or to a UK resident – French gift tax rules apply
In France, the Inheritance Tax allowances are not as generous as in the UK. The tax relief on gifts is the same as for inheritance tax and depends on the relationship between the donor and beneficiary. A parent may only give their child up to €100,000 tax free, a grandparent only €31,865 to a grandchild, brothers and sisters may receive €15,932, nephews and nieces € 7,967 and great-grandchildren €5,310.

There is no inheritance tax between married couples or those in a civil partnership, however, for gifts made during a person’s lifetime the maximum amount allowed is €80,724.
Gifts made to disabled persons, subject to certain conditions, have an additional exemption of €159,325 per person irrespective of the relationship between the donor and the disabled person. This exemption is in addition to the normal exemptions above.

These exemptions for gift tax (or ‘droits de donation’) may be used several times over during one’s lifetime, provided that there is a 15-year gap between each gift.
As in the UK, financial support given to a child/ex-spouse/dependent relative on a monthly/annual basis is not considered as a gift in French law, but rather as a family duty. Such support, or ‘pension alimentaire’ as it is called in French, is tax deductible for the donor but must be declared as income by the recipient.

A gift (called ‘don’ in French) may be a physical object, a house or property or intangible gifts like shares or intellectual property rights. If the gift is a house or property, a notary will be required, and he/she will make sure that the proper gift tax declarations are filed. The transfer of property must take place immediately and once given is irrevocable.

Cash gifts, (‘don manuel’ in French) – made by hand, cheque or bank transfer – are subject to different rules. A cash gift of €31,865, may be given to a child, grandchild, great-grandchild or, if there are none such, to nephews, nieces, or if the nephews and nieces have died to their children or representatives. The donor must, however, be less than 80 years old and the beneficiary must be over 18 years old on the day the gift is made. This exemption is also subject to the 15-year rule and is in addition to the Inheritance Tax allowances mentioned above.

The cash gift allowance and the normal gift allowances may be cumulated as long as they do not exceed the legal maximum amounts. So for example, provided that in all cases the donor is not yet 80 years old and the beneficiary is over 18; a mother or a father can give their child a total amount of €131,865; a grandparent can give an adult grandchild a total amount of €63 730 (€31,865 + €31,865); a great-grandparent can give an adult great-grandchild a total amount of €37,175 (€31,865 + €5,310) and an aunt or an uncle can give a nephew or niece a sum of €39,832 (€31,865 + €7,967).

Such cash gifts must be declared to the tax office the month after they are made. Cash gifts (above these exemptions) are taxable if they are discovered by the tax authorities during a routine enquiry by letter or during an official tax inspection. When the beneficiary declares the gift to the tax office of his/her own accord, they must pay the relevant amount of tax. If the value of the gift is over €15,000 it may be declared and any tax paid in the month after the donor’s death.

The French have another type of gift called ‘Présent d’usage’ which is a gift for normal ordinary life events like weddings, birthdays, graduations, baptisms etc. Such gifts are not considered taxable gifts provided that they are given on or around a special event/occasion and that they are not disproportionate given the level of income and assets of the donor.

There is no law which defines the exact amount of these gifts so each is considered on a case-by-case basis.

The Cour de Cassation ruled that a gift of €20,000 from a husband to his wife was a ‘present d’usage’ as it was given for her birthday and by way of a loan taken out by the husband. The monthly payments on the loan were less than 20% of his net income.

Such gifts are not subject to French gift tax and are not included in the donor’s estate.

So now that you are aware of the rules in both countries you may give or receive gifts knowing exactly what needs to be declared. However, the use of gift tax allowances as a tax planning strategy is something which should only be considered after taking proper advice from a qualified independent financial adviser specialised in cross-border matters.

New QROPS tax charge for 2017 – Will this change after BREXIT?

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Belgium, BREXIT, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, pension transfer, Pensions, Portugal, QROPS, Retirement, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 20th April 2018

20.04.18

In the Spring 2017 Budget, the UK government announced its intention to introduce a new 25% Overseas Transfer Charge (OTC) on QROPS transfers taking place on or after 9th March 2017. The HMRC Guidance indicates that the OTC will not be applied in the following situations:

  • the QROPS is in the European Union (EU) or EEA and the member is also resident in an EU or EEA country (not necessarily the same EU or EEA country);
  • the QROPS and the member is in the same country; or
  • the QROPS is an employer sponsored occupational pension scheme, overseas public service pension scheme or a pension scheme established by an International Organisation (for example, the United Nations, the EU, i.e. not just a multinational company), and the member is an employee of the entity to which the benefits are transferred to its pension scheme.

It is also intended that the above provisions will apply to transfers from one QROPS (or former QROPS) to another, if this is within five full tax years from the date of the original transfer of benefits from the UK pension scheme to the first QROPS arrangement.

Nevertheless, it is clear that taking professional regulated advice is essential. This includes if you have already transferred benefits to a QROPS and you are planning to move to another country of residence.

It is important to explore your options now while you still have the chance as who knows what changes will come with BREXIT. Contact you’re local adviser for a FREE consultation and to discuss your personal options

How safe is your UK pension?

By Chris Webb - Topics: Madrid, Spain, UK Pensions, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 9th February 2018

09.02.18

In days gone by the UK’s private pension schemes were the envy of the world, considered superior to other nations’ schemes. Alas, those days of world class company pension schemes are gone…………..

It is surprising just how many people are still members of their final salary or defined benefit schemes. Considered a “golden pension”, these schemes offer the best retirement promise, a promise to pay you the benefits that are defined in their pension schedule. Not a personal pension wholly dependant on the investments made, but a “fixed in stone” promise.

But how many of these people should be worried about how safe the promises are?

We recently witnessed the collapse of Carillion, a construction and outsourcing company with over 40,000 employees. They were just the latest in a high profile list of companies that have brought the subject of “pension safety” to the fore.

What happens to their workforce who are members of their pension scheme? The chairman of trustees of Carillion’s pension scheme, Robin Ellison, has suggested in a letter to a committee of MPs that there was a funding shortfall of around £990m with Carillion’s defined benefit pension scheme*. YES, £990 MILLION !!!

Many of the UK’s largest companies are running pension deficits that would bring a tear to the eye. The exact amount of pension deficit is hard to ascertain, but sources claim these numbers to be around £103 BILLION* with over 3,700 schemes in deficit compared to 1,800 in surplus.

Many household names find themselves in the same situation with their pension schemes. Names like BAE, Royal Dutch Shell, The Royal Mail and British Telecom to name a few. It is only a matter of time before one of these names, or another “big player” joins the list of collapsing pensions.

So, if you’re in a pension that is in deficit is that a problem? Well, there are close to 11 MILLION people holding defined benefit pensions. Out of that number they estimate that 3 MILLION (3) will encounter problems and potentially have only a 50% chance of receiving their promised pension.

The UK Government runs a special fund aptly called The Pension Protection Fund, the aim being to bail out companies with a pension crisis. The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) was set up on 6 April 2005 to protect members who had defined benefits (i.e. final salary type benefits) in a workplace pension scheme, where the employer became insolvent on or after this date and the pension scheme could not afford to pay those benefits promised to members on wind up.

Many smaller UK defined benefit pension schemes have already fallen into their basket, as well as some larger organisations. BHS and British Steel are two of the largest organisations to be in the pot. You can view all of the companies listed at the PPF website; it makes for horrid reading when you see the true amount of company pensions that have already owned up to and admitted they can’t afford to pay their promises………

The Pension protection fund isn’t exactly a guaranteed scheme anyway, whilst it runs within its parameters it can provide its own level of promises (below what the original pension company was offering), however if too many large company pension schemes start running to it for protection, it will put the protection fund under its own strain……

So what can you do about it?
Well, here at The Spectrum IFA Group we work closely with some of the worlds leading pension providers and can not only offer you completely independent advice but we can also provide you with a technical analysis on your pension. We can advise whether your pension is in deficit or surplus, we can advise on the pro’s and con’s of your existing pension provision and furnish you with sufficient information to actually understand what you may receive. We can also compare that information to the alternative options available to you, whether that be a transfer out of your scheme to a QROPS or an International SIPP option. This service is available for defined benefit and defined contribution (personal) pension plans.

It’s better to be aware of all the options available to you, it’s your retirement and it’s your choice to decide what the best option for your circumstances is.

*Sources: BBC News January 2018.

Brussels Presentation – Should I transfer my pension out of the UK, or not?

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, BREXIT, EU Pension Transfer, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 16th January 2018

16.01.18

Brexit.
A word that exploded onto the British lexicon almost three years ago and has refused to dissipate. Indeed, instead of disappearing into the shadows and reappearing every time the ruling party wishes to dangle a carrot (or stick) in front of the populace, it has remained in full view without a day or week going by without it being mentioned on the news, by the watercooler, at home amongst family, or debated amongst friends and experts alike.

What does it mean? To some, it is wrenching back sovereignty from the EU Overlords, to others, it is an unmitigated mistake. To some, it is the taking back control of the British borders and stemming the tide of immigrants, to others, it is an unmitigated mistake. What is sure, is that it means that the UK voted to leave the EU next March and the EU28 will become EU27.

Whilst the politicians discuss the terms on which they will work together in the future and untangle the ties of the past, what does it mean for you?

If you have worked in the UK and have a pension (or more) there, then the lack of clarity and swirling uncertainty surrounding Brexit undoubtedly has you concerned about your money; fortunately, we at The Spectrum IFA Group have a solution for you.

On Wednesday 7th February, we have invited leading industry experts to discuss the potential implications of Brexit on your money and more specifically any pensions that you have in the UK. This is a must attend event for anyone who has worked and has a pension in the UK. Our experts will discuss likely scenarios and provide solutions for your pension concerns and we will also have a local Belgian Tax Expert who will talk about the tax treatment of UK Pensions here. The evening will end with finger food and drinks and an opportunity to meet and greet our experts, advisers, and attendees.

Click below to confirm your attendance, and we look forward to meeting you at the Renaissance Hotel.

Yes, I would like to attend the presentation on Wednesday 7th February/

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

New Pension Transfer Rules!

By Derek Winsland - Topics: Final Salary Pension, final salary schemes, France, Pensions, QROPS, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 10th July 2017

10.07.17

Those of you who are familiar with my past articles will know I have a certain affinity with the pensions landscape; indeed, in the I’m considered a bit of an expert on the subject.

If you have read previous articles you will know that I have been quite critical of the Financial Conduct Authority’s seeming inability to keep up to date with developments in the UK pensions arena. Well up until the 21st June 2017, that is.

In a complete reversal of previous ‘guidance’, the FCA has now eventually recognised that an individual’s circumstances differ from the next person’s. Up until now, the FCA’s default position regarding any request to transfer out of a defined benefit (final salary) pension scheme has been to view them as unsuitable. In other words, the emphasis (irrespective of a pension member’s situation), has been to decline such transfer requests, primarily because the FCA says it is not in the member’s interest to do so.

The introduction of Pensions Freedom by then Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, presented the FCA with a challenge. On the one hand, here was the government releasing the constraints that pensions had been progressively bound up by from successive previous governments; whilst on the other, the FCA was continuing to protect the interests of the pensions companies, at the same time becoming increasingly more detached from the consumer, for whom it was supposed to serve.

For the last two years, the FCA has struggled with the new pensions landscape, still believing that preserved former pension benefits, even those held within schemes that are only 50% funded, should remain where they are. The Pension Protection Fund, set up to protect members’ pensions where the employer has folded, is coming under increasing strain, because it is funded by all the other occupational pension schemes. As more schemes fold, the more the remaining schemes come under pressure. Clearly, therefore, something had to be done – those self-same members, now fearing their preserved pensions weren’t as guaranteed as they had been led to believe, wanted action.

On 19th June, Steve Webb, now working for Royal London, reminded the FCA of its duties, warning it against ‘over-regulating’ DB Pension Transfers. The result? New ‘guidance’ (read ‘rules’ to us IFA’s) now focusing upon the individual member’s circumstances. Without blowing my own trumpet, I’ve been saying this ever since Pension Freedoms came in in 2015. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I read about this volte-face. At last, it is not now just about critical yields and hurdle rates, it’s about applying financial planning assumptions to individual needs. If a client has sufficient other assets to fund retirement, why leave deferred benefits in a scheme where on your death (and that of your spouse or partner), the pension is lost? Tell that to your kids……

“Johnny, you know you’re struggling to make ends meet, let alone build funds for your eventual retirement? We guess what, I’m going to leave my pension benefits in a scheme that will provide nothing for you on my death. How does that sound?”   Under Pension Freedom, you can pass unused pension funds to your children, if it is outside of a defined benefit scheme. How many parents wouldn’t want that for their children, once their own needs had been catered for?

This is not to say that the floodgates have opened; we as advisers MUST assess the needs of not only the pension member, but also the family unit. We must assume something of a nanny role, helping our clients to plan for the future, to properly identify what capital and income will be available and when. There will be circumstances where the best advice is the comparative guarantee of an occupational pension income; for those people, the advice will be to remain a member of the scheme. But for a lot of people, this new FCA guidance will be seen as empowerment to take control of one’s own financial future. Our role as financial advisers is to provide help and support along the way. Proper financial planning.