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Company Pension/Final Salary funding update 31st January 2016

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Company Pension Schemes, Pensions, Retirement, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 8th March 2016

08.03.16

With most UK Final Salary schemes (also known as Defined Benefit) now closing their doors to new members, the schemes are concentrating on trying to manage to make sure there is enough money for those people still in them for retirement. This ‘closing of the doors’ also means there is no ‘New Money’ entering the schemes, which takes away the option of new contributions paying the pensions of those currently retired, as they used to. One of the biggest reasons for this, is that many years ago these often called ’Gold Plated’ schemes were made up on the following mathematics:

People retired at 55, then died at 67.

Thus, approximately 12 years of payments should they live to this point. However, now the mathematics are more likely to be the following:

People retire at 60, and the average life expectancy is 84 in Europe.

You don’t need to be a mathematician to work out why the schemes are faltering, and worryingly in many cases, heavily reliant on their companies contributing millions of pounds to keep them going.

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) takes these schemes under its wing should the company scheme get to a point that it cannot realistically recover from poor funding. However, it is gaining more and more ‘members’ and will only cover pension income up to a point. Therefore, many client’s believe it is better not to be in the PPF if possible, and have your pension under your own control and in essence not at the mercy of a government body to bail you out. People thought that the Kodak pension scheme would always be ok; unfortunately it was not and left a lot of people with no or little pension benefits.

Below is a transcript of the update from the Pension Protection Funds own website updating what has happened and why. If you have any questions regarding this or what your options are, don’t hesitate to contact Christopher, the article writer (contact information is at the bottom of this article).

Update from the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) of its members

The aggregate deficit of the 5,945 schemes in the UK Pension Protection Fund (PPF) Index is estimated to have increased over the month to £304.9 billion at the end of January 2016, from a deficit of £222.4 billion at the end of December 2015. The funding ratio worsened from 84.9 per cent to 80.5 per cent. Total assets were £1,258.7 billion and total liabilities were £1,563.6 billion. There were 4,923 schemes in deficit and 1,022 schemes in surplus.

The aggregate deficit of the schemes in the PPF 7800 Index is estimated to have increased to £304.9 billion at the end of January 2016, from £222.4 billion at the end of December 2015. The position has improved from the previous year, when a deficit of £367.5 billion was recorded at the end of January 2015. The funding ratio of schemes decreased over this month from 84.9 per cent to 80.5 per cent at the end of January 2016. The funding ratio is higher than the 77.6 per cent recorded in January 2015.

Within the index, total scheme assets amounted to £1,258.7 billion at the end of January 2016. Total scheme assets increased by 0.9 per cent over the month and decreased by 1.2 per cent over the year. Total scheme liabilities were £1,563.6 billion at the end of January 2016, an increase of 6.4 per cent over the month and decreased by 4.7 per cent over the year.

The aggregate deficit of all schemes in deficit at the end of January 2016 is estimated to have increased to £338.4 billion from £265.8 billion at the end of December 2015. At the end of January 2015, the equivalent figure was £392.6 billion. At the end of January 2016, the total surplus of schemes in surplus decreased to £33.6 billion from £43.4 billion at the end of December 2015. At the end of January 2015, the total surplus of all schemes in surplus stood at £25.2 billion.

The number of schemes in deficit at the end of January 2015 increased to 4,923, representing 82.8 per cent of the total 5,945 defined benefit schemes. There were 4,679 schemes in deficit at the end of December 2015 (78.7 per cent) and 5,175 schemes in deficit at the end of January 2015 (85.4 per cent of the 2014 population of schemes). The number of schemes in surplus fell to 1,022 at the end of January 2016 (17.2 per cent of schemes) from 1,266 at the end of December 2015 (21.3 per cent). There were 882 schemes in surplus at the end of January 2015 (14.6 per cent of the 2014 population of schemes).

Understanding the impact of market movements Equity markets and gilt yields are the main drivers of funding levels. Scheme liabilities are sensitive to the yields available on a range of conventional and indexlinked gilts. Liabilities are also time-sensitive in that, even if gilt yields were unchanged, scheme liabilities would increase as the point of payment approaches. The value of scheme assets is affected by the change in prices of all the major asset classes, not just equity markets. However, due to their weight in asset allocation and volatility, equities and bonds are the biggest drivers behind changes in scheme assets; bonds have a higher weight in asset allocation, but equities tend to be more volatile. Over the month of January 2016, liabilities increased by 6.4 per cent. Conventional and index-linked 15-year gilt yields fell by 34 basis points and 20 basis points respectively. Assets rose by 0.9 per cent in January 2016. The FTSE All-Share Index fell by 3.1 per cent over the month. Over the year to January 2016, 15-year gilt yields were up by 33 basis points and the FTSE All-Share Index was down by 7.9 per cent.

Pensions Back on the Government’s Agenda Again!

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Pensions, quotes, Retirement, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 4th March 2016

04.03.16

The date that is etched in everyone’s mind at the moment is 23rd June, when the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU takes place.

However, if you still have pension benefits in the UK to claim, there is another date that you should be focused on – 16th March – the date of the UK Budget.

Last summer, the government launched a consultation on pension tax relief and this is what the Chancellor said ……….

“With increased longevity and the changing nature of pension provision, the government needs to make sure that the system incentivises more people to take responsibility for their pension saving so that they are able to meet their aspirations in retirement.”

Incentivising people to save for retirement? Well that’s not new. The current system of the tax-free Pension Commencement Lump Sum (PCLS) and tax-relief on pension contributions is already a good incentive, even though the latter has been capped and steadily reduced since 2006. So what more does the government think should be done?

The chancellor goes on to say ……..

“That is why the government is today publishing a consultation on pensions tax relief. If people are to take responsibility for their retirement, it is important that the support on offer from the government is simple and transparent, and that complexity does not undermine the incentive for individuals to save.”

Now “simple” and “transparent” are not words that appear in my dictionary on the UK pension system. On the other hand, “complexity” does, particularly as concerns the new State pension system coming into effect in April, something that I will cover in another article.

The most radical idea that the chancellor floated was the introduction of the Pension ISA, where all pension contributions would be paid on post-taxed income, but thereafter, no tax would be payable – either on the investments in the pension fund or on the pensions in payment. Definitely attractive to a cash-strapped chancellor who wants to at least ‘balance the books’ during the remainder of this government’s term of office, but hugely short-sighted for future generations, when demographic pressure on public spending and the need for tax revenues is likely to be more severe.

The system would also be hugely complex as, in effect, two separate pension pots would have to be kept – the old system ‘post-tax pot’ and the new system ‘pre-tax pot’. Maybe the government would introduce some transitional arrangements to convert ‘post-tax pots’ into ‘pre-tax pots’ and if so, for sure there will be some losers. Costs for administering the new arrangements would increase and for the dwindling number of remaining defined benefit pension schemes, this could lead to these ending up in the ‘pensions graveyard’ – who will pay the levies to the Pension Protection Fund then?

An alternative idea proposed is for pension contributions to be paid out of post-taxed income and for a flat-rate of tax relief to be paid by the government into the pension pot or into the defined benefit scheme. If the tax-relief is limited to the basic rate of 25%, higher tax rate payers will lose out – some incentive!

The government’s current thinking on this to incentivise people is – ‘if you pay into your pension, the government will top it up’. This is spin, the tax-relief at source already exists for occupational pension schemes and a delay in getting the government’s so-called ‘top up’ into the pension scheme would be detrimental for the pension member.

The effect on the employer of defined benefit pension schemes should also not be underestimated, where the employer is legally obliged to ensure that the pension assets can meet the liabilities. Any delay on getting the tax-relief due into the defined benefit scheme is in effect, an interest-free loan to the government. My pensions career started more than 40 years ago and I remember well how long we had to wait for National Insurance rebates to be paid by the government into occupational pension schemes. Another nail in the coffin, on route to the pensions graveyard?

I save the ‘best’ to last – the abolition of the tax-free PCLS. Of course, I am being cynical because there is nothing good that could come out of taxing the beloved PCLS and definitely not the best way of incentivising people to save more for retirement. Receiving a tax-free cash sum has been at the heart of the UK pension system for decades. To take this away now, when people have saved for years and planned for retirement on the basis that they would receive this tax-free PCLS is quite simply wrong.

Of course, the government could just tinker with the existing system more by reducing the maximum amount that people can pay into tax-relieved pension funds and perhaps also by no longer allowing employers tax-relief on National Insurance contributions. The latter would hurt employers, particularly with the abolition of contracting-out of the State Second Pension from April, which anyway results in increased National Insurance Contributions (another nail in the coffin?).

The first organised UK pension scheme can be traced back to the 1670s, when the Royal Navy put in place provision for its officers. Other public sector pensions followed over the centuries, but it was in the 1950s and 1960s that corporate pensions became a prominent part of the remuneration package. In the good old days of easily understandable pension schemes, we were encouraged to pay Additional Voluntary Contributions – after all you got tax-relief and so were incentivised to save more for retirement. When I started work, the maximum amount that we could contribute was simply limited to 15% of earnings – regardless of whether you were a basic rate or higher rate taxpayer.

Do you trust future politicians not to change the UK pension rules again?

If you would like to have a confidential discussion about your pension or any other aspect of your personal financial situation, you can either contact us by telephone on 04 68 31 14 10 or by e-mail at limoux@spectrum-ifa.com. Alternatively, drop-by our Friday morning clinic at our office at 2 Place du Général Leclerc, 11300 Limoux, for an initial discussion.

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.

UK Pension Tax Changes 6th April 2016 (lifetime allowance)

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Pensions, QROPS, Retirement, Spain, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 3rd March 2016

03.03.16

Anyone who has a private or company pension in the UK could be affected by the changes being brought in on the 6th April this year. This may be anyone with private pension(s) whose combined value is around £1,000,000, or a company pension scheme which would give an income in retirement of approximately £40,000 per annum.

In essence, the changes affect the tax you would pay on this money. Up until now, any pensions combined under £1,250,000 in real value would not be subject to any further taxes than those of normal income or inheritance tax. However, any pension with a value higher than this would be subject to additional taxes. This allowance is called a ‘Lifetime Allowance’ (LTA). The tax on pensions over this value can be up to 55%.

As from April this year, this Lifetime Allowance Value is being reduced to £1,000,000. Therefore, any pensions combined worth more than this would now be liable to these potentially additional taxes.

If you have a Corporate, Company, Final Salary or Defined Benefits Scheme this will also be tested against the new Lifetime Allowance. These Schemes are based on your final salary when leaving your employer as opposed to contributions and investment growth, and the amount usually has to be multiplied by a factor of 20 in order to calculate the capital equivalent value. These Schemes also usually pay a tax-free lump sum, and this also has to be included in the LTA calculation. Therefore, depending on the pension(s) this new limit may affect you.

What are the key factors involved in the Lifetime Allowance testing?

Retirement after age 55: Once a lump sum/income is taken from a Pension, these are tested against the LTA.

At age 75: Any Pensions that have not been accessed will be tested against the LTA at this time. Pensions in drawdown will also be tested again at this time.

Death pre-age 75: Pensions will be tested against the LTA to ensure that the limit has not been exceeded.

Transfer to a QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme – when you transfer your pension outside of the UK): If a UK Pension Scheme’s funds are transferred into a QROPS, the value of the transferred funds are tested against the LTA.

Of course, the main point here for many people is death before age 75. If this happens, as is stands your pension will be subject to this potential tax from £1,000,000 and above.

What are the tax charges?

If the Lifetime Allowance is exceeded, then the tax charges will depend on how the excess is paid from the Scheme.

If as a lump sum (normally the case in inheritance): subject to a 55% tax charge.
If as a Pension Income: subject to a 25% tax charge.
Transfer to a QROPS: subject to a 25% tax charge on the excess above the LTA.

Is there any protection against Lifetime Allowance charges available?

The UK Government has confirmed that from April 2016, the following two protection regimes will be available, allowing individuals a fixed or individual LTA dependent on the value of their Pensions and/or the type of protection:

Fixed protection 2016: This ‘fixes’ the LTA at the current £1.25m. In order for this to apply, no further Pension benefits can be accrued in a Scheme on or after 6 April 2016.

Individual protection 2016: The LTA will be set at the value of the Pension on 6 April 2016, when the new £1m LTA is introduced, so long as it is valued between £1m and £1.25m. This protection does allow further contributions, but any Pension in excess of the protected LTA will be taxed on the usual way when tested.

What about a transfer to a QROPS/Overseas pension scheme?

This currently enables an individual to safeguard their Pension Fund against this tax charge and allows the fund to carry on growing. As detailed above, the fund is tested against the individual’s Lifetime Allowance at the point of transfer, rather than at the point of each pension being tested as per above scenarios, i.e. death before pension accessed etc.

Perhaps the most important information to know regarding this, is that not so long ago the Lifetime Allowance for pensions was £1,800,000 in the UK. It is consistently reducing, which is worrying considering every twenty four years historically inflation doubles, and yet the Pension Lifetime Allowance is dramatically being reduced instead of increased, such as the tax bandings for income tax have been after years of lobbying by the general public. This could lead us to one main conclusion, the UK governments’ need to collect more and more taxes. Therefore, as the years pass by it could be this differential continues to grow and grow, in real terms meaning individuals will pay more and more tax.

The key points to consider with this are:

Having your pension(s) in the UK will enable them to be liable to the UK rules and the government’s ability to change them, including the uncertainty of what these changes may be in the future.

The Lifetime Allowance is consistently decreasing, meaning taxes are consistently increasing.

Understanding of these changes and how it might affect you could save you or your loved ones considerable money in potential taxes.

If you have no plans to retire in the UK and have pensions there, it could be worth having these evaluated to see whether it would be beneficial for you to transfer them securely outside of the UK.

Talking your personal circumstances through will put your mind at rest, or enlighten you on what your options are and how you can best plan for this eventuality.

If you would like to ask any questions regarding this subject, or speak to Christopher, a UK pensions expert who wrote this article, feel free to contact him on the details below.

The UK referendum on the EU – Lose your vote or use it!

By David Hattersley - Topics: europe-news, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 20th January 2016

20.01.16

In the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men, to do nothing.”

For the sake of equality I will add women as well! But, perhaps this is the greatest test of democracy that my generation has faced, and some of us, either through neglect or lack of knowledge, do not realise what we can do, as expat individuals. To simplify matters, detailed below are the facts. It is up to each individual to take the required action. I am including links to the relevant websites so you can get the full details if you require.

From the Electoral Commission’s website, it clearly states that British citizens living abroad for more than 15 years are not eligible to register to vote in UK elections.

www.electoralcommission.org.uk/faq/voting-and-registration/can-i-still-vote-if-i-move-overseas

On the aboutmyvote.co.uk website it states that registered overseas voters will be able to vote in the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. The date of the referendum has not been announced yet but it is scheduled to happen before the end of 2017.”

www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register-to-vote/british-citizens-living-abroad

If you visit www.gov.uk/voting-when-abroad, this site gives clear guidelines on how to register your vote as an overseas voter under British Citizens moving abroad, provided that this is done within 15 years of leaving the UK.

Alternatively, one can register on the following site. It only takes 5 minutes, but you will need your old address including post code, passport number and National Insurance number.

www.registertovote.service.gov.uk/register-to-vote/country-of-residence?_ga=1.161822076.117065480.1450435369

Renewing you registration will then need an Annual Declaration. This is based on the Electoral Commission document dated March 2010 and can be viewed as below. The specific section is;

www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/electoral_commission_pdf_file/0011/43958/Part-F-Special-category-electors-March-2010.pdf

“2.21 Consequently, entries may be made or registration renewed after the end of the 15-year period where the applicant meets the application deadline as set out above. Accepted applications last for a full 12 months in all cases unless: they have been cancelled by the elector; the elector is added as an ordinary Parliamentary elector or in pursuance of a declaration other than as an overseas elector; or it is found that the elector should never have been registered through the above procedures (i.e. as a result of an objection or review).”

For those that are less fortunate than myself and many others, an alternative for those that do not qualify can register their protest on the following website;

petition.parliament.uk/petitions/111271

This is not only about us as individuals, but about the freedom of choice for our children and grandchildren.

Do not waste your voice !

French Social charges on UK pensions and investment income

By Amanda Johnson - Topics: France, Social Charges, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 13th November 2015

13.11.15

I read online that there have been several changes to Social charges on UK pensions and investment income for British expats living in France. Is this true?

This question is very pertinent at the moment, as there have been changes and there is a time limitation on some of the possible reclamations. Therefore, prompt action is needed.

Since 27th July 2015, it has been ruled by the French Government under “Le Conseil d’Etat no. 333551” that if you are in receipt of a UK State Pension and an S1 Certificate, that the UK Government pays for your healthcare costs in France.

If this is the case (and there are some exceptions) then the French Government cannot charge you any social charges on these incomes.
They have also stated that you can reclaim any social charges paid on earnings in 2012 (2013 Avis d’Impot) and since this date. You will firstly need to check your 2013, 2014 and 2015 forms, detail any social charges paid and send a letter in French claiming this back from your local French tax office, referencing “Conseil d’Etat no. 333551”. I recommend you send this recorded delivery as timescales apply.

The deadline for 2013 reclaims is 31st December 2015 so it’s a good idea to get these sent off as soon as possible and, as your application may be the first your local tax office has received, be prepared to have to follow up your letter with a personal visit.

If you would like to discuss your personal situation please get in touch!

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Queen Elizabeth II becomes longest reigning British monarch

By Spectrum-IFA - Topics: Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 9th September 2015

09.09.15

Queen Elizabeth II

Congratulations to HRH Queen Elizabeth II who, today on September 9th 2015, becomes the longest serving monarch in British history, beating the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.  The exact time that she will set this new record is not known because her father King George VI passed away in his sleep in the early hours of February 6th, 1952.

Our 89 year old queen, who has been our monarch for an amazing 63 years and 7 months, will spend the day on official duties in Scotland and has reportedly said “she doesn’t want a fuss”.  There will be a salute along the River Thames with a flotilla of historical vessels taking part in a procession between Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.  Business at The House of Commons will also be postponed by 30mins so that MP’s, lead by Prime Minister David Cameron, can pay tribute.

Congratulations Your Majesty on 23,226 days of reign!