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State Pension Benefits

By John Lansley - Topics: EU Pension Transfer, France, Pensions, Retirement, State Pensions After BREXIT, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 22nd May 2020

If you have moved from one country to another, while it may be comparatively easy to obtain tax advice in order to help you plan your finances, it can be very difficult to find out how your State Retirement Pension will be affected, and this has become more uncertain as a result of Brexit. This article aims to shed some light on the issue

This article aims to shed some light on the issue.

I retired in the UK and moved abroad
Let’s start with something easy – if you have already retired and moved to Spain, France or another EU country, the chances are your only State Pension will be from the UK. With Brexit in mind, as long as you were legally resident in your new home country by the end of 2020, nothing will change, and you will be entitled to the annual pension uplift indefinitely.

Coupled to this is your entitlement to healthcare, in that you will have a form S1 from the UK, which ensures you benefit from full care on an ongoing basis, and which in effect will be paid for by the UK Government.

If you have already left the UK but have not yet reached formal retirement age, as long as you were ‘legal’ in your adopted home before the end of 2020, you will receive the UK State Pension at retirement age and qualify for annual increases. You will also be entitled to a form S1.

Note that, if you have not regularised your situation in your adopted home by the end of 2020, the situation is uncertain, to say the least. You will be entitled to claim the UK State Pension when you reach retirement age, but the uplifts are only due for 3 years and, most importantly, form S1 will not be available.

I left the UK 5 years ago at the age of 55 and have been self-employed in Spain for the last 5 years
Have you been making voluntary contributions to the UK scheme? Are you making contributions in Spain? If you haven’t already done so, obtain a pension forecast from HMRC – use the gov.uk website, sign up for the Government Gateway access service, and check your National Insurance Contribution records, as well as your UK tax records. You’ll have to apply to contribute, using form CF83 attached to the booklet NI38, Social Security Abroad.

You will then be told what pension you can expect at your retirement age, and you can also see how many incomplete contribution years you have. It is generally good advice to continue to make voluntary contributions after leaving the UK (currently £795.60pa), but if you are currently self-employed, you will only have to pay at the Class 2 rate, which is £158.60pa for the current year.

You’ll receive details of how to make up the shortfall, by bank transfer or cheque for past years, and by direct debit for the future if you wish to see payments taken automatically. Importantly, you can also call to obtain advice concerning whether it would be worthwhile doing this, and how additional payments will increase your pension entitlement – it might take a while to get through, especially due to the current Coronavirus lockdown, as it appears they are only dealing with those on the point of retiring, but you should find the staff helpful when you do.

Also, make sure you understand what your Spanish contributions entitle you to and try to obtain a projection of your future pension in Spain. This might prove difficult at present, with offices closed or providing limited services.

defined-benefit-pensions

Having worked in the UK, Italy and now in Spain, I want to claim my State Pension
The first thing to understand is that you should retire formally in the country you are currently living in, unless you haven’t made any pension

contributions there – in which case you apply to the last country in which you contributed.

So, in this case, you approach the Spanish authorities and will have to provide details of all your employment and self-employment history. Spain will then check with each country concerned (the EU-wide scheme ensures this is possible – work history outside the EU means you may have to apply individually to those countries) and will calculate your entitlement. (But bear in mind that Brexit may have had an impact on this in practice, even though the scheme should not be affected – very much ‘work in progress’).

They will do this by adding together the contribution years of each country and then applying this to their own pension rules. This means that, even if you don’t have the minimum number of years’ contributions in one country, the chances are that the contribution years in other countries will ensure you get a pro rata pension. Don’t forget, official retirement age can vary in different countries, and some state pensions are more generous than others.

Each country will then pay their share directly to you, and if you have continued paying into the UK system it’s likely you’ll end up with a much higher pension than might otherwise have been the case.

How is healthcare affected? Any other issues?
The good news is that receiving your pension locally will mean that your access to the local healthcare system comes with it – no need for a form S1. So, any attempts by the UK to remove themselves from the S1 scheme will not affect you.

Note that, although the UK state pension is paid regardless of your other income, the state pension in Spain is not, in that if you wish to continue to work, Spain will not pay anything to you.

10 TIPS FOR MANAGING YOUR FINANCES

Other financial planning tips?
Despite the UK government’s attempts to water down the ability to ‘export’ your UK private pensions using the QROPS arrangements, this is still

possible – but perhaps won’t be for much longer. So, obtain advice about whether such a move would be beneficial, as soon as possible.

Any savings or capital you have should be invested tax-efficiently and with the aim of protecting it against both inflation and exchange rate fluctuations. Stock markets can fluctuate too, sometimes dramatically as we have seen, so be careful you understand the amount of risk your investments are exposed to, and seek help from a suitably qualified professional who will be able to help you over the long term.

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