A) UK State Pensions
(New) State Pension
You can claim the UK Basic State Pension if you’re:
- a man born before April 6, 1951
- a woman born before April 6, 1953
If you were born later, you’ll need to claim the New State Pension instead.
For expats it is relevant to know that only as of 10 years of participation, there will be an entitlement to UK State Old Age Pensions. You’ll need 35 qualifying years to get the full New State Pension.
The possibility to acquire additional UK State Old Age Pension Claims is only available for older residents with a very modest income.
The full amount of New State Pensions is currently annually pre tax £ 8.297,-.
The UK State Pension age is under review and may change in the future. If you would like to check your current retirement age, please visit; https://www.gov.uk/state-pension-age Your State Pension age is the earliest age you can start receiving your State Pension.
Expats sometimes tend to do some kind of flexible consultancy work after retirement age. In that perspective it is relevant to know that you can keep working after you reach State Pension age. ‘Default retirement age’ (a forced retirement age of 65) no longer exists.
It can be relevant for expats who reside outside of the UK to know whether or not the UK State Pension will remain to be annually indexated after Brexit. The latest information is that this might continue but we do not believe this is final yet.
If you would like to check your entitlement please contact the UK State Pension Organization, who will gladly send your registered details to your home address. Please mention in the request your ‘Noni’ being your National Insurance Number.
B) UK Legislation
In order to create the optimal pension planning, it is good to take into the equation that the British government has since long shown the tendency to decrease pension favorable legislation. Especially if it is expat tax related.
A good example is the reduction of the Lifetime Allowance from £ 1.800.000,- in 2011 to the current £ 1.000.000,-. Or the recent introduction of a certain 25% taxation of pension transfers regarding Qrops.
C) UK Tax
I] National Tax Perspective
As there is a great variety in pension plans and personal situations, we will only mention certain general guidelines:
This is not pension related. It regards the amount of annual income that is not taxed. In 2018 it amounts to £ 11.500,-.
Following is the amount of gross income you can have before your Personal Allowance is reduced. The Personal Allowance is reduced by £ 1,- for every £ 2,- over the limit.* The Personal Allowance will only be reduced to the basic Personal Allowance unless income is over £ 100.000,-.
Income Limit (Born after 5 April 1948) : £ 100.000,-
Income Limit (Born before 6 April 1948) * : £ 28.000,-
There’s no limit on the amount that an individual can contribute to a registered pension scheme. If you’re a UK resident aged under 75 you may receive tax relief on your contributions to registered pension schemes. Tax relief is limited to relief on contributions up to the higher of:
- 100% of your UK taxable earnings
There is in general no limit to the amount of pension claims you can have or build. There is however a Lifetime Allowance of currently £ 1.000.000,-. The moment your total pension claims get above that number, that might result in additional taxation.
When looking how to value your pension claims, one in general can say that:
- Regarding DC Pension Claims you use the existing capital value.
- Regarding DB Pension Claims you use 20 times the first year Annuity plus the Lump Sum.
If the total value of your pension benefits from all sources (i.e. current pension plan, past employers' registered plans and/or personal pension arrangements) exceeds the Lifetime Allowance, you will be required to pay a Lifetime Allowance charge on any excess.
Regarding Cash Lump Sum benefits that exceed the Lifetime Allowance, the additional charge amounts to 55%. Regarding other pension benefits that exceed the Lifetime Allowance, the additional charge amounts to 25%.
The Annual Allowance is a limit to the total amount of contributions that can be paid to defined contribution pension schemes and the total amount of benefits that you can build up in defined benefit pension scheme each year, for tax relief purposes.
The Annual Allowance is calculated over a year from April 6, 2017 to April 6, 2018. The Annual Allowance is currently capped at £ 40.000,- although a lower limit of £ 4.000,- may apply if you have already started drawing a pension.
The Annual Allowance applies across all of the schemes you belong to, it’s not a ‘per scheme’ limit and includes all of the contributions that you or your employer pay or anyone else who pays on your behalf.
If you exceed the Annual Allowance in a year, you won't receive tax relief -on any contributions you paid that exceed the limit and you will be faced with an annual allowance charge. Individuals with income for a tax year above £ 150.000,- have their annual allowance for that tax year reduced on a tapered basis (a ‘reduced annual allowance’). The annual allowance is reduced by £ 1,- for every £ 2,- of income above £ 150.000,- subject to a minimum reduced annual allowance of £ 10.000,-.
Where the reduction would otherwise take an individual’s tapered Annual Allowance below £ 10.000,- for the tax year, their reduced Annual Allowance for that year is set at £ 10.000,-.
The Annual Allowance charge will be added to the rest of your taxable income for the tax year in question, when determining your tax liability. Alternatively, if the Annual Allowance charge is more than £ 2.000,- you can ask your pension scheme to pay the charge from your benefits. This means your pension scheme benefits would be reduced.
Unless you have a Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA), you may be able to bring forward any unused Annual Allowances from the previous three tax years, to either reduce your Annual Allowance charge to a lower amount or reduce the Annual Allowance charge completely.
Your pension provider or scheme administrator should be able to give you your pension input amount for that scheme. This refers to the amount of contributions or value of accrued benefits during the pension input period. If you think that you may be getting close to your Annual Allowance, or may have exceeded it, you may wish to consider taking advice.
Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA)
The Money Purchase Annual Allowance was introduced on 6th April 2015 and was set at £ 10.000,- gross p.a. The government has now reduced it to £ 4.000,- gross p.a. which applies to contributions made from 6th April 2017.
If you have taken flexible benefits which include income, such as ‘flexi-access drawdown’, and you want to continue paying contributions to a defined contribution pension scheme, you will have a reduced Annual Allowance of £ 4.000,- p.a. towards your defined contribution benefits.
The reduced allowance will apply if you have withdrawn more than the 25% tax free pension commencement lump sum (PCLS). The reduced amount is known as the ‘Money Purchase Annual Allowance' (MPAA) and includes both your own contribution and any other contribution paid on your behalf, such as an employer or a third party.
You cannot bring forward any unused Annual Allowances from the previous three tax years to warrant a higher contribution than £ 4.000,- towards your defined contribution benefits.
The Money Purchase Annual Allowance will only start to apply from the day after you have taken flexible benefits and so any previous savings are not affected.
II] International Tax Perspective
Expats with UK Expat Pension Claims often reside outside of the UK at retirement age. Then the prevention of Double Taxation is relevant. Many countries have (OESO based) Bilateral Double Tax Treaties which try to prevent Double Taxation. Or at least try to limit its effect.
As the content of these kind of treaties can be very different from each other, it is advisable to timely check these treaties when planning ahead where to retire.
In case there are no such Treaties, then you have to see if there are any National Regulations which try to prevent or limit the effect of Double Taxation.
Brexit impact on Expat Pensions
By formally invoking article 50, Prime Minister May started the Brexit process. What might be the implications of a Hard/Soft Brexit on Expat pensions? The UK government has since several years been rather keen on reducing tax benefits on expat pensions. Thus the more strict regime for UK Qrops as of June this year.
Post Brexit the UK government is no longer restricted by EU regulations, they might further introduce new limitations on the expat pension (tax) regime. Regarding UK State Pensions currently UK nationals living in the EU enjoy equal annual indexation thereof but this might change by Brexit. Furthermore a central issue is the mobility of expat pensions Post Brexit.
Currently it is i.e. possible to transfer UK pension capital to a Dutch expat pension plan. Whereas the EU is working on the expansion of the true Pan European Pension Plan (PEPP) and its free mobility within the EU, the mobility of the expat pension plan between the EU and the UK might severly be limited by Brexit. For (UK) expats its seems advisable to pay attention and have several options ready. Feel free to contact us as we are experienced in advising (UK) expats.
Expats from the UK
Expats from the UK, regardless of their nationality, who reside outside of the UK and have pension claims in the UK, might still be subject to UK taxation.
For such expats it might be very attractive to transfer their UK pensions to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme or Qrops.
A Qrops is an offshore pension scheme that has received recognition from HM Revenue & Customs. It is allowed to receive the transfer value of your UK pension funds. Qrops are often based in Malta, Gibraltar, Guernsey or Isle of Man.
Qrops for all kind of Pensions?
It is usually possible to transfer the value of any UK registered private or occupational pension scheme of Defined Benefit or Defined Contribution nature except for:
- UK governmental pension claims
- Insurance company annuities
- Defined Benefit pensions once in payment
Qrops for all your Pensions?
Expats often have several pension claims from different employers in the UK. All these pensions can be consolidated in one Qrops. Which decreases administration costs and allows for one investment strategy.
Qrops Investment Possibilities
Once your UK pension capital has been transferred to a Qrops, your funds have to be invested in a manner which reflects your agreed upon risk profile and investment horizon best. In general Qrops product solutions entail all usual investment categories such as investment funds, equities, corporate/government bonds, real estate and cash.
Often several currency options are possible as this allows a hedge against currency risks.
Qrops and residential Flexibility
Expats prefer to keep all options open. If you might unexpectedly return to the UK, you can keep your Qrops. The capital you originally transferred to the Qrops, becomes once again subject to UK legislation for registered pension schemes.
It is also possible to transfer a Qrops capital to a UK registered pension scheme. Or to another Qrops as depending on your location, one Qrops jurisdiction may be more suitable than another.
Certain trustees have Qrops products in several locations and offer free switches between these schemes. The most suitable option is then always available regardless where you retire. As many and substantial changes in legislation are expected, this is a valuable quality.
Qrops main Advantages
- To substantially reduce the income tax exposure in which execution Double Tax Treaties between the UK and other juridictions have a relevant role.
- Qrops are based in offshore jurisdictions and benefit from zero taxation at source contrary to many residential countries.
- Qrops avoid capital gains tax on asset growth as well as potentially avoiding inheritance tax and its strict UK regulations.
- rops do not oblige you to purchase an annuity which is a substantial advantage due to the current historically low interest rate. They also allow you to fully retain ownership of your assets. You can also opt for a percentage drawdown of up to 20% more than you could get by leaving your pension capital in the UK.
- Freedom to make additional contributions without a Lifetime Allowance limit.
- Qrops offer more next of kin pension options. Which includes passing your assets directly or investing assets for beneficiaries later on. Whereas UK pensions can have severe restrictions as well as being liable to UK Inheritance Tax.
- Qrops can prevent currency risks and can provide the lowest investment costs as they allow for the collection of all pension capital in one efficient portfolio. As return on investment is calculated by compound interest in the long run, this is a valuable quality which substantial effect should not be underestimated.
Qrops Tax Changes 2017
I] Increased Tax Exposure
In the UK pensions have been subjected to increasing tax restrictions as an attempt to reduce the use of pensions for tax relief.
Before 2006 there was no limit on the growth of pension capital. There was only a limit to the amount of contributions.
As of 2006 however due to the as of then installed ‘Lifetime Allowance’ of £ 1.8m, every excess above that amount faced a UK tax charge of 25% for pension annuities and 55% for pension lump sum. Which also applied to not in the UK residing expats.
Recently this Lifetime Alowance has even been reduced to £ 1 m which increased the tax exposure.
II] As of 2017
A fine example of the mentioned new domestic pension legislation are the new tax rules of 2017.
The transfer of UK pension capital to a Qrops used to have no tax charge in the UK regardless of its destination or the residence of the expat.
In the 2017 budget however it was announced that in essence:
- A pension transfer from the UK to a Qrops in one of the EEA countries ( EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) if the pension saver is resident in one of the EEA countries, will not have a 25% tax charge. (As the Brexit is near, this opportunity might end quickly.)
In other circumstances that tax charge will apply.
- Pension transfers to a jurisdiction where after the transfer both the pension saver and the overseas pension scheme are in the same country, will not have a 25% tax charge.
In other circumstances that tax charge will apply.
- If the Qrops is provided by the individual’s employer, there is no 25% tax charge.
- If the Qrops is an overseas public service pension scheme and the member is employed by one of the employers participating in the scheme, there is no 25% tax charge.
- If the Qrops is a pension scheme of an international organisation to provide benefits due to past service and the member is employed by that same organisation, there is no 25% tax charge.
- The tax charge will apply if, within five tax years, an individual becomes resident in another country which renders the exemptions non-applicable.
- If the tax charge has already been paid, it will be refunded if the individual made a taxable transfer and within five tax years one of the exemptions applies to the transfer.
- When the tax charge applies, it will be deducted from the UK pension capital before the transfer is completed. Which is only applicable for pension capital transfer requests made on or after March 9, 2017.
III] Advice seems Appropriate
Qrops are not always transparent and can be complex.
In order for an expat to have the ideal Qrops, he needs to be aware of not only all product distinctions but also of the civil and tax legislation of both the UK as well as the offshore and residential jurisdictions.
An expat now also faces new UK legislation as well as the uncertainty of the Brexit impact.
It is our pleasure to provide advice to expats in order to create a tailormade yet flexible planning.
F) Qrops and Brexit
Qrops affected by Brexit
Expats from the UK with a UK pension scheme might in the near future be severely affected by the Brexit. As EU member the UK is obliged to allow free transfer of pension capital. Which allowes expats to transfer their UK pension capital to another jurisdiction within the EU.
When the Brexit has been implemented, the UK is no longer bound by EU legislation. It is a fact that the UK government prefers Qrops transfers to end as billions of pounds leave the UK with the resulting loss of tax income.
The UK government cannot prevent Qrops transfers until its EU membership ends. But it can implement severe changes in its domestic pension legislation which might make a Qrops transfer very unattractive.
Therefore it seems advisable to take all options into consideration and have a flexible planning.
Qualifying Non-UK Pension Scheme
A QNUPS is a pension scheme based outside of the UK that qualifies for an exemption from the UK Inheritance Tax (IHT).
These schemes were created due to the Inheritance Tax Regulations 2010. They add to the retirement planning solutions available. They are open to UK residents, including those permanently residing in the UK, and overseas residents, including UK domiciled individuals.
QNUPS can be an attractive additional retirement savings plan if individuals have already reached the permitted limit of their domestic pension contributions. Therefore, UK resident individuals who have already used their annual and lifetime allowances, but who still prefer to make further provision for their retirement, might choose a QNUPS.
QNUPS may also provide attractive pension planning for non-UK resident and non-UK domiciled individuals who might decide to move to the UK. Or UK expats who might wish to return to the UK in the future.
QNUPS versus QROPS
QNUPS has become market terminology to describe an overseas pension scheme that meets the QNUPS regulations but is not a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS). A QROPS however will always meet the QNUPS definition.
QROPS and QNUPS are highly similar and related pension schemes. Which one is more appropriate for an individual depends on their financial circumstances and the country in which they are domiciled and/or resident:
- Expats who reside abroad but are domiciled in the UK would benefit from a QNUPS;
- Expats resident and domiciled overseas, but who also have UK based pension assets that they wish to transfer, would benefit more from a QROPS;
- Furthermore QNUPS offer a wider range of asset classes than QROPS.
For a pension scheme to be recognised as a QNUPS, it has to meet rather strict HMRC guidelines. This does require companies providing QNUPS to reveal certain information to HMRC.
For a pension scheme to be considered a QNUPS, it has to meet these criteria:
- The scheme must have the same retirement age as would apply in the U.K.;
- It must only provide income after retirement;
- It must be available to the local population in the jurisdiction in which it is located;
- It must be recognised for tax purposes in the jurisdiction in which it is located.
QNUPS Usual Structure
Local jurisdiction states how local pension schemes should be structured. Many schemes follow this general structure:
- There is a Master Trust created which appoints a Corporate Trustee (the QNUPS provider) and their roles, powers and responsibilities regarding administering the QNUPS;
- The Trustee must be based outside the UK for the scheme to be a QNUPS;
- There are wide investment powers allowing flexibility for the Trustee to invest in assets like cash, bond, property, hedge, equity and commodity funds;
- The Trustee holds these investments on the member’s behalf and has investment powers;
- They will appoint an Investment Manager to see to optimal investments;
- The Trustee is responsible for making benefit payments from the QNUPS to the member.
QNUPS attractive for you?
Due to all the legal, tax and product demands, this requires specific advice about your personal situation. Feel free to contact us about your situation and whishes.
H) Sipp as Alternative
SIPP/Self Invested Personal Pension
In case Standard Pension Plans or Qrops might have lost their appeal in certain circumstances, a Sipp might be an interesting alternative for you.
More Investment Options
A Sipp is a type of UK government-approved Personal Pension Scheme, which allows individuals to make their own investment decisions from the full range of investments approved by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The HMRC rules allow for a greater range of investments to be held than standard Personal Pension Schemes, notably equities and property.
Investors may make choices about what assets are bought, leased or sold, and decide when those assets are acquired or disposed of, subject to the agreement of the Sipp Trustees (provider).
In essence a Sipp is a "tax wrapper", allowing tax benefits on contributions in exchange for limits on accessibility. Rules regarding for example contributions and benefit withdrawal are equal to those of other Personal Pension Schemes.
All assets are permitted by HMRC. However, some less standard investments like residential property, wine, stamps, vintage cars and art will be subject to tax charges.
Transfer to Sipp
As most providers are member of the standard in this respect, it should not be difficult nor costly to transfer an existing UK pension capital to a Sipp if all legal and tax requirements are met.
Beware of Costs
It is our experience that you do have to watch for the additional costs for this increased investment capability. In case the extra costs are too high, that is very expensive in the long run due to the substantial effect of compounded return of investments.
Beware of Communications
Due to the relevance of pensions and as they are always somewhat technical, we prefer Sipps that make an effort to provide simple and complete communications.
In the past we have seen to many Sipp providers who try to create a certain fog through which it is hard to see what is really happening. This does not exactly create trust. If a product is great, they will show it in full detail.
A Sipp can also help to make optimal use of the flexibility as offered under the new rules. Like regular onshore pension schemes, the tax-free lump sum amounts to 25% of the fund. The transfer charge as levied on some transfers to a Qrops does not apply to a SIPP no matter where the expat resides.
In standard Personal Pension Plans, the provider as Trustee has ownership and control of the assets.
In a Sipp the Member may have ownership of the assets as long as the Scheme Administrator is a Co-Trustee to exercise control. In reality, most Sipp’s have the provider as Sipp Trustee.
The role of the scheme administrator in this situation is to control what is happening and to ensure that the requirements for tax approval continue to be met.
In essence you can distinguish the following type of Sipp’s:
1) Deferred: The assets are generally held in Insured Pension Funds even though several providers offer direct access to Mutual Funds. Self-investment or income withdrawal activity is deferred until an indeterminate date. Newer schemes provide over a thousand fund options.
2) Hybrid: While some of the assets must always be held in conventional Insured Pension Funds, the remainder of the capital can be Self-Invested. This has been a standard offering from basic personal pension providers, who require Insured Funds in order to derive their product charges.
3) Pure: Schemes which offer unrestricted access to all allowable investment asset classes. The Sipp as it was meant originally.
4) Lite/Single Investment: A trend towards much lower fees for investments that are typically placed in one asset. For which one platform is classed as a single investment. If a future upgrade to a Pure Sipp is allowed depends on the scheme. As cost reduction can have a very substantial impact on the height of the final pension capital, this can be a good option. If coupled with optimal investments.
5) Expat Sipp: Specifically designed for the expat who leaves the UK and would like his already existing UK pension claim to be invested according to his own vision. Make sure that this does not result into a too high cost level.
When you reach your 55th birthday (or your 57th from 2028), you’re free to start withdrawing capital from your SIPP. Even if you’re still working. You can usually take up to 25% of your pot tax free. The rest of your withdrawals will be taxed as income.
In perspective of pension optimization it is advisable to start paying taxes as late as possible in order for that capital to create additional return on investment.
I) National Health System (NHS)
Regarding the NHS Pension Claim we have noticed that expats sometimes have difficulty with understanding the total entitlement and taxation.
We see in general that there is often an entitlement to a tax free Lump Sum deposit. Once the expat applies to receive this capital, the often also existing entitlement to an annual pension annuity starts as of that very same moment. And with that also the related taxation.
Regarding the moment to apply for the mentioned claims, there is a certain flexibility which does not have to result in losing any pension claims.
So please distinguish between the tax free Lump Sum and the taxable annual annuity.
J) Transfer of Value
Whether or not to transfer corporate pension claims to or from the UK is a technical and sometimes complex issue.
Besides the legal, actuarial and product specifications also the special British tax regulations have to be taken into the equation.
Therefore we caution you to get advice before making any permanent decisions.
K) Power of Attorney
It is our standard practise to have a Power of Attorney from our clients, which we hand over to related parties in order to represent our clients in the correct legal manner.
Most British insurance companies and such do not provide information by phone or mail after having received such a perfectly in order power of attorney but instead mail the required information to our client.
We hope you understand that we cannot help this delay.
L) News March 2019
UK PENSIONS: 250,000 NHS Workers Opt Out Of Pension Plan
A quarter of a million NHS workers have opted out of the NHS pension scheme in the past three years, according to Freedom of Information data gathered by the Health Service Journal and Royal London.
Royal London says the opt out rate is far higher than other public sector schemes and could have dire consequences for the workers. The long term squeeze on public sector pay and higher contribution rates could be to blame, it believes.
Royal London says that a typical nurse earning £25,000 a year would save £1,420 by opting out but would lose pension rights worth around £13,000 when they do due to giving up the employer contribution into their pension.
Royal London says the NHS needs to take action to tackle the “epidemic” of opting out, otherwise large numbers of NHS staff risk poverty in retirement.
M) Additional UK Pension Plan Information
N) Annual Heathrow Consultations & Workshops
More than half of our clients have UK based pension claims. Due to our knowledge and experience regarding UK pensions, we twice a year organize individual meetings with Expats at a Heathrow Conference Center. During each consultation we focus on the particular situation of the (potential) client.
Which events are often combined with presenting workshops for companies about Global Expat Pensions in London.