Pile of Coins

Expats a Factor in Huge Pension Withdrawals

Expat pension needs are one of the major reasons behind the £15.3 billion the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) say was was taken from pensions during 2016/17.

The high level of withdrawals is no doubt attributable to the increased flexibility afforded UK pension savers by the introduction of landmark reforms over the past few years.

The £15.3 billion figure was disclosed following a Freedom Of Information request to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and is a massive 173% increase on the £5.6bn that was withdrawn in 2012/13.

In fact, the second quarter of 2017 saw the highest quarterly level of pension withdrawals in five years – no doubt including many expat pensions withdrawals – with more than 40,000 people withdrawing £4.3bn from their pensions.

The Houses of Parliament

Petition to abolish "unfair" expat retirement transfer tax takes shape

As it stands, its been nearly a year that expat retirement transfers of pensions have incurred a charge when moving to or between Qualifying Recognised Offshore Pension Schemes (QROPS), with only expats living within the European Union or a select group of 13 other countries immune to this charge.

However, British expats across the world have recently joined forces to question the fairness of the charge and to lobby parliament for its removal.

It's easy to see why they have taken this course of action – the charge for overseas expat retirement transfers comes in at 25% of the value of the pension fund; plainly a crippling and punitive amount for people who have already worked hard and paid their taxes in order to prudently fund their retirement.

Pound coins stacked in piles

Could the UK's state pension fund run out in 14 years?

The defined benefit scheme – whereby the employer promises the employee a specified payment upon retirement, the amount of which is calculated based on several factors including the years the contributor has been in the scheme, their age, and their salary at retirement – is no longer viable in today's world.

Recently, the high-profile collapse of the construction firm Carillion has served as yet another example of why this is the case.

The collapse means that, just like in the heavily reported case of retail giant BHS, thousands of employees are likely to have their carefully laid out retirement plans affected. Now that the company has gone into liquidation, it cannot afford to pay employees their expected pension amount, leading to yet another sizeable pensions black hole with a deficit of around £580 million (although the BBC reports that the final figure could be as high as £900 million).

Cave on beach in Portugal

Keeping the NHR Tax Regime Could Be Good for Portugal in 2018

In September 2017, it was announced that the Portuguese Government, following pressure from Sweden and a number of other European countries, was looking to water down the country's non-habitual residency (NHR) tax regime, potentially bringing to an end a programme that has worked in the interests of expats since 2009. The uncertainty this proposed move provoked certainly threatened to put a dampener on the financial plans of quite a number of expats and would-be expats as they moved into 2018.

However, the budget proposal presented by the Portuguese government in November seemed to allay these fears. There was not a single mention of the scheme, which would have seen the introduction of a flat rate of tax of either 5% or 10% on income drawn from the pensions of NHRs.

In all probability any such move would have seen the pensions of existing expat NHRs unaffected; however, it would have presented a significant stumbling block to the retirement plans of many looking to move both their wealth and their residence status to the country.

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