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The End of NHR? Not the End of the World but Planning is Everything

Time may be running out for British retirees to move to Portugal in order to take advantage of its valuable Non-Habitual Resident tax programme. Currently, talk abounds that the scheme will come to an end in 2018 and be replaced with a 10% net expat tax regime from the first day of the New Year. Luckily, for those who feel they may be tempted by a move to Portugal, any move before this cut-off date will ensure that they are able to enjoy the benefits of NHR status as they currently stand.

However, it is important to bear in mind that UK QROPS, QNUPS and SIPPS pension transfers usually take around three months, so, although nothing concrete has yet been announced, time is of the essence for any person to make the most of both NHR status and any associated pension transfers.

As the law stands, expats residing in Portugal do not have to pay any tax on their pensions, whether the fund is located in Malta, France, Germany or elsewhere in Europe. This has many advantages, not least the fact that it allows retiree expats in Portugal to draw a stable and tax-free income for ten years.

The following categories of income are eligible for NHR tax-exemption:

  • Royalties, dividends, pensions and interest from non-Portuguese based income.
  • Certain categories of salary.

However, it is important to note that the following income sources are still subject to Portuguese taxation:

  • Capital gains from sale of securities.
  • Income from countries that do not share a double tax treaty with Portugal.
  • Portugal-sourced income (taxed at a flat rate of 20%).

But NHR confers so much more benefit than simple exemption from tax on foreign income, it also allows for the possibility of potential double tax exemption, as well as the prospect that if you establish a new business or profession, you may be able to enjoy tax-free interest and dividends. Importantly, NHR status also entitles the holder to other benefits of tax residence, including access to the Portuguese state healthcare system.

The important thing to remember is that if you live in Portugal and already enjoy NHR status, there is no need to worry as you will not be affected by any changes and you can continue to make the most of the current rules that entitle you to zero tax on your foreign pension income.

Furthermore, news of the proposed changes should not cause alarm for those who haven’t yet made the move. Context is everything: the Portuguese government set up its NHR programme with the specific goal of attracting wealthy retirees to Portugal. It is highly unlikely that it will look to be implementing any kinds of measures that deter such retirees from living in Portugal and spending their hard-earned savings. British expats, for example, are worth many millions of Euros to the Portuguese economy each year, and it is clear that Portugal still wants this money to be funnelled into its financial system. It is simply the case that the next generation of retirement savers who move to the country may have to be extra prudent about their wealth management choices when they emigrate. For these reasons, authoritative and trusted advice is essential to ensure that pensions, savings and other financial vehicles work smoothly and efficiently in the expat’s interests.

Whatever changes are made; Portugal is likely to remain one of the world’s most desirable retirement destinations. In fact, Forbes magazine recently ranked the Algarve as the best place on earth to retire to.

Lastly, although it is clear that the Portuguese government can and indeed may make the proposed changes – meaning it's essential for affected parties to be suitably prepared - it is by no means a done deal.

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