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“Expats hit by 25% Tax Charge on Overseas Pension Transfers”

So, scary headlines aside, is there really anything to be concerned about and are you going to be clobbered with a 25% tax bill?

Well, in reality, for most of us expats living in Spain the simple answer is no. As always, the devil is in the detail, not in the headlines – even from such an august publication as the FT.

Checking the legislation gives a completely different and much less dramatic story (shock headlines and horror stories sell papers) for us EU expats living in Spain and the reality is that the Overseas Transfer Charge (OTC) of 25% does not apply under the following circumstances:

  • If the transfer request was before 8/3/17.

Or if any one of the following five conditions apply:

  1. The Member (you) is tax resident in the country in which the QROPS is established –
  2. The Member is tax resident in the European Economic Area and the QROPS is established in the European Economic Area.
  3. The QROPS is an Occupational Scheme and the member is an employee of the sponsoring employer under the scheme.
  4. The QROPS is a Public-Sector scheme and the member is an employee of a sponsoring employer under the scheme.
  5. The QROPS is set up by an International Organisation and the member is an employee of a sponsoring employer under the scheme.

Condition 2 is highlighted as this probably applies to most readers of The Olive Press, and the majority of my clients.

For example, when UK (or other European Economic Area) citizens who have moved to Spain (also EEA) discuss moving a pension, the most likely jurisdictions for a transfer to QROPS are Malta or Gibraltar (both EEA). Of course, Gibraltar as a Crown Dependency of the UK may be out of the frame when the UK exits the EU and I will discuss Malta in a future article.

What does this mean to a Spanish Tax resident who originally came from a European Economic Area country like the UK? In simple terms, point 2 above applies. “The member is a tax resident in the European Economic Area and the new pension (QROPS) is established in the European Economic Area”.

The result for most of us flies in the face of the headlines above which should now read:

“No Overseas Tax Charge to pay for the majority of Expats in Spain”

But maybe that would not sell as many papers!

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Receiving expert financial advice in Spain should be a priority for anyone currently living as an expat in Spain, especially for anyone expecting to need healthcare in Spain, and also for those who plan to make the move now that Brexit has occured.

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As it stands, EHIC entitles Britons to state health care when in an EU or EEA country (European Economic Area) for treatments that are “medically necessary” as well as those for pre-existing conditions. Furthermore, as long as a person has not travelled abroad with the specific intention of giving birth there, they are also entitled to routine maternity care.

Although the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill does not replace EHIC it clears a pathway to a fast-track bill that will “provide the powers that are needed” in the event of British citizens’ healthcare rights being threatened by Brexit. It also means that, contrary to the fears of many expats, affording private medical insurance may not be an issue they will need to discuss with their expat financial services provider.

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