UK-originated benefits are a problem too; according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), it has recently managed to secure £1.1 billion in reclaimed benefits from expats who should not have been receiving payment.
Fraudulent or negligent personal wealth management in Spain would appear to be a particular problem, with as many as 10,000 expats in the country prosecuted or fined for breaches in this regard.
However, it is likely that not all cases of tax and/or benefit fraud are deliberate. Some expats who are unaware of the rules, or confused by them, may make mistakes in good faith or sometimes as a result of negligent wealth management advice.
Fortunately, the DWP is prepared to make some distinction between benefit and pension overpayment cases that are clearly instances of intentional fraud and those that come about as a result of negligent mismanagement or misunderstanding.
In terms of the consequences for misdemeanours, approximately 50% of cases result in individuals being ordered to repay benefits in full, while the rest not only have to repay sums but also receive prosecution and a substantial fine.
HMRC adopts a similar approach to tax errors that are made in good faith and those that are made deliberately.
It is a difficult problem for the British government, HMRC and the DWP to address; nearly 4 million British citizens live outside the UK and there are a complex range of options available for both tax collection and benefit payments. Advice and clarity are clearly essential in this regard.
Tax reporting requirements for investment funds are constantly changing. Many EU countries, including the UK, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, have recently modified or introduced new tax reporting regimes.
Getting it right with Blacktower
As an established wealth management firm in Spain, Germany and other major UK expat hubs, Blacktower has a detailed understanding of all the country-specific and cross-border tax and asset issues that affect you. For more information, contact us today.