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If you are living in France or thinking about moving there in 2019, you should check your financial planning is still suitable for your life abroad, especially as Brexit approaches.

The New Year is a good time to reflect on the previous 12 months and look ahead to what the coming year will bring. When it comes to financial planning, however, focusing on just one year is not nearly enough, you need to plan ahead for the future.

While you should always consider current developments that could impact your finances, good wealth management is all about establishing your goals, both short and long-term, then setting up a strategic plan to achieve them.

Planning for a financially secure retirement

For many of us, the ultimate goal is to be able to enjoy our dream retirement. If you are living in France or at least spending a lot of time there, and you will want to make the most of what it has to offer.

And the good news is that life expectancy in France is a year longer than the UK! Not only are people living longer, they are also enjoying a lifestyle that is more active (and arguably more expensive) than previous generations. While this is very welcome, it means we need to ensure our money comfortably lasts as long as we do.

Many retirees favour low-risk, ‘safer’ investments like bank deposits. But if you have potentially 30 years to fund in retirement, this is actually risky. Slowly but surely the cost of living increases every year. Even lower inflation rates can erode the spending power of your savings over the longer term, so you need them to at least earn enough to keep up with inflation (and ideally beat it), but with today’s low interest rates this is a struggle.

See our article 'Can you afford the cost of living longer?'

British expatriates who keep savings in Sterling also need to factor in exchange rate risk, as currency movements can sometimes make a noticeable difference to the amount of income you receive.

Start by establishing what your goals are (what income and capital growth you need, etc.), and obtain an objective analysis of your risk profile. Working with an experienced and regulated adviser, you can then build a portfolio, with a careful spread of investments across asset classes, regions, market sectors and companies, designed to achieve your goals within your risk tolerance. The key is to find the right balance of risk and return for your peace of mind.

Planning to protect your wealth from tax

When considering your income needs you also need to factor in taxation. You should ideally review your tax planning once a year to take account of any tax reforms – and here in France they happen often and can be quite substantial!

2018 introduced big changes to wealth tax and the taxation of investment income. In comparison this year is quieter, but there are two reforms to note.

The first is the introduction of PAYE. The new PAYE system applies from 1st January 2019 for certain types of income (employment income, French and foreign pension income).

The second change relates to social charges. Individuals covered under the health system of another EU/EEA country – so non-residents and everyone holding the S1 form – will now pay just 7.5% social charges on their investment income/capital gains, instead of 17.2%.

This is therefore an opportune time to review your tax planning for 2019, especially if you have not done so after the 2018 reforms.

Planning for the inevitable

Life expectancy may be increasing, but don’t use this as an excuse to put off estate planning – or you risk leaving it too late.

Again, start by defining your goals. Who you want to inherit your estate and in what amounts? Do you want to plan how and when they receive their inheritance? You then need to research the succession laws and inheritance taxes in France and anywhere else you have assets and heirs. You need to understand the EU succession regulation ‘Brussels IV’ and the pros and cons of using this for your cross-border estate planning.

Then take advice on how to achieve your wishes for your heirs and to make the process as straightforward as possible for them. At the same time, consider the tax implications of your options, to find the optimum solution for you.

Planning for Brexit

We cannot talk about planning for 2019 without mentioning Brexit. Amidst so much ongoing uncertainty, this is a good time to consider if you need to adjust your financial planning.

If you are living in France your financial planning should be set up for France. Do you own too many UK investments? Are all your savings in Sterling, putting you at mercy of exchange rate swings? Are you hoping to transfer your pension out of the UK in the future? Be aware that many speculate the UK could widen the 25% ‘overseas transfer charge’ after Brexit, so that pension transfers within the EU are also taxed.

When it comes to the taxation, your treatment as an expatriate is determined by the UK/France tax treaty that exists independently of the EU. There are, however, some circumstances where taxation may be affected. For example, if you hold UK bonds, you may lose beneficial tax treatment in France once the UK leaves the EU and EEA. In this case you may want to consider moving to arrangements which provide full tax benefits in France.

Interestingly, we are now coming across more people in the UK who are looking beyond Brexit to what will happen next. They are concerned that a change of government could impose a new taxation policy which would impact the wealth they have worked hard to build up in preparation for their retirement. Even if there is no change at No. 10, are tax rises on the middle classes still a possibility?

If you dream of living in France and are worried about what may happen in the UK, perhaps now is the time to start exploring your options for a tax-efficient move to France. Even if you cannot leave the UK yet, it would be good to have a plan in place, especially if it is one that could help you move sooner rather than later. Speaking to an advisory firm experienced at helping UK residents move to France should provide a wealth of useful information and advice.

Contact us to arrange a consultation

All information in this article is based on Blevins Franks’ understanding of legislation and taxation practice at the time of writing; this may change in the future. It should not be construed as providing personalised taxation, investment or pension advice. You should take advice for your circumstances.