Taking Advice On Your UK Pensions Options


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Once you reach retirement age you need to carefully consider all your options for receiving pension income, and how these options affect the transfer of any balance to your spouse and

Once you reach retirement age you need to carefully consider all your options for receiving pension income, and how these options affect the transfer of any balance to your spouse and heirs on your death. If you are non-UK resident you have the further option of QROPS to consider, and obviously you need to take your local tax implications into account for each of your funds.

Whether you have state/occupational pensions, government service pensions or private pensions, they are all bound by UK rules and remain so even if you are no longer resident in the UK.

QROPS, on the other hand, are Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes which allow British expatriates to move their pension funds out of the UK and achieve more flexibility to set up their fund to suit their lifestyle and requirements as an expatriate.

UK pensions can only be transferred into a QROPS which has been approved as qualifying by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). To obtain QROPS status the provider must meet a number of the HMRC?s reporting requirements, but usually only for five complete tax years after the member has left the UK.

As an expatriate, when you retire the three main options for your pension funds are:

1) You can buy an annuity

2) You can start income drawdown

3) You can move into a QROPS

You need to research and understand all three options, weighing up the pros and cons of each, before you can establish which is the most appropriate option for you. Only then should you start the process of transferring your fund or starting to draw benefits.

Taking professional advice will give you peace of mind that you have fully explored and understood all the options and you do really need a professional firm to sort out all the paperwork for you.

It is important to note that UK pensions and pensions transfers are heavily regulated in the UK by the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA). Only advisory firms which are authorised and regulated by the UK Financial Services Authority are able to give advice on pensions transfers. So even if you yourself are no longer UK resident, your pensions adviser still needs to be FSA authorised and regulated. Only a UK authorised adviser has the authority to give advice on all three pensions options listed above.

While QROPS themselves are not UK pension schemes the transfer from a UK scheme to a QROPS still comes under the FSA?s jurisdiction.

When it comes to pension transfers there are two components: advice on transferring out of your existing scheme and advice on how QROPS will benefit you.

Again, only advisers who are authorised and regulated by the UK FSA can help you with both of these, as well as with the actual transfer paperwork. If your adviser is not authorised and regulated by the FSA, he can only talk to you about what QROPS are and what they can do for you, he cannot advise you on your current UK pensions and whether better options are available by leaving your funds in the UK.

More and more British expatriates are moving their private pensions into QROPS, and with good reason. QROPS can offer considerable benefits to expatriates. Here are the main ones:

? Your fund and the income received can be in Euros, thus reducing currency exchange costs and risk.

? No UK tax on any benefits received and no UK PAYE applicable.

? No tax is payable on income or gains within the fund (other than withholding taxes on certain investments).

? Depending on your country of residence, the taxation of withdrawals from a QROPS is usually more beneficial than if you keep your current pension.

? The benefit of the fund can pass to your heirs, and it is protected from inheritance tax.

? If you have been non-UK resident for five complete and consecutive UK tax years when you die, QROPS escape the 55% death charges which apply to UK pension funds if you were in drawdown or aged over 75 when you die.

? There is no requirement to buy an annuity, though you can buy one at any stage if you wish.

? You can have a flexible investment plan across a wide range of funds, designed around your personal objectives, circumstances and attitude to risk.

? With a QROPS you are not necessarily restricted to the Government Actuary?s Department (GAD) rules for income drawdown.

To find out more about QROPS and whether they would be suitable for you, contact a firm like Blevins Franks which is authorised and regulated by the FSA for the conduct of investment and pension business.

By David Franks, Chief Executive, Blevins Franks

6th September 2011

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.