Do you still have bank accounts, or savings and investments, in the UK?

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UK bank accounts, savings and investments

Please note that this article is over six months old. While Blevins Franks takes care to make sure that information is accurate on the date of publication, some content may change over time. You should not rely on the accuracy of legislation and tax information in this article; take professional advice for your circumstances.

UK-based banks continue to ask EU-resident clients to close their accounts following Brexit, and now National Savings & Investments is reminding clients that they need a UK bank account to retain their NS&I accounts and Premium Bonds.

While British expatriates will open a local bank account in their country of residence, and look for new tax-efficient investment opportunities, many will also retain their UK bank accounts and often also keep UK investments such as National Savings & Investments and ISAs.  This is partly for convenience but also because they are familiar and feel secure.

But times have changed. Brexit rewrote the financial services landscape for UK nationals living in EU countries.   When the UK left the European single market at the end of 2020, its financial advisory services industry lost EU passporting rights. This means that UK-based financial advisers are no longer automatically authorised to give advice to EU or EEA residents unless they have the necessary regulatory permissions in each jurisdiction their clients live in.

One major consequence has been that many UK-based banks have had to close UK accounts owned by EU-resident clients, leaving expatriates without the bank account they may have used for years or even decades.

As we approached the Brexit deadline in 2020, many British expatriates received letters from their UK banks asking them to close their accounts.  There was a lot of press about it at the time, but 18 months on this has died down.  However, it’s too early to breathe a sigh of relief if your UK financial institution hasn’t contacted you yet. The situation is still evolving and some issues take longer to come to light.

We have just recently seen letters sent from Barclays Personal Banking in the UK and National Savings & Investments asking clients with EU residential addresses to close their accounts.

UK bank accounts

In their letter to a client living in Spain, the Personal Banking division of Barclays explains:

“Please take action: we need you to close your account.

We’re applying limitations to the banking services we provide to customers with an address in the European Economic Area (EEA). We’re sorry to say this means we need you to close your account…  To keep using your savings and/or current account with us, everyone on the account needs to be living in the UK and all the addresses we have for you need to be in the UK too… There are some limited exceptions that allow you to keep using your accounts with an EEA address.”

The letter, dated 10 May 2022, gives the client until 24 November 2022 to confirm whether an exception applies, provide a UK address or close their accounts, following which the accounts will be closed on or after 2 December 2022.

Nationals Savings & Investments (NS&I)

The situation with NS&I accounts is a little different, but linked, with the same consequence.

As its website explains, Nationals Savings & Investments has always been a UK savings provider, backed by HM Treasury, but it does have some customers who live abroad.  However, they still need a UK bank or building society account in their name.

Since many British expatriates have had no choice but to close their UK bank accounts following Brexit, NS&I is now writing to inform them that this will affect their ability to continue holding their accounts.

The letter advises EU resident clients:

“You need to have a UK bank or building society account to be able to continue to operate an account with NS&I.”

It asks the clients to check if they can continue to hold their UK bank or building society account. If it is already closed or the provider plans to close it, they need to provide NS&I with details of another UK account in their name.  If they cannot do this, then:

“You will need to close your NS&I account – this is because it’s a requirement of the terms and conditions of your NS&I account that you are able to hold and maintain a UK bank account.”

NS&I includes the ever-popular Premium Bonds, some of which you may have owned for decades.

Your options

This can all seem unsettling. It is a significant change for UK nationals living abroad and since it involves your savings, it could be rather worrying.

If you are affected by this or are concerned that you could be, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your Blevins Franks adviser to discuss the options for your savings.

At Blevins Franks, one of the cornerstones of our business is that our advisers live locally in the same areas our clients do, and we are committed to providing this personal service for the long term.

We worked hard ahead of Brexit to ensure we were able to continue to service our clients after the UK exited the EU. Our local advisers are regulated and authorised to advise clients in Spain, France, Portugal, Cyprus, and Malta, and are specialist cross-border tax and wealth management experts, with the company’s 45 years of experience behind them.

We are ideally positioned to guide you through these changing times.  We can help you establish tax-efficient solutions for your savings and investments, which are based on your personal circumstances, objectives, needs, time horizon, and risk tolerance.

Contact Blevins Franks today.

Reminder for our clients in France

Don’t forget that if you have bank accounts in the UK – or anywhere else outside of France – you need to declare them to the French tax authorities each year on tax form 3916. This applies if you opened, closed, or used the account over the year. It also applies to assurance-vie.

The penalty for failure to so declare is €1,500 per undeclared account per annum, but it can be as high as €10,000. Higher penalties are charged where the account is in an ‘uncooperative territory’ (i.e. on the French blacklist).

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.