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Moving or retiring abroad? What to consider when transferring your pension to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS)

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Transferring your UK SIPP or workplace pension into an offshore pension if you retire abroad involves a process called transferring to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS). We outline the steps you should consider to make the process as smooth as possible

What is a QROPS?

A QROPS is an overseas pension scheme that meets HMRC rules to receive transfers from registered pension schemes in the UK. Check the recognised overseas pension schemes notification list – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

An updated list of ROPS notifications is published on the 1st and 15th day of each month. If this date falls on a weekend or UK public holiday the list will be published on the next working day.

Sometimes the list is updated at short notice to temporarily remove schemes while reviews are carried out, for example where fraudulent activity is suspected, says the UK’s pension scheme administrator.

HMRC cannot guarantee these are ROPS or that any transfers to them will be free of UK tax. It’s your responsibility to find out if you have to pay tax on any transfer of pension savings.

HMRC states that it will usually pursue any UK tax charges (and interest for late payment) arising from transfers to overseas entities that do not meet the ROPS requirements even when they appear on this list.

HMRC

This includes where the ROPS requirements have changed and where taxpayers are overseas. HMRC will also charge penalties in appropriate cases. Find out about the changes for ROPS requirements.

Tax relief is given on pensions to encourage saving to provide benefits in later life. Accessing benefits (directly or indirectly) before the age of 55 will result in a liability to UK tax charges in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

You should seek suitable professional advice, including from a regulated financial adviser.

Countries where you’ll usually get an annual increase in the State Pension are listed here.

Eligibility for Transferring to a QROPS

To be eligible to transfer your UK pension to a QROPS, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be retiring abroad and no longer be tax resident in the UK
  • The overseas pension scheme must be a QROPS
  • You must not have already accessed your UK pension

Steps Involved in Transferring to a QROPS

  1. Choose a QROPS: Research and select a QROPS that meets your investment objectives, risk tolerance, and fees.
  2. Contact Your UK Pension Provider: Inform your UK pension provider of your intention to transfer your pension to a QROPS. They will provide you with the necessary paperwork and information.
  3. Complete Transfer Form APSS 263: Fill out the APSS 263 form, which provides details about your pension transfer and tax implications.
  4. Submit Transfer Request: Submit the completed APSS 263 form to your UK pension provider. They will initiate the transfer process.
  5. Monitor Transfer Progress: Keep track of the transfer process and ensure all necessary documentation is provided.

Tax Considerations

The transfer itself may be subject to a 25% tax charge if not all required information is provided within 60 days.

  • Lifetime Allowance: Be aware of your UK pension lifetime allowance. If the transferred amount exceeds your lifetime allowance, you may face tax charges.
  • Taxation of Transfer: The transfer itself may be subject to a 25% tax charge if not all required information is provided within 60 days.

Seek Professional Advice

It is advisable to seek guidance from a financial advisor or pension specialist before transferring your UK pension to an offshore scheme. They can provide tailored advice based on your individual circumstances and ensure you comply with UK tax regulations.

Remember, transferring your pension overseas is a significant financial decision. Carefully consider your options, seek professional advice, and ensure you understand the tax implications before proceeding.

What to look for in a QROPS provider

There are a number of factors, including investment performance, fees, and customer service, that can be used to assess the best-performing QROPS. However, it is important to note that performance can vary depending on individual circumstances and market conditions.

Here are some QROPS providers to consider. You will want to see how they are rated and ranked for investment performance, fees, and customer service:

  • Blevins Franks: Blevins Franks is a provider of QROPS for UK expats living in over 50 countries. They offer a wide range of QROPS options, including personal pensions and SIPP transfers. Blevins Franks has a strong track record of investment performance and is known for its high levels of customer service.
  • Black Tower: This is a financial and wealth management firm with locations around the world. They offer a guide that has some useful tips to consider if you want to transfer your pension if you plan to retire abroad. QROPS International Pensions | Tax efficient | Blacktower (blacktowerfm.com)
  • Harrison Brook: These financial advisers suggest you go to a cross-border specialist who can not only consider your tax obligations where you reside but also ensure you get the most out of tax-efficient structures or dual taxation agreements, such as Spain and Malta as they provide in a case study in their article: UK Pension Transfer, SIPP & QROPs Pension Transfer | Harrison Brook

When choosing a QROPS provider, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • Investment performance: The investment performance of a QROPS provider is a key factor to consider. You should compare the performance of different providers over a long period of time.
  • Fees: Fees can vary significantly between QROPS providers. You should compare the fees of different providers before making a decision.
  • Customer service: It is important to choose a QROPS provider that offers good customer service. This is because you may need to contact your provider for help with your pension at some point in the future.
  • Your individual circumstances: Your individual circumstances, such as your age, risk tolerance, and investment goals, will also influence your choice of QROPS provider.

Here are some additional tips for choosing a QROPS provider:

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