I came across some interesting pension news this week for those buying property in Italy. A lot of Britons are thoroughly fed up with the country – too expensive, too crime ridden, too wet and too hard to make the most of our hard-earned pension. So news this week that Britons retiring abroad and those who wish to buy a property in Italy can take their pensions with them, will certainly be exciting some interest.
400,000 of us move abroad each year, and new rules allow us to move our pensions offshore too. The scheme you’re looking for is a Qualifying Registered Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS). Move your money there (and to a jurisdiction such as the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland, Singapore or Hong Kong, and your cash is no longer subject to HM Revenue and Customs rules. The benefits to the hard-done-by UK pensioner are eye popping. Compare the Isle of Man’s system to the UK’s. Bigger tax-free lump sums, inheritance tax a tenth of UK rates, freedom to buy into residential property. Best of all … no need to buy into a miserable annuity paying out 6% a year. Wait five years and you can take your pension as cash to invest as YOU choose. You could, therefore, take your pension and put it into Italian property investments should you wish. Those buying property in Italy, take note.
An individual can transfer their UK registered pension scheme(s) to a QROPS which is registered anywhere else in the world regardless of where they actually reside. If the individual stays in the UK, the QROPS is able to pay benefits in line with and that do not exceed those which could be paid if funds were still held in the UK scheme. However, on migrating and ceasing to be a UK tax resident for five full UK tax years there are no longer any reporting requirements or restrictions on the QROPS to the HMRC and only the rules pertaining to the QROPS and its place of origin / registration apply.
Basically, the five year period is a time of transition over which the rules of a UK scheme continue to apply; after this period, the rules of the QROPS prevail.
Example – An individual with a UK Personal Pension, aged 35, goes to live and work in Italy, ceasing to be UK tax resident on 15th October 2008. They commence the process of transferring their UK pension scheme to an Australian QROPS, which finally concludes in May 2009. On 6th April 2014 the scheme effectively loses all obligations to HMRC and falls entirely under Italian pension legislation – i.e. all proceeds can be taken as cash lump sums, entirely tax free, albeit not until age 60. (Italian pension schemes are locked in until age 60).