Freedom of going where you want, when you want is one of the main reasons for making the expat lifestyle choice for many.
The notion is romantic, because in many cases, finances and taxes tie people to living in one place.
Banks don’t like cross-border dealings, so credit cards, bank accounts and mortgages are limited by country – and the tax man wants to know where you are to grab a share of your income.
Some countries insist expats settle their debts before quitting their borders, and in extreme cases, jail those that don’t.
But Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes are not bound by the same rules, even though UK Chancellor Phillip Hammond has tightened the law with the overseas transfer charge.
The residence rules for QROPS differ, depending on if an expat lives within the European Economic Area (EEA) or not.
Breaking the residence rules opens expats and their QROPS providers to the dreaded penalty of the overseas transfer charge – this is a transfer tax levied at 25% of the value of funds that are moved into a QROPS from a UK pension scheme or from another QROPS.
QROPS and living in the EEA
Providing expats and their QROPS are both based in EEA countries, the expat is exempt from the overseas transfer charge. They do not have to be in the same country.
For example, a British expat can move to Spain or an EEA country that has no QROPS provider while moving their pension to Malta.
QROPS and living outside the EEA
Outside the EEA, expats must live in the same country as their QROPS is based.
For example, for expats in Australia, an Australia QROPS is the only option.
If the country has no QROPS, then expats cannot move their retirement savings into a QROPS without incurring the overseas transfer charge.
The current countries outside the EEA offering QROPS offshore pensions for expats are:
- Hong Kong (covering the whole of China)
- Isle of Man
- New Zealand
- South Africa
A list of all countries offering QROPS is published once every two weeks by HMRC