QROPS and International SIPPs – How they impact on you
Be careful when you take advice about UK pensions while resident in the Middle East and ensure you understand the real reasons behind the recommendation to transfer your pensions offshore – often commission!
Regular savings plans
Widely sold as great commission earners, they decimate savings and have no tax benefit whatsoever in middle east countries like the UAE.
If you live in Dubai, have a UK pension, QROPS or have been advised to take out an Investment Bond or wish to receive high quality investment advice taking into account Double Tax Treaties, then we are able to assist you.
For many expats living in Dubai the key issues or concerns are summarised by us, with some pointers as to how you can avoid the mistakes that we commonly see, and consider the things that make a difference to every Dubai expat.
We regularly blog on the latest matters affecting you, and within these pages we have put together Dubai specific pension information for expats. We also focus on the main tax considerations for expats in Dubai and then go onto to discuss specific investment strategies including the pro’s and cons of investment bonds.
Dubai has virtually no direct taxes and therefore it is difficult to understand why anyone “buys” expensive pension products (QROPS or International SIPPs ) or transfers into them.
KEY POINT: Pension Income – The UK and the UAE has a Double Tax Treaty in place, that may benefit the few that do take a retirement income while in the UAE. This should ensure no tax is payable.
We find individuals are often “scared” into making the decision to transfer to – quote – “get away from regulation or the bankrupt UK” or “to allow dependents to receive the pension pot upon death”.
However, they are transferring away from the world’s best protected pension regime with funds such as the PPF, FSCS and other protections often funded by the industry participants with unlimited exposure (firms such as ours!). We find it farcical when news stories or individuals say that pensions are going bust and the recent parliamentary committee discussed this issue with regard to British Steel pensions.
KEY POINT: Expat Pension Advice – The empirical evidence we have seen to date suggested that most UAE expats have been given unregulated investment advice and have moved their UK pensions for no obvious benefits- other than to enrich the salesperson.
As for allowing dependents to receive the pension pot upon death. One can leave their pension pot in the UK and have been able to hand it down to descendants often without tax, since April 2015 – the “concerns” expressed are therefore out of date for most people.
KEY POINT: For those expats who were advised to take out a QROPS/International SIPP and put the investment into an Investment Bond for tax efficiency reasons – you must review this arrangement.
However, hardly anyone retires in Dubai or the UAE. Thus making the supposed tax free benefits of the pension income redundant for nearly all those that transferred.
Dubai Tax considerations
If you go to the UK Revenue and Customs site www.hmrc.gov.uk, you will be able to find both an English language version of the current UK-Dubai Double Taxation Treaty (www.gov.uk ) (articles 18 and 19 refer specifically to pensions).
KEY POINT: Trusts - There is no personal taxation in the UAE and no obligation to report income to the tax authorities.
Dubai specific Investment Strategies
There is a saying ‘Don’t let the tax tail wag the investment dog’. Investors should be interested in the best strategy to get the highest net return after tax AND fees.
KEY POINT: If the fees for a tax strategy are higher than the tax saved, then it would be sensible to look at taxed options with lower fees. When we review existing products often recommended in the UAE, we discover in 95% of cases that the clients would have been better off not taking out the supposedly “tax-efficient” investment bond!
The adviser should look at alternative strategies, suggest options to discuss with you, finalizing a best solution for you, the client, based on investment, fees and the overall tax liability.
Key issues / concerns
Investment bonds, whether sold within QROPS or international SIPPs, are to be avoided .The main consideration should be the balancing of tax efficient advice which takes into account future plans, and charges of products.
The vast majority of advisers, providing investment or pension investment advice, do not have investment licences and are circumventing this by selling insurance wrappers that are expensive and commission laden, often from countries outside the UAE.
What should you be considering?
1. If you are confident enough, then do your research, and place investment directly.
2. If you need assistance, then seek advisers who are regulated themselves in the UK for pensions advice.
3. Consider not only tax efficiency, but also costs!
4. Point 4 – is, make sure the costs are accurate! If you are told the costs are 1% or 1.5% per annum in total and there is no fee up front, then you are probably being lied to in 95% of cases.
5. Don’t get taken in by the great claims over International SIPPs / QROPS and Insurance bonds or investment platforms that are really investment bonds. These add layered charges and are usually not the best outcome for clients (although we accept that in around 15% of cases they are).
6. Don’t be a sheep. Just because your best friend was advised to do something, never assume this is the right thing. Each person is an individual and requires individual solutions. If your friend were to walk off a cliff, would you follow them?
Our Empirical evidence from clients we have spoken has shown us that many expat sales advisers in the UAE, just sell a product to their clients for commission and do not provided financial solutions. The product is often an investment bond or a SIPP, which may or may not be the best advice but this is not really considered. Don’t listen as 85% of the time you would be better off doing something else with your hard earned money or pension.
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We co-operate with a regulated adviser in Dubai who can provide you with the advice aspects with respect to where you live including the tax issues of a UK pension. All investment advice and implementation is conducted through Aisa International for people not resident in the EU. The firm offering this is still part of the Aisa Group and due diligence can be provided upon request. This aspect of ongoing advice is not covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service but is covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme in the EU.
Trading Names: Pensions for Expats is a registered trading name, but does not provide expat pension advice in that name. This website is aimed at individuals not resident in the UK. Please see www.aisagroup.org in order to ensure that you are dealing with the most appropriate group company.