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Pensions and Politicians

By Stephen Ward BA (Econ), ACII, APMI, APFS, AIFP - Mon 10th Oct 2011

It's UK party conference time again and so a good opportunity to consider politics and pensions. The problem with politicians is that they cannot resist the temptation to interfere. Back in 2006 the ‘old’ pension tax rules were replaced by new ones yet all we have seen since is further meddling.

PENSION FUNDS – A SOFT TARGET ?

The UK public finances are a mess and so the politicians have this year sought to reduce the tax cost of pensions by £5bn a year. Add to that the stealthy reduction in public sector pensions (and some private sector schemes as well) through a change in inflation proofing from the Retail Prices Index to the Consumer Prices Index. As a result of this little noticed change we have seen pension transfer values fall by as much as 20 %. It is clear that the attacks on the soft target that politicians see as pension funds will not end there.

MORE ATTACKS ON PENSIONS ?

As the financial crisis rumbles on we are sure that more attacks will come. The economic travails of the Republic of Ireland have resulted in the introduction of a policy there which will surely not have gone unnoticed in the corridors of Whitehall. On 10thMay 2011, the Irish Government announced that it would “impose a temporary levy on domestic private pension savings to fund a jobs plan aimed at cutting unemployment and aiding the economic recovery.

“The government plans to apply an annual 0.6% charge over four years on pension assets, excluding funds providing benefits to non-resident employers and members,” Finance Minister Michael Noonan said, “The move should generate €470 million a year.” A 0.6% tax rate on UK pension funds would generate annual revenue of around £8.4 billion.

TRANSFER TO A QROPS ?

No wonder we see a near exponential increase in the numbers of expats who want to get their hard earned pension funds away from the UK.

The main reason people cite for transferring their UK pension fund to a QROPS is a lack of trust in the UK pensions system. This is closely followed by a wish to take control. For longer term expats we arrange transfers of UK pension rights to New Zealand from where if required the fund may be converted into an immediately available lump sum. For others and in particular those with larger funds we arrange transfers to Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

We are at the moment working on new schemes in other jurisdictions which will also be able to accept transfers of UK pension rights. Certain Caribbean countries look of particular interest with robust and flexible local pension scheme structures often based on Canadian pension law.

We were just about the first firm to arrange pension transfers to QROPS for expats and are without a doubt still the market leader. On the one hand we keep an eye on what the UK politicians have done and might do in the future, whilst on the other taking an active role in growing and developing the QROPS market as a whole.

For further information about QROPS and Pension Planning opportunities please contact us today via clicking the link Here and leaving a few basic details on the form at the foot of the page.

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