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QROPS – HMRC Introduces changes that create havoc in the market place

By Stephen Ward BA (Econ), ACII, APMI, APFS, AIFP - Thu 19th Apr 2012

The period from August 2011 to April 2012 has seen a period of significant but controlled change in the QROPS marketplace.


In August 2011 the New Zealand Government introduced a draft Bill to Parliament, the Financial Markets Conduct Bill, which included proposed changes to the pensions legislation and hence, New Zealand QROPS.

It is expected that the Bill will be passed late 2012. Prior to the passing of the Bill, UK expats who had completed five consecutive tax years of non UK residence and then transferred their pension funds to a New Zealand QROPS were able to request a withdraw of up to 100 percent of their funds in cash.

The Bill, when passed will prevent full encashment of such funds.


In December last year draft regulations were published proposing a number of changes to QROPS legislation affecting schemes in all jurisdictions from 6 April 2012.

In addition to bringing an end to 100 percent withdrawals from New Zealand QROPS forward by several months it also proposed new requirement for all QROPS to ensure that the tax treatment of benefits taken in each jurisdiction were the same for residents and non residents alike.

Whilst this did not create much of a problem for New Zealand schemes or schemes operating under EU jurisdictions such as Malta, it meant that Guernsey and the Isle of Man in particular would need to introduce new pensions legislation to meet the new QROPS requirements if they wanted to remain as QROPS jurisdictions.

And this is what they believed they had achieved until last week…

APRIL 2012

The publication of a new list of pension schemes registered with HMRC as QROPS has introduced chaos into the marketplace. This has been primarily caused by the “delisting” of over 300 Guernsey based schemes. In addition the Guernsey authorities have announced that HMRC are unhappy with changes in Guernsey law that had been introduced in order to meet new UK requirements for overseas pension schemes to continue to be recognised as QROPS from 6 April 2012.

So, for the moment at least, whilst Guernsey is seeking clarification and assurances from HMRC that they have not been unfairly targeted, Guernsey as a QROPS jurisdiction would seem to be dead in the water.

A similar fate has engulfed one particular type of scheme operated in the Isle of Man.

The chaotic position is not helped by the fact that the HMRC list is not conclusive evidence of an overseas pension scheme’s status as a QROPS. A scheme may still be on the list which does not meet the new legislative requirements and other schemes not on the list meet the requirements. The list is designed to assist not to be definitive.

Over the past few years many people have transferred their UK pension rights in to a QROPS. The most frequent destination has been New Zealand for the purposes of obtaining an immediate lump sum. There are no implications for those who took this course of action after five complete and consecutive years of non UK residency and then received payment.

Others have transferred their pension rights to schemes in Guernsey or Isle of Man and will now find themselves (often not being aware of it) a member of a scheme which is no longer a QROPS. This need not be a problem in that it tends to cause more inconvenience for the scheme itself than the member. The scheme has certain reporting requirements to satisfy to HMRC on deregistration and of course cannot attract new business.

HMRC has stated we should expect further changes in the Finance Bill 2013.

If you are considering a QROPS now is the time to take advice as to what the changes mean for you not least because there are some potentially very interesting consequences and opportunities open to you.

Written by: Stephen Ward BA (Econ), ACII, APMI Managing Director Premier Pension Solutions. Stephen was a member of the UK Government’s Pensions Industry Working Group advising HMRC on the pensions’ legislation changes which introduced Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) in the 2006 Finance Act. He is also the author of the definitive textbook on pension taxation, “Tolley’s Pensions Taxation 2011-12”

Comment on this Blog

There is NO requirement to purchase an insurance annuity. Leave all unused pension funds to your beneficiaries free of UK taxes. There are no limits on contributions to the fund, nor fund size. Flexibility as to when benefits can be taken from the Plan (personal tax status allowing). Take income and benefits in currency of your choice.I appreciate you. This is interesting information provided in this post. If you want to know more about QROPS , go to the link below. QROPS
Manish Chaurasiya - Fri, 1st Mar 2013
I appreciate the information provided by you. This is interested to know about…. Anyway, you are definitely someone that has something to say that people need to hear. Keep up the good work. Keep on inspiring the people. Regards: HMRC QROPS List
Aks - Mon, 25th Feb 2013
Looks like I got my cash out just in time, reassuring to read that there will be no implications. That is good news.
Phil Atkins - Fri, 20th Apr 2012

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