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WHAT IS A SIPP? (SELF-INVESTED PERSONAL PENSION)

A SIPP is a pension ‘wrapper’ that holds investments until you retire and begin to draw an income. It works in a similar way to a standard personal pension. The main difference is that with a SIPP you typically have more flexibility when you choose what to invest into.

With standard personal pension schemes, your investments are managed for you within the pooled fund you have chosen. SIPPs give you the freedom to choose and manage your own investments. However, because this is a complex area, most people choose to have an authorised investment manager make the decisions for them.

ESSENTIAL DETAILS OF A SIPP
A SIPP is based in the UK and regardless of where you live it is regulated by UK law.
A SIPP is available to you regardless of where you live in the world.
Under current legislation you can start drawing retirement benefits from the age of 55. You can do this even if you are still in employment.
Your benefits are flexible. You may draw as much or as little income as you like. You can also stop and start withdrawing whenever you wish.
Up to 25% of your total funds can be withdrawn as a tax-free cash lump sum.
If needed you can transfer your funds into a QROPS later on.
SIPPs are excellent for those who plan to retire in the UK. They are equally beneficial for those in a nation with a preferential double-taxation agreement with the UK.
SIPP investments grow free of capital gains tax or income taxes.

WHAT CAN YOU INVEST INTO WITHIN YOUR SIPP?

  • Quoted UK and overseas stocks and shares
  • Unlisted shares
  • Collective investments (such as OEICs & unit trusts)
  • Investment trusts
  • Gilts
  • Exchange traded funds (ETFs)
  • Property & land (but not most residential property)
  • Insurance bonds

Some SIPPs can also raise a mortgage against property. The rent will go towards paying down the loan and the costs of running the property.

THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT SIPPS FOR EXPATS
A SIPP is a personal pension. You are not required to live in the UK to be able to invest in one. However, there are important considerations if you do not live in the UK and are thinking about using a SIPP:

  • Even though a SIPP is held in the UK, it is possible to have a multi-currency SIPP. This can be a great benefit to expats as it helps to mitigate currency fluctuations on both contributions and withdrawals.
  • SIPPs abide by UK pension rules and as such are affected by any changes the UK Government makes to pension rules. A recent example of this would be the changes to the Lifetime Pension Allowance that saw a reduction in the allowance from £1.25m to £1m.
  • When drawing an income from your SIPP you will still be subject to UK income tax. If you no longer live in the UK, your income may also be subject to tax in your country of residence. Hence it is critical to understand the local tax rules as well as those in the UK. You can then make an informed choice about how to draw an income from your SIPP.
  • Many expats will speak to a financial adviser while making a decision about their retirement plans. They will do this because it is a very complex and critical area. If you are seeking advice from an adviser in the UK, remember that they may not be fully aware of all the opportunities for expats.

 

WHAT IS A QROPS (QUALIFYING RECOGNISED OVERSEAS PENSION SCHEME)

A QROPS is an overseas pension scheme that meets certain requirements set by HMRC.

A QROPS must have a beneficial owner and trustees, and it can receive transfers of UK Pension Benefits. QROPS came about as part of UK legislation launched on 6 April 2006. This was a direct result of EU human rights directive for the freedom of movement of capital and labour. It is essentially a trust or a contract-based offshore pension. As such the tax residence of the beneficial owner or beneficiaries is critical, as some countries do not recognise trusts.
A QROPS can be appropriate for UK citizens who have left the UK to emigrate permanently and intend to retire abroad having built up a UK pension fund. Alternatively, a person who is born outside the UK, having built up benefits in a UK-registered pension scheme can move their pension offshore if they want to retire outside the UK. Unfortunately, your UK State Pension benefits cannot be transferred. Defined contribution, defined benefit pension schemes and SSAS pensions can be transferred abroad though.


A QROPS does not have to be established in the country where one retires; rather, a person can move the pension to another jurisdiction and have the benefits paid into their country of choice. Moving to a QROPS could also be a good option for expats who are intending to return home but are approaching the lifetime allowance or have already gone over the lifetime allowance.

QROPS KEY POINTS

  1. As with other private pensions, you can begin drawdown from the age of 55
  2. With a QROPS access is flexible meaning you can draw down as much or as little as you like.
  3. QROPS typically offer a broader range of investment options and are not subject to the same restrictions most UK pensions are.
    In contrast, unlike defined benefit pensions, which typically only have a limited inheritance amount for spouses, a QROPS allows you to name any chosen beneficiary you like.
  4. QROPS allow you to hold and invest in multiple currencies. This can make them appealing to expats who will be retiring abroad and don’t want to be receiving their pension in pounds sterling.
  5. The benefits of a QROPS can vary depending on how long you have been offshore, intend to stay offshore and whether you remain offshore for a long or short period of time.
  6. A QROPS can allow you to take an enhanced tax-free lump sum when you begin drawdown. This increases to 30% from 25%.
  7. Much like a SIPP, a QROPS can be used to consolidate multiple pensions.
  8. If you transfer into a QROPS and you live outside the EEA (European Economic Area) you will be subject to the ‘Overseas transfer charge’ – which is 25% of the value.

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