Wednesday, 16 May 2018

GDPR - what is all of the fuss ?

You cannot have escaped the avalanche of contact that you are receiving concerning the General Data Protection Reglementation.

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Saturday, 24 March 2018

Brexit: how things stand for expatriates in the EU under the proposed Brexit deal

With only one year to go until Britain officially leaves the EU, we explore how things stand for expatriates in the EU under the proposed Brexit deal.

Residency: What we know

Although Brexit is scheduled for 29th March 2019, a proposed 21-month transition period is expected to maintain existing residency rules and benefits until the end of 2020.

Britons “lawfully residing” in an EU member state before the 31 December 2020 cut-off date will retain the right to remain and access existing benefits in that country after full Brexit takes effect.

Those who already hold permanent residency can convert their documentation for free. Others are promised a “transparent, smooth and streamlined” process, with a two-year application window.

Agreed reunification rights mean existing partners and close family members can join settled residents in an EU country, even after Brexit.

However, residency rights expire if you are absent from the country for five continuous years or more.


Residency: What we don’t know

What counts as “lawfully residing” is unclear. Permanent residents will qualify, but expatriates living in a country for under five years may need to prove their settled status.

If you have not already, make sure you have registered with the local authorities and secured any supporting paperwork. The residency process takes time, so take action as soon as possible to avoid missing the cut-off date.

Beyond Brexit, we do not know how acquiring residency, visas and permits will work, but we can expect them to be much less straightforward than today.

A key unresolved issue is onward freedom of movement – whether you can automatically relocate to another EU country after Brexit. This especially affects those who work or wish to study across different member states. While Britain has offered “guaranteed rights of return” to EU citizens settled in the UK before Brexit, so far the EU27 has not agreed reciprocal rights for Britons.

Healthcare and pensions: What we know

The deal on the table preserves existing access to pensions and healthcare for residents legally settled in the EU before Brexit. This means holders of the EU ‘Form S1’ can continue receiving free or reduced healthcare, and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) still provides cover when visiting other EU countries.

British expatriates remain eligible for annual increases in the State Pension, even if you have not started taking your pension before Brexit. As things stand, Brexit will not affect how you can withdraw or transfer UK pension funds.

Pensions: What we don’t know

Post-Brexit, the UK no longer has to abide by EU rules on freedom of movement for capital; this could lead to increased taxation of UK pension withdrawals and transfers.

Last year, the UK introduced a 25% tax on transfers to Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) located outside the EU/EEA. Some speculate that this could be extended to within the EU once Britain sheds its obligations to the bloc.

As such, there may be limited time to transfer UK pensions without tax penalties. Make sure you take personalised, regulated advice before taking any action with your pensions.

Taxation: What we know

Each country sets their tax rules, not the EU, and tax treatment depends on whether you are resident, not your nationality. Brexit itself therefore has no effect on how Britons are taxed inFrance or elsewhere in the EU. However, under current rules, some non-EU/EEA assets are taxed differently.

A financial planning review can ensure your wealth and assets are structured as tax-efficiently as possible and prepare you for any Brexit implications.

Taxation: What we don’t know

Tax rules are always subject to change, even without Brexit. The main threat here comes from the UK; as the government loses its EU commitments it gains more freedom to tax nationals living in Europe. As already mentioned, pensions could be a key target.

Another could be tax relief rules for expatriates. For example, in recent years the government has threatened to remove the personal income tax allowance from non-resident British nationals. Taking this away from expatriates post-Brexit could be a relatively easy way for the Treasury to boost revenue in the future.

While the proposed withdrawal agreement and transition period provide some reassurance for expatriates, the final deal is not signed. With only months of certainty left, make sure you do what you can now to secure your position in your EU country of choice. A locally-based adviser can help you understand the cross-border implications and prepare appropriately for the post-Brexit world.


Article courtesy of Blevins Franks – they accept no liability for any loss resulting from any action or inaction or omission as a result of reading this article, which is general in nature and not specific to your circumstances. Tax information has been summarised; individuals are advised to seek personalised advice.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Private sales - don't do it !

In the traditional real estate market, sellers and buyers in France & the UK, rely on estate agents to find buyers and agree / close the deal.However, some sellers forego the help of an agent and do a For Sale by Owner (FSBO for short). Many follow this approach because they want to avoid the dreaded word – “commission”.

Typically, estate agents charge anything from 4 - 8% of the sale price as a commission. This fee is always included in the advertised price, so regardless of how the contract is worded, the buyer pays the agency.

However, property owners are not as well informed as estate agents, despite what you think about an agent!

Many vendors make mistakes when doing a sale on their own, which could be avoided with the help of an estate agent.

Some of the adverts on Private Sale sites, and many of those on Facebook are truly cringe worthy. Absolutely awful in terms of information and images!

In addition, most houses on the market for sale by the owner, are on the market at significantly inflated prices as the sellers make the mistake of overpricing the property.

Meanwhile, a good estate agent has experience in how to correctly price properties, has access to a range of tools and data to help them accurately calculate the price of a property.

Moreover, some are do not have negotiation skills or simply possess the knowledge to smoothly and successfully close the transaction. Offers and negotiations often bring out the animal in individuals, as we know only too well.

Finally, the FSBO process can be emotionally difficult for sellers who are personally attached to their home and have a hard time of letting them go. This is, in fact, a reason why so many owners overprice their properties as to them their homes have sentimental value.

Quality of sale – estate agents are expert in the preparation of their sales particulars, and a DIY approach could put off a lot of serious buyers or make others think ‘where else in the house has the homeowner cut cost’.

An experienced estate agent is backed by a wealth of information about the housing market, both their own recent sales prices, competitors, valuations from their Notaire contacts, the statistics available both regionally and nationally. Estate agents live and breathe houses every day which makes them well-equipped to know the do’s and don’ts.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The clock is ticking to lock-in residency benefits in France post-Brexit

British expatriates in France should act now to secure residency and take advantage of healthcare and pension opportunities before Brexit changes the rules.

This month’s Chinese New Year celebrations bring to mind a Chinese proverb that never dates: ‘dig the well before you are thirsty’. In other words, make sure you plan for your future needs early, before it becomes too late.

Such wisdom has particular relevance amidst today’s Brexit uncertainty. Despite many unknowns, now is the time for Britons living in France to take action to protect their position. We explore what you can do to secure the key areas of residency, healthcare and pension benefits in a post-Brexit world.

Residency and Brexit

December brought reassuring news for expatriates as the UK and the EU27 agreed to maintain existing residency rights for Britons settled in the EU. A joint statement confirmed that citizens “lawfully residing” on both sides can continue "to live, work or study as they currently do under the same conditions as under Union law".

So as long as you are legally resident in France at the Brexit cut-off date, you should keep the right to stay and access the same benefits as today for as long as you remain resident.

The most secure position is permanent residence, available after a period of five continuous years living in France. While you will not qualify if you have lived in France for less than this, you may still be considered French resident for tax purposes. If you have not already registered at your local tax office, do so urgently to ensure your position is formally recorded. You could also consider applying for a ‘carte de séjour’ – although some Britons have been told they need not apply yet as this document is not required for EU citizens, it is still legally possible to obtain. This can help demonstrate that you are legally resident in France before the Brexit cut-off date and therefore eligible to benefit from the citizens’ rights agreement.

Those thinking about moving to France should act fast. While it may seem like Brexit is still a long way off, there is already an administrative backlog for residency applications and a surge of interest is likely closer to the cut-off date. Even if you would prefer to wait until more practical Brexit details are known, it is a good idea to relocate and start the residency process – as an EU citizen under current rules – as soon as possible. Post-Brexit, we can expect the requirements, time and expense for acquiring residency to be much less straightforward than today.

Securing healthcare

Under the existing Brexit deal, settled residents can continue receiving reimbursements for certain healthcare costs. This means the Form S1 system will carry on providing free cover in France for British pensioners, and holders of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) remain eligible for free or reduced healthcare when visiting another EU country on a temporary basis, such as holidays.

To secure residency in France, you may be asked to show evidence of ‘comprehensive’ health cover. If you do not hold Form S1, you may therefore need to join the French healthcare system (a process that can take weeks) or prove you have sufficient private health insurance to qualify. Note, however, that being affiliated to the French social security system has potential tax implications, so take advice to assess your options.

Pension options

The UK has committed to continue yearly cost-of-living increases to State Pension payments for retired Britons living in the EU post-Brexit. As a result, British pensioners in France will receive annual increases linked to the ‘triple lock’ – whichever is highest out of the rate of inflation, earnings or 2.5% – until 2022.

When it comes to private pensions, current opportunities may not survive Brexit. Today, UK pension contributions and growth both benefit from tax relief in Britain, and can potentially be accessed by expatriates without paying UK tax (under double tax agreements). While this is unlikely to change with Brexit, the government may want to stem the flow of UK pensions abroad and keep more funds within taxable range.

Currently, it is possible for French residents to transfer UK pension funds to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) in the EU or European Economic Area (EEA) tax-free. Doing this can unlock tax efficiency, estate planning advantages and currency flexibility. However, since 9th March 2017, transfers to QROPS outside the EU/EEA attract 25% UK taxation (unless you live in the same jurisdiction as the QROPS).

Post-Brexit, the UK could potentially limit how expatriates in France can access their pensions by widening this taxation net, or by making it harder to cash-in UK ‘final salary’ pensions tax-efficiently. Consider acting now under current rules, but take personalised, regulated advice to ensure a suitable approach and avoid pension scams.

A realistic timeline

Although the Brexit date is currently set for 29th March 2019 – and could potentially be extended by a transition agreement – it is sensible to work towards a much shorter deadline. If you cannot take action immediately, make sure you have put processes in place by September 2018 to allow at least six months before the Brexit clock runs down (pension transfers may need even longer).

Even if you are already permanently resident in France, do not wait for the final Brexit details to be confirmed before reviewing your situation. With just a few months of certainty left, now is the time to explore your residency, estate planning, investments, pensions and general tax planning options.

With suitable planning – done early – you can make sure you are in the best position possible to continue enjoying your life in France as you do today. A locally-based financial adviser who understands the interaction between both the UK and France can help you take advantage of opportunities and find the best solutions tailored for you as an expatriate, during the Brexit countdown and beyond.

Article courtesy of Blevins Franks

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals are advised to seek personalised advice.

Blevins Franks accepts no liability for any loss resulting from any action or inaction or omission as a result of reading this article, which is general in nature and not specific to your circumstances. 

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