Can I access my pension from abroad?

Perhaps one of the most popular retirement dreams is living in that idyllic setting abroad. This could be the time when you can finally create that 2nd family home in paradise, that favourite holiday spot where the sun always shines and the tide never goes out. But is it viable as far as funding goes? And if you do decide to live abroad, can you take your pension with you? Will you have all the pension and tax benefits you would enjoy if you were still resident in the UK?

“In this article we are going to look at some of the benefits and issues surrounding accessing and contributing to a pension abroad.”

So, let’s start with the State Pension.

State Pension

You can claim your State Pension abroad if you have paid enough national insurance contributions. You can check what you will be receiving when you retire by clicking here. It is always important to keep an eye on your national insurance contributions to ensure you will receive the full State Pension amount.

Your State Pension options

You can have your pension paid into a UK account or an account abroad. The account can be a joint account or someone else’s account (as long as they have agreed to the deposits). In order for the regular deposits in an account abroad to take place you will need the international bank account number (IBAN) and the bank identification code (BIC). Usually in the UK you are paid your State Pension every 4 weeks (this money goes straight into your account), but if you do decide to take your State Pension abroad you have the option of receiving it once every 4 weeks (monthly) or every 13 weeks (quarterly).

You will need to factor in the exchange rate of the country you are going to be living in. If the exchange rate is poor this could reflect badly on just how much of your State Pension you will actually receive. If your State Pension is under £5 per week then you will be paid once a year – in December.

Will it stay in line with inflation?

The UK State Pension offers many benefits. One of the greatest benefits is it tries to stay in line with rising inflation. However, when you move abroad you will lose this facility because it is deemed that inflation in the UK will no longer be applicable to you.

“It is of course true that inflation occurs across the world (rates of inflation are particular to whichever country you may be living in) so there are ways to help keep your pension payments in line with modern times.”

One other point. Whichever country you will be living in, US working practices will affect when you receive your State Pension when you are living abroad. This is because it is a US bank that processes the payment. So, for instance, if there is a US bank holiday, your State Pension may be a day late going into your account1.

Your private pension

The good news is you can still access your private pension abroad. You have two options: you can either move your pension pot abroad to the country where you are living or, conversely, you can leave it where it is in the UK and access it online.

If you are going to move your pension abroad, you do need to take into account transfer fees and any exchange rate variations. The other good news is you will not be taxed when you move your pension abroad. What you need to do though is ensure that your pension scheme is recognised by the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). The scheme would come under QROPS or The Qualifying Recognised Pension Scheme.

Can I contribute to my pension from abroad?

Ok so you may be moving abroad before your pension comes to fruition. You may have some great benefits with your pension scheme and the fund may be progressing well. No doubt you want to hold on to the provider you trust, and with the scheme which will benefit you the most, so can you continue to contribute to it while living abroad. Again, you can do this – but remember to take tax into account.

The tax factor

It has always been a fundamental policy of the UK Government to encourage people to regularly contribute to their pensions as this will mean they are likely to need less financial support from the government in their later years. Hence, the UK Government offers residents great tax relief on pension contributions.

“You actually receive at least 20% tax relief on every contribution you make while living in the UK.”

Clearly this will not continue while you are living abroad unless you can evidence that you received UK earnings chargeable to income tax within any specific year. For instance, you may be working for a UK company but living abroad. This income needs to be shown to be ongoing. In order to receive pension tax relief on contributions, you also need to evidence that you were a UK resident over the last five years since joining the pension scheme.

It’s worth noting that all our opinions as to taxation and related matters are based upon our understanding of the current tax laws and practice of HMRC, which is subject to change. And tax treatment does depend on your circumstances.

Can I still access my pension from abroad?

So, your private pension will be accessible while you are abroad, you are able to make regular contributions and you can also qualify for pension relief. Things look good. But can you access your pension before you retire if you need to?

In 2015 the UK Government introduced the Pension Freedoms Act whereby people are allowed to access eligible private pension schemes from the age of 55. There is no doubt this is a great benefit for individuals who are looking for a little bit of extra cash in the run up to their retirement. However, like pension relief – a benefit which is very much meant for residents of the UK – accessing your pension early may not be available in the country you will be moving to. So, check out where you stand. The best route to take is to speak with a regulated financial adviser who can clearly walk you through what you will be able to do if you are not a UK resident.

Conclusion

So your pension – whether state or private – is a facility you can contribute to and access from more or less anywhere in the world. The country you are living in will have specific laws and regulations surrounding taxation, inflation, access and savings so it is important to get a financial adviser on board to keep you safe. Good luck!

1 https://www.gov.uk/state-pension-if-you-retire-abroad

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The details provided in this article are for general information only and are in no way deemed to be financial advice. All of the material is correct as of the publication date, but could be out-of-date by the time you read the article.