Pension Advice For Expats In Cyprus
If you live in Cyprus, have a UK pension, QROPS or have been advised to take out an Investment Bond or wish to receive high quality investment advice taking into account Double Tax Treaties, then we are able to assist you.
For many expats living in Cyprus the key issues or concerns are summarised by us, with some pointers as to how you can avoid the mistakes that we commonly see, and consider the things that make a difference to every Cyprus expat.
We regularly blog on the latest matters affecting you, and within these pages we have put together Cyprus specific pension information for expats. We also focus on the main tax considerations for expats in Cyprus and then go on to discuss specific investment strategies including the pros and cons of investment bonds.
There were 80,000 UK-born people with residency in Cyprus in 2016, according to the British High Commission in Cyprus, which used figures reported by Cyprus authorities. Of these, around one-third of them receive the UK state pension.
For expats that need advice on pensions and investments, the investment regulator is here.
For those that need advice on insurance, whether that be car insurance, health insurance or life insurance, the insurance regulator is here.
Aisa Group is registered for both insurance and investment advice for expats resident in Cyprus.
Cyprus Specific Pension Information
All pensions originating from the UK are subject to tax in Cyprus. However, if you do not nominate Cyprus then the deduction of tax will occur in the UK, where the tax will be higher. Why? Income declared in Cyprus means the tax can be reduced to 5%.
KEY POINT: Pensions - UK pensions can be paid without deduction of UK tax if you are resident in Cyrpus and don't spend too many days a year in the UK. This is an advantage as the tax rate in Cyprus is lower than in the UK in many cases, but not all.
If you go to the UK Revenue and Customs site (www.hmrc.gov.uk), you will be able to find both an English language version of the current UK-Cyprus Double Taxation Treaty (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/tax-treaties#countries-a-to-c) (Articles 18 and 19 refer to pensions).
You can find a down-loadable DT-Individual form (www.hmrc.gov.uk/cnr/dtindividual.pdf) enabling you to claim exemption from UK tax (ie be tax-coded "NT") and to obtain a refund of UK tax already paid (within the last 4 tax years). You will have to get the form certified by the Cypriot tax authorities.
Cyprus Tax considerations
Cyprus only recognises investments, investment providers and insurance bonds that are registered to be sold in Cyprus. There is a suggestion that the sale of non-compliant insurance bonds (whether outside a pension or not) will not enjoy any tax benefits and should be declared on tax returns, but certainly non-regulated investments do not come under any form of protection.
Special Contribution for Defence, known as ‘Defence Levy’
The persons that are subject to special contribution for defence are:
- Cyprus tax resident companies
- Individuals who are tax resident and domiciled in Cyprus
KEY POINT: Since July 2015 non-Cyprus domiciles do not have to pay Defence Levy contributions, but you need to check whether you qualify for payment or not!
Generally, you will be considered Cyprus-domiciled if you were born in the country or you have been resident for 17 out of the last 20 years. So as a result most UK expatriates will escape this levy for their first 17 years of residence in Cyprus.
Trusts – Cyprus recognises trusts, but the legal and tax consequences of a foreign trust are complex and uncertain. Case law is scarce.
KEY POINT: Trusts governed by foreign law are generally analysed by applying conflict of law rules. As a result, in Cyprus, trusts can be subject to further transfer taxes.
For an expat living in Cyprus, or returning to the UK they have to consider personalised bond rules to avoid taxation in the UK, and they have to consider trust implications and income tax in Cyprus.
KEY POINT: For those expats who were advised to take out a trust in the UK and put the investment into an Investment Bond for tax efficiency reasons – you must review this arrangement through a combined UK and Cyprus wealth consultant who has Inheritance Tax specialities (such as ourselves), especially if the expat intends to return to the UK.
For more information go to our Tax Hub
Cyprus specific Investment Strategies
There is a saying ‘Don’t let the tax tail wag the investment dog’. Investors should be interested in the best strategy to get the highest net return after tax AND fees.
KEY POINT: If the fees for a tax strategy are higher than the tax saved, then it would be sensible to look at taxed options with lower fees. When we review existing products often recommended in Cyprus, we discover in 95% of cases that the clients would have been better off not taking out the supposedly “tax-efficient” investment bond!
The adviser should look at alternative strategies, suggest options to discuss with you, finalising a best solution for you, the client, based on investment, fees and the overall tax liability. There is a suggestion that the sale of non-compliant insurance bonds (whether outside a pension or not) will not enjoy any tax benefits and should be declared on tax returns, but certainly non-regulated investments do not come under any form of protection.
KEY POINT: Investments not regulated under EU rules will not be protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. If these investments go bust then the client will lose all their money and have no protection.
Key issues / concerns
Investments not regulated under EU rules will not be protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. If these investments go bust then the client will lose all their money and have no protection.
Investment bonds, when sold in a QROPS or International SIPP, are to be avoided. Some investment bonds can be helpful but only with EU regulated investments inside and a “clean” structure (no commissions).
The main consideration should be the balancing of tax efficient advice which takes into account future plans, and charges of products.
If the fees for a tax strategy are higher than the tax saved, then it would be sensible to look at taxed options with lower fees. When we review existing products often recommended in Cyprus, we discover in 95% of cases that the clients would have been better off not taking out the supposedly “tax-efficient” investment bond!
The vast majority of expat advisers (differ from regulated Cyprus advisers), providing investment or pension investment advice to UK expats, do not have investment licences and are circumventing this by selling insurance wrappers that are expensive and commission laden.
KEY POINT: Many firms operating in Cyprus are only regulated for the Provision of Insurance based advice and as a result will whole heartedly recommend that you place your investable pension proceeds inside an insurance wrapper. This is not required. But these firms cannot recommend often cheaper, more efficient investment solutions, because they are not regulated to do so, and they won’t get paid their, often undisclosed, commissions.
What should you be considering?
- If you are confident enough, then do your research, and place investment directly.
- If you need assistance, then seek advisers who are regulated themselves in the UK for pensions advice, and / or regulated for INVESTMENT advice in Cyprus.
- Consider not only tax efficiency, but also costs!
- Point 4 – is, make sure the costs are accurate! If you are told the costs are 1% or 1.5% per annum in total and there is no fee up front, then you are probably being lied to in 95% of cases.
Some advisers, providing investment or pension investment advice, do not have investment licences and are circumventing this by selling insurance wrappers (investment bonds) that are expensive and commission laden.
Many of these insurance salesman will then recommend funds that pay an initial undisclosed commission and tie you in for 5-6 years.
- Don’t get taken in by the great claims over QROPS and Insurance bonds or investment platforms that are really investment bonds. These add layered charges and are usually not the best outcome for clients (although we accept that in around 15% of cases they are).
- Don’t be a sheep. Just because your best friend was advised to do something, never assume this is the right thing. Each person is an individual and requires individual solutions. If your friend were to walk off a cliff, would you follow them?
Our Empirical evidence from clients we have spoken has shown us that many expat sales advisers in Cyprus, just sell a product to their clients for commission and do not provided financial solutions. The product is often a QROPS or an International SIPP or an investment bond, which may or may not be the best advice but this is not really considered. Don’t listen as 85% of the time you would be better off doing something else with your hard earned money or pension.