Portugal Residency - tax planning and pensions considerations post Brexit

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Portuguese residency in 2020 - adjust your tax and estate planning, pensions and investments to safeguard your financial health before Brexit. Avoid the pitfalls by advance planning and expert advice.

Brexit is nearly upon us. Recent times have seen an increase in the number of UK nationals seeking Residency in Portugal, thereby safguarding their citizens rights under the UK / EU Withdrawal Agreement in relation to access to healthcare, social security and education among others.

However, it would be wise to remember that adjustments to your estate planning, tax planning, pension and investments may need to be made, so as to avoid potential financial pitfalls once you become resident. In the article below, Mark Quinn from Blevins Franks provides expert insight so that you are best perpared for various eventualities. Blevins Franks provides international tax advice, estate and pension planning to UK nationals in the Algarve.  
  • Brexit: are you prepared? Check out the video update below 

Think beyond residency when planning your life in Portugal
By Mark Quinn, Partner, Blevins Franks
This article was originally published by Blevins Franks

While it's crucial to secure Portuguese residence in 2020 if you want to live there post-Brexit, don’t forget to adjust your tax, investments, pension and estate planning to suit your new life abroad.

With just a few months to go before the end of the Brexit transition period, many UK nationals are rushing to secure residency in Portugal. Becoming lawfully settled before 31 December 2020 locks in citizens’ rights under the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement – protecting access to healthcare, social security, education and employment opportunities for as long as you remain resident.

However, without careful, early planning, changing residency can have financial pitfalls. You need to understand how the local tax and succession rules work and make adjustments to suit your new home.
Getting it right from the outset makes things easier and cheaper, so do your research and take professional advice sooner rather than later. Even if you already live in Portugal, there are usually steps you can take to improve your tax and estate planning.

Portugal’s tax regime
When moving to Portugal you need to prepare for Portuguese tax which is a completely different tax regime to the UK. While there can be tax benefits in both countries, some opportunities may be lost if you wait until you have changed residency. 
New arrivals in Portugal may qualify for the highly beneficial â€˜non-habitual residence’ (NHR) regime, which offers tax exemptions on some foreign income for your first ten years in the country. If you have not been Portuguese resident in the previous five calendar years, apply for NHR at your local tax office as soon as possible after you relocate.
Even if you do not qualify for NHR, you should explore the most tax-efficient investment, pensions and estate planning solutions for your individual circumstances and goals. And, before you do anything with your UK assets, make sure you understand your options and how the right timing can lower tax liabilities in both countries. 

Tax on UK pensions in Portugal
While 25% of cash withdrawals can be taken tax-free in the UK, once you are Portuguese resident, they become taxable here – along with other non-government service UK pension income – at rates ranging from 14.5% to 48%. However, if you qualify for the NHR regime, you could benefit from a fixed rate of 10% on UK pensions. 
Now is a good time to review your pension options, such as whether you could benefit from moving your pension to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS). While expatriates can currently transfer tax-free, beware the UK could start imposing a 25% ‘overseas transfer charge’ on EU/EEA transfers post-Brexit. Find our more about pension transfers.

Tax on UK investments in Portugal
Once you become non-UK resident, UK investment products such as ISAs and insurance bonds can lose their tax benefits, with interest or dividends taxable in Portugal. If you cash-in these investments as a Portuguese resident, capital gains tax can also apply. Alternative investment vehicles are available to residents here that offer better tax-efficiency as well as estate planning and currency benefits.

Tax on UK property in Portugal
If you sell your main home when in the UK it escapes Portuguese tax, but once you are resident here, UK capital gains are added to your other income and taxable at Portuguese income tax rates. Again, you could enjoy exemptions if you have NHR status. You could also avoid taxation by reinvesting the proceeds into another main home in Portugal within 36 months of the sale. Retirees can also receive an exemption when reinvesting into an eligible insurance contract or pension fund within six months of sale. 
Find our more about the tax implications of Brexit for expats on UK assets and investment.

Estate planning for Portugal
Portuguese succession law differs greatly from the UK’s too. ‘Forced heirship’ rules, for example, automatically distribute certain proportions of your estate to your spouse and children, even if your will specifies otherwise. While you can elect for the relevant UK law to apply to your estate using the ‘Brussels IV’ EU regulation, this can be complex and have unwelcome tax implications, so consider your options carefully. Note that applying Brussels IV will not affect liability for Portugal’s version of inheritance tax.
Local ‘stamp duty’ charges 10% on Portuguese assets inherited by any heirs other than your spouse or direct family. If you remain UK-domiciled â€“ as many expatriates do – your worldwide estate could also attract UK inheritance tax, so take specialist advice to plan accordingly. 
Along with a review of your tax and financial affairs, estate planning should be a key part of your strategy when moving to Portugal to ensure the right money passes to the right hands at the right time. 

Planning ahead
Although the possibility of returning to live in the UK might seem remote when embarking on a new life abroad, in reality, this happens quite often. The pull of grandchildren, bereavement or illness can all be reasons to return to the UK. Bear in mind that this may become more complicated – and expensive – after Brexit, once the UK is no longer bound by EU rules on freedom of capital. Again, early planning is the key to ensure your investments remain tax-efficient and your financial affairs are structured appropriately for your new home. 

In any event, be sure to undertake regular reviews to check everything is still set up in the best way for your circumstances, address any new challenges and enable you to take advantage of any new opportunities.
Ultimately, taking personalised, cross-border advice is the key to making the most of suitable tax planning, pension and wealth management opportunities so you can relax into your new life in Portugal. 

Contact a local Blevins Franks adviser to discuss your plans.
You can find other financial advisory articles by visiting 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 should seek personalised advice.