Overseas pension transfers in doubt as ‘minefield’ forms
While setting up an SMSF was previously a viable option for transferring UK pension funds to Australia, additional hurdles with the total superannuation balance and non-concessional contributions mean this may no longer be the case, says a technical expert.
Speaking to SMSF Adviser, Fitzpatricks Private Wealth head of technical services Colin Lewis said that since April 2015, UK expats have only been able to transfer their pension funds to a foreign pension fund, including Australian super funds, if that fund is a qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme (QROPs).
While none of the public offer funds meet the rules required for obtaining qualifying status, Mr Lewis explained, SMSFs are able to qualify where the membership is restricted to 55 plus.
The reduction in the non-concessional contribution cap and restrictions on making non-concessional contributions were someone’s total superannuation balance exceeds $1.6 million or close to $1.6 million have created some hurdles, however, he explained.
Last year, there were further changes made by the UK government when they introduced a transfer tax for certain pension money transfers to QROPs.
The changes mean that there will be 25 per cent transfer tax unless one of the relevant conditions is met. One of the relevant conditions is that their QROP and their residency correspond.
“What you could have done up until April last year, if you had a contribution cap issues, is transfer the funds to a QROP in Malta and then drip feed it out to Australia within the contribution caps over time,” he said.
“Then in April last year, the UK said that if you were releasing funds to a QROP in a country where you are not a resident, there will be a 25 per cent penalty tax on it. So that ability to drip feed it out has really been closed - no one would pay 25 per cent tax for the privilege.”
While Mr Lewis said he continues to receive enquiries about setting up SMSFs to address the issues with the restrictions on transferring UK pension funds across, the changes to non-concessional contributions mean this may no longer be worthwhile, as it’s only possible to transfer a maximum of $300,000.
“NCCs are such a minefield now. You’ve got the threshold test to start with before you can even contemplate making an NCC and then, depending on how close you are to the $1.6 million, that will affect how much of the bring-forward you’ve got,” he said.
While expat clients will have to contend with foreign currency and those sorts of aspects if they’re receiving a UK pension, it may not be that bad, he said.
“The only issue of course is that it’s not tax-free like it would have been if it had been moved into the system here,” he said.