Expat Focus Finance Update 29 August 2016

Huge sums lost by British expats in pension scams

British expats are being warned that Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulated financial advisors are endorsing pension liberation scams which could see them losing a huge chunk, if not all, of their pension savings.

Pension Life is a group that helps pension liberation scam victims. They are warning that independent advisors are persuading expats to plough their pension pots into unregulated investment products.While the rules for British pension savers accessing their pension pots have been changed, no one under the age of 55 can access their savings unless they meet strict criteria.

In addition to losing their money, pensioners also face big tax bills from HMRC for taking savings out of their pension pots.

However, Pension Life’s chairman Angela Brooks is warning that these pension liberation scams are growing and they are now working with more than 800 investors, many of whom are expats living in Dubai and Spain.

These people have been scammed by investment schemes that are fraudulent and which have earned scammers around £1 billion.

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Indeed, the FCA recently warned that it had concerns about the ‘inappropriate influence’ that some unauthorised introducers have, with a growing number of client pensions being transferred into an unregulated high-risk product.

These products will not offer compensation since they are not FCA-regulated and the watchdog says that some investments are ‘outright scams’.

Ms Brooks said: “Many of these scams are doing a roaring trade selling financial ruin and nobody stops them. History tells us that those behind the scams run for cover when the scheme collapses.”

She added that those running scams who are targeting expats simply move on to another scheme once their activities have been discovered.

The announcement follows news from the Insolvency Service which has revealed it closed five pension liberation firms in the last 12 months after they scammed £128 million out of British pensioners.

Best countries for expat retirees revealed

The best locations for expats to retire to has been revealed with a list that takes into account 12 factors including cost of living, climate, entertainment and whether English is spoken.

The report has been produced by Live and Invest Overseas, which has placed Portugal’s Algarve as the best retirement destination as it has ‘something for everyone’.

Portugal also has a retiree residency programme to encourage foreign pensioners to its shores and it has excellent transport links to the rest of Europe and the United States.

The American study puts Valetta in Malta in second place and Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta in third.

US expats can live comfortably on the Algarve for $1,400 a month and the currency exchange rate makes buying property there favourable.

The report also highlights the Algarve region as having some of the best golf courses as well as some of the best beaches in the world.

Expats leave Hong Kong

British and American expats are leading an exodus from Hong Kong, according to the Immigration Department.

The numbers of American, British and Australian expats in Hong Kong has fallen dramatically since 2015.

Indeed, since the beginning of the year, the number of Brits working and living there has dropped by 10%, the number of US expats has fallen by 8% and 5% of Australians have also left.

However, most of these expats are not returning home and are instead relocating to Singapore, North America and Africa.

The Immigration Department figures also reveal that expat communities of Japanese, Malaysian and Portuguese expats are beginning to decline.
Among the reasons being put forward for the exodus are lower salaries, less lucrative relocation packages and Hong Kong’s high cost of living.

American expats looking for FATCA exemptions

The American Citizens Abroad (ACA) organisation is urging the US Treasury to introduce exemptions from the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) for Americans who live in foreign states.

The announcement comes at a time before the US Treasury announces the final FATCA regulations, which force banks and financial institutions to report the accounts of US citizens to the Treasury.

Failing to comply leads to severe financial penalties for the institutions concerned.

However, in a bid not to comply with FATCA, US expats are seeing growing numbers of foreign banks refusing to have American citizens as clients.

Now ACA says that US expats who live overseas and hold a local bank account should be considered, under the terms of FATCA, as non-US taxpayers. This means the financial institution will not need to report expats’ financial affairs to the Treasury.

Expats fuel Melbourne property boom

Returning Australian expats are driving a boom in top end Melbourne luxury homes with ‘unprecedented’ demand, say estate agents.

Estate agents in the city say there’s been a spike in the number of expats returning there from London and Europe, but while there’s no shortage of housing stock, house prices are rising quickly.

In addition, Australian expats are returning home from Asia and enjoying an exchange rate in their favour. There is also a growing number of Chinese property buyers in the city.

Salaries fall for expats in Singapore

Expats living and working in Singapore have seen their salaries fall by 8% compared to the previous 12 months, according to research.

Salaries are now at their lowest for four years, though they still take ninth place when salaries in the whole Asia-Pacific region are analysed.

Local employment experts say the fall is mainly down to employers offering salaries in line with the local market and there has been a drop in allowances too.

Singapore has also seen a rise in expats from low-income countries moving there over the last 10 years rather than from Europe, the USA and Australia.

Disturbing trend for expats in Oman

Oman’s Ministry of Manpower has revealed details of a worrying trend for expats working in the country who are being forced to give up their end of service payments in exchange for No-Objection Certificates (NOC) from their employers.

The ministry says private sector bosses are using NOCs to refuse payment to those employees who want to leave and those who are refusing the certificates are breaking the country’s employment law.

Expats need the NOC if they leave one employer in Oman and want to work for another because they must have their current employer’s permission to do so. Without the NOC, expats cannot return to Oman for work for two years.

Thousands of expats still stranded in Saudi Arabia

Thousands of expats who were laid off by their employers in Saudi Arabia’s construction industry are languishing in desert camps and refusing to leave the country.

The government has offered free flights home but the migrant construction workers have turned down the offers unless they receive their unpaid wages. Many are owed several months in pay.

Many of those stranded have limited access to food and water as well as medical care. The food they do have supplied is coming from their embassies or from Saudi Arabia’s Labor Ministry.

Now the kingdom’s government says it will give permission for the workers to leave the country and has offered free transport. The expats have also been offered special permission to remain while they look for other jobs.

However, expats have said they fear that if they accept the offer to leave then they will end up with no money at all.

One worker from Pakistan told a newspaper he had not been paid for eight months and was owed nearly $6,000.

So far, senior officials from Pakistan and India as well as the Philippines have made efforts to help their workers, and India has already begun flying some workers home.

Pakistan has also announced plans to make a one-time payment to the expats’ families who are facing financial stress.

British expats offered free flights to Iceland

A low-cost transatlantic airline is offering free flights for any Brits who are relocating to Iceland until 1st October.

The offer is being extended only to British expats moving to the country by the airline WOW and they only need to provide proof of taking up residence such as their employment confirmation or university acceptance letter to benefit from the offer.

The offer also includes British expat families who are moving to Iceland for at least one year.

British expats heading to New Zealand?

Media in New Zealand is warning of a ‘British invasion’ after the government revealed that there’s been a huge jump in the number of Brits enquiring about jobs after the Brexit vote.

The Immigration New Zealand website generally receives 3,000 registrations every month from people in the UK looking to move or work in New Zealand but after the Brexit referendum result was announced, the website had nearly 1,000 registrations on the same day.

Since then, around 10,000 British citizens have registered an interest in moving to the country, with one newspaper saying that New Zealand should prepare for a ‘British invasion’.

This indeed might be a good time for Brits to move since New Zealand says its rate of unemployment is the lowest recorded since 2008.

Statistics New Zealand says that unemployment fell by 5.1% in the second quarter of this year and the economy is seeing more women in employment.

The most in demand skills from employers are in the ICT industry and include programmers, developers, project managers and business systems analysts.

China looks to recruit expat pilots

According to a report on Bloomberg, China is looking to recruit nearly 100 expat pilots every week to help meet demand from travellers.

Indeed, recruiters will need to recruit that number every week for the coming 20 years and Chinese airlines are offering lucrative pay packages for expat pilots.

Air industry experts say China’s air traffic will quadruple over the coming 20 years to become the busiest in the world.

Some airlines are offering to pay $26,000 net every month, with recruiters spreading their interest to recruit expats from leading airlines around the world.

Clarification for EU nationals in the UK

A leading Labour MP who was one of the Brexit leaders says the government is leaving EU nationals in the UK ‘in limbo’.

Gisela Stuart says EU citizens who arrived to live and work in the UK before the Brexit vote took place should be allowed to remain.

She said: “EU citizens are welcome and the government should make clear that they can remain. It’s the right thing to do and it’s what the Leave campaign promised.”

Until the UK invokes Article 50 to leave the European Union, EU citizens can remain in the country and the government has also made clear that those who have opted for a permanent residence card cannot legally be told to leave.

In other news…

Plans by the UK government to allow expats who have lived overseas for more than 15 years to vote in elections look to have been scuppered. The government says the plan is too complex for them to administer.

Indonesia is apparently planning to ban any drink that contains more than 1% of alcohol. The country has a strong tourism industry and manufacturers of drinks and bar owners have expressed surprise, as has the country’s expat community.

Kuwait says the growing number of unemployed expats is posing a security and social threat to the country’s stability. Figures reveal that there are 17,500 unemployed expats and 11,670 unemployed Kuwaitis.

Shanghai has announced expats that aged over 60 will now be able to get an employment permit; the upper age limit for employment is now 70. In addition, the city is also looking to loosen rules on expats buying a home.
DNA fingerprinting has been announced for citizens and expats living in Kuwait and also for those on visitor visas. Authorities say the fingerprint results will be kept secret, though they will be available to the judiciary and public prosecutors when necessary.

US expats living in the UAE looking to take part in November’s general election can do so in the Dubai headquarters of the American Business Council. It’s the first time the organisation, which represents 700 US businesses in the country, has established a voters’ centre and expats can complete absentee application forms to vote.


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