Expat Focus Financial Update 15 December 2016

Future of EU expats in UK becomes a political issue

The debate over the future of EU expats living in the UK has now become a political issue with a new campaign demanding that these expats be given the right to remain after Brexit.

The group, called The Three Million, say they want assurances that EU expats will not be used as bargaining chips in any negotiations.In addition, a think tank called British Future says it wants a fair cut-off date for any citizenship and settlement changes for EU expats.

In response, the UK government says it is wanting to protect the 2.8 million EU nationals who are working in the UK but says that the EU’s member states also need to protect UK citizens living there.

The Three Million group delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street stating that EU citizens should be given permanent residency rights before Article 50, which will trigger Brexit negotiations, is invoked.

In their letter, the group says: “We are people, not bargaining chips.”

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In a report by British Future they say it’s ‘morally wrong’ to use EU citizens to help to secure the rights of UK nationals who are living in Europe.

However, a spokesman for the government said they are looking to protect the status for EU nationals living in the UK and this would not be possible if ‘the rights of British citizens living in EU member states are not protected in return’.

British expat retirees face new taxes

British pensioners who are holding offshore pensions will be paying more tax in the future under government plans.

In the recent Autumn Statement was a little publicised move to bring into line how UK and overseas pensions are taxed.

The issue will see pensioners taking an income from their Qrops (Qualifying registered overseas pension scheme) but only pay income tax at 90% on the income that is produced by the fund which effectively means a higher rate taxpayer is taxed at just 36% but this will rise to 40% under the changes.

Under new proposals, the retiree will see 100% of income tax applying which will mirror the tax treatment for UK pensions from April 2017.

The government says its aim is to make pensioners moving their pension pots overseas in a bid to reduce their tax bill less appealing – and says that since it has contributed tax relief on the pension savings then it is entitled to income tax being paid when the pension is drawn down.

British expats encourage new Australian flight

The growing numbers of British expats settling in Australia will help see the launch of the first non-stop flight from the UK to Australia.

The airline Qantas says it will introduce a 17-hour non-stop flight from London to Perth which will link Europe to Australia for the first time from next March.

The news has been welcomed by employers in western Australia since the flights will boost jobs as well as tourism.

The UK provides Australia with its third-largest source of visitors with around 660,000 people visiting every year and spending nearly £3 billion.

The airline says that the large UK expat population in Perth will see greater numbers of relatives and friends visiting and they will enjoy the new direct flight.

Family visa changes announced by Canada

The Canadian government has announced it’s going to make the process for expats to be reunited with their spouses take place more quickly under a new visa processing system.

The new visas will also extend to Canadians who marry someone from overseas.

Starting immediately, Canada says the process for spousal applications will be less than 12 months, though complex cases may take longer.

To help the process, there’s a new basic guide to help applicants prepare their application as well as a personalised checklist.

Exit permit grievance committee created

The government of Qatar is to set-up a committee to hear exit permit grievances from expats who are denied exit permits by their employers.

The announcement coincides with news that the country’s sponsorship law is being reformed which will make it easier for expats to leave the country and switch jobs.

The government has published the rules under which an expat can file a complaint which will lead to the committee contacting the employer to justify why they are denying an exit permit.

The only reasons the committee will accept is if the expat is trying to avoid a criminal prosecution or has committed fraud.

Should the employer be unreachable then the expat will be granted the exit permit.

In other changes, the new law will also enable expats to switch jobs without the need of a no objection certificate from their employer.

Meanwhile, the Qatar’s government is also warning home businesses must now obtain a commercial license.

There is a new licensing procedure in place for entrepreneurs working from home and for those who are self-employed residents – a popular route for spouses of well-paid expats in the country.

The announcement follows research that revealed many entrepreneurs claim they saw the bureaucracy to start a business in Qatar as ‘too daunting’.

Expats can now manage more than one firm in Kuwait

The government in Kuwait has changed the laws that prevented expats from working for more than one company.

The move follows a recommendation from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Previously, expats could only be hired as a manager with the same employer that had sponsored them and they could not be assigned to manage other firms even if they were in the same group.

The new law will benefit many expats and also help Kuwait after it announced a number of measures to reduce its reliance on expat talent.

Survey reveals highest international school tuition fees

One of the biggest considerations for expats with families moving overseas is the cost of international schools for their children and a new survey has revealed that China takes the top spot.

The survey looked at more than 700 international schools located in 98 countries and found the cost for a sixth-grade student at a Chinese international school is around $36,400 a year.

That’s more expensive than Swiss school fees of $28,300 and in Belgium where expats are paying $27,800.

International schools in UK are in fourth place and they charge $25,270 and Hong Kong schools charge $23,360.

The top 10 is made up of the United States and Singapore followed by Malaysia, Austria and then international schools in Australia.

The survey also revealed that international school tuition fees grew by 3.4% this year compared to last year.

The website behind the survey also revealed fears that with growing numbers of employers replacing traditional expat packages that would include international school fees with a local contract means the financial burden for an expat has risen ‘considerably’.

Property prices rocket in New Zealand

Expats and Kiwis returning home have led to New Zealand to top an international ranking of property price growth, says real estate firm Knight Frank.

Property in New Zealand rose by 11% and since 2011 prices have grown by 50%.

The highest price increases have been seen in Auckland, where they have rocketed by 8% in the last five years with an average price now of NZ$1 million or US$709,000.

One reason for this is that around 60% of immigrants are settling in Auckland which is a substantial proportion of the 70,000 that New Zealand accepted in the 12 months to September.

Around 5,000 of these expats are from the UK but there are growing numbers from India, China as well as Australia and other expats who enjoyed well-paid overseas jobs are moving to Auckland to enjoy the quality-of-life and value for money, says one of the country’s leading estate agents.

Shanghai encourages expat talent

Shanghai has unveiled plans to attract international talent including young graduates and high-level experienced professionals to help create a global technological innovation hub.

The new 10 article immigration policy means senior overseas professionals will find it easier to gain permanent resident permits to work in the Free Trade Zone.

In addition, spouses and children can also apply for permanent residency in the streamlined process.

The new permits are available to expats with a master’s degree and for those who are employed by an enterprise or scientific research centre in the Free Trade Zone.

Also, the new regulations are aimed at attraction Chinese expats to return from overseas and work in Shanghai.

EU immigrants remit more money than ever before

According to the European Union’s statistical agency, Eurostat, the amount of money sent home by residents of an EU country to a non-EU country grew to €31.3 billion euro in 2015.

That’s a rise from the €29.9 billion recorded in the previous year.

The amount of money being sent to the European Union last year was less than €11 billion.

The countries that saw most money being remitted outside of the European Union were from France, where €10 billion was sent overseas, followed by the UK with €7.7 billion, Italy is in third place with €6.4 billion and Spain is in fourth place with €6.2 billion.

The EU country with the largest surplus is Poland with €3 billion, followed by Portugal with a surplus of €2.8 billion and then Romania with a €1.7 billion surplus.

British expats most 'risk averse'

A survey in the UAE has named British expats has been the most risk averse when it comes to investing money.

However, non-resident Indians are said to be the most informed about their investment portfolio.

The findings come from financial services firm Old Mutual which reveals that 48% of British expats saying they are risk averse compared to 32% of US expats saying the same and 21% of European expats.

When questioned about their attitude to risk, Indians are in first place with 33%, they are followed by European investors on 21%, UK expats make up 20% with just 16% of US expats saying they were a risk taker.

The survey also revealed that 92% of Indians were involved with their investments and spoke with the financial adviser about their investment portfolio every month or every quarter compared with 79% of Europeans, 58% of Americans and 53% of British expats.

A spokesman for the firm said the findings should come as no surprise since investors have different expectations and behaviours depending on their nationality as well as their geographic and cultural variances which play a key part in making investment decisions.

In other news…

Cyprus has revealed that the largest number of expat voters are found in Paphos where they are eligible to vote in the European Parliament and local government elections. Of the 16,740 registered voters, 6,048 are from Greece, followed by 5,320 British expats – the next largest group come from Bulgaria with 808 voters and Romania with 641.

American Citizens Abroad has revealed its plan to change the US taxation system from a citizen based taxation system for a residency based one. This would mean that US expats living overseas would not have to file tax returns if they met certain conditions. The ACA group has announced its move ahead of what it believes will be the US Congress amending the US tax code to a similar system since the US is the only leading industrialised nation that taxes its citizens under this regime. The move would also, say ACA, help relieve the compliance burden for US expats.

Expats working in the UAE may have received a letter from their bank warning them about new international tax compliance measures that are aimed at cracking down on tax evaders. In their correspondence, banks say the measures have been introduced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and while they are aimed at European countries, the move will make it harder for expats to avoid paying taxes. The new procedures start in January.

The UK government is looking to reduce the number of international student visas by nearly half, says one national newspaper. It reveals that the Home Office is looking to reduce numbers from 300,000 to 170,000.


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