Expat Focus Financial Update 22 December 2016

Tokyo reclaims most expensive expats’ city title

The world’s most expensive city for expats is Tokyo, which has reclaimed the title from London.

Tokyo has not been in the top spot since 2012 when the yen rose. London has fallen from the top spot since the Brexit vote sent sterling plummeting.Japan’s capital rocketed from 12th place last year while the fellow Japanese cities of Osaka and Yokohama also entered the top 10 – both leapfrogging Hong Kong which is now in 11th place.

The world’s top five most expensive cities for expats are Tokyo, Luanda in Angola, Zürich and then Geneva in Switzerland. with Yokohama in fifth place.

The top 10 is made up of Basel, Nagoy, Bern, Osaka and Kinshasa.

The findings come from consultancy ECA and are based on the cost of living between March and September, which saw the yen rocket by 19% to show the biggest currency rise.

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Among the other interesting results is that New Zealand, which is growing rapidly in popularity with expats, is also becoming more expensive and is now as costly for expats as Sydney is for the first time.

Both New Zealand and Sydney are now dearer than central London, which has fallen out of the top 100 most expensive cities thanks to the price of sterling falling 15% against the dollar.

The survey also considers the cheapest places for expats which is led by Vancouver, followed by Denver in Colorado, Dublin, Antwerp and then Atalanta in Georgia with Phoenix in Arizona in 95th place.

Index reveals world's best global cities

An index that ranks the world’s cities for their economic dominance has seen four Chinese ‘mega cities’ lead the pack.

Schroders says the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin have the best economic potential, with New York being pushed into fifth place in the latest rankings.

Among the criteria to help define a global city are a growing population, high projected growth, skilled workers with a high disposable income and excellent infrastructure.

US cities fill most of the remaining top 10 spots: Los Angeles, Dallas, London, Houston and Chicago in tenth place.

A spokesman for the bank said the one area where Chinese cities are weak is in the category for the working population’s prospects for growing their disposable income.

The index also highlights that the real estate sectors in these Chinese mega cities offers excellent opportunities for investors.

US expats struggle in Mexico

Mexico is home to the largest population of US expats with more than 1 million people, but growing numbers of them are weighing up their options after facing increased anti-American sentiment, according to reports.

Issues began to grow as expats in Mexico were caught in the crossfire between the country’s government and President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign messages.

Now, apparently, growing numbers of US expats say they are facing vandalism and physical threats on a regular basis which is making their lives increasingly unbearable.

The reports state that expats in Mexico are packing up and returning to America in greater numbers.

Indian government launches expat tax crackdown

The Indian government has announced it is to crack down on expats who earn large salaries in the country but do not pay tax there.

In a statement, the government says there are more than 200 high-earning expats evading income tax who must, according to a recent High Court ruling, pay tax to comply with Indian laws.

However, many of these expats do not reveal what their Indian residential home address is and claim to live in the country only during the week.

According to government figures, most of the expats are working in the finance sector and many have not paid income tax for at least 10 years.

In addition, the expats are avoiding gaining residency status and are being paid into tax-free jurisdictions overseas.

The High Court ruling made clear that anyone earning an income in India must pay tax there as well.

Expats exploited in Amsterdam's housing market

A report from an agency that helps expats with housing issues in Amsterdam says they are being ripped off on a regular basis by dodgy housing agencies and landlords.

The agency says that expats are paying sky high fees and face eviction without reason.

The agency also says it is dealing with complaints on a daily basis from expats who have encountered problems, with many not having their deposits returned.

The issue is, they say, Amsterdam’s overheated housing market which means there is potential for cowboy landlords and fraudsters to dupe expats into renting a property.

Qatar tweaks its work system

Qatar says it has tweaked its new kafala system which has now been introduced, though employers will still need to give permission for an employee to leave the country.

Originally, Qatar said the reform to the system would see the abolition of the kafala system altogether and more inspectors being employed.

Expats will still be free to leave the country but if it’s before their contract ends they must inform their employer first – who could then lodge a refusal which then must be heard by a committee within three days.

Meanwhile, a human rights group in Kuwait has called for the ending of its kafala system as well.

The organisation says the country should instead move to a system that is in line with international standards.

In an annual report, they say that a system that prevents expats from transferring to a different employer before their contract ends without their employer’s consent is wrong.

The organisation also voiced its concerns over the government’s move to deport large numbers of foreign workers without a ‘final court order’.

Fall in Chinese yuan hits expats

The fall in the value of the Chinese yuan is hitting the income of expats in the country, according to news reports.

Over the past year, the currency has continued its depreciation against the US dollar and reached its lowest point since June 2008.

In addition, now the US Federal Reserve has put up interest rates, finance experts are predicting the yuan will come under further pressure next year.

Expats in China have told the media that their income and spending power have been decreasing in recent months and this is affecting their ability to save and make investments.

New membership scheme for UK financial advisers

Financial advisers in the UK who have expat clients can now join a new category of the Federation of European Independent Financial Advisers (FEIFA).

There will be support for key regulatory issues to deal with clients who are expats in Europe or who have built up assets overseas.

The aim is to deliver knowledge for advisers around non-UK tax regimes as well as risk mitigation and insurance cover.

A spokesman for the organisation said with growing numbers of British expats living overseas permanently there is a growing demand to deal with complex financial issues including compliance matters.

A survey in 2014 found that one in three financial advisers in the UK had expat clients.

French and Italian expats get UK pension shock

French and Italian expats working in the UK have received a pension shock should they wish to return home after Brexit.

HM Revenue and Customs has now removed all Italian and French pension schemes from its list of international schemes that meet its conditions.

Apparently, there were 19 Italian and 11 French pension schemes that were previously recognised overseas pension schemes, but now an updated list has removed all of them.

This means that French and Italian expats will effectively be blocked from taking the pension pot they have accrued while working in the UK home with them.

One reason for this is that HMRC is becoming worried about pension funds flowing from the UK to offshore providers that were not fully compliant with rules – particularly for those offshore schemes that allow a taxpayer to remove cash before the age of 55.

Canada changes temporary visa rules

Canadian authorities have changed their temporary foreign workers’ rules to make it easier to access jobs.

The country had previously operated a ‘four in, four out’ system which saw expats working for four years in the country then having to leave for four years before being eligible to return.

The ‘cumulative-duration’ rule has now ended with immediate effect and it’s easier for expats to access jobs and for employers to take people on.

The aim is to make it easier to access permanent residency in the country and so, the government says, fully contribute to society.

However, under the new rules Canadians must have first access to any job opportunities.

In other news…

Expats living in the UAE are being reminded by banks that they will be collecting tax-related information from next year. The move is part of an anti-tax evasion policy that will bring an end to banking secrecy and expats will need to prove where they are resident for tax purposes.

Expats marrying a Saudi woman in the kingdom have been told that they will need to undertake mandatory drug testing as part of the kingdom’s ‘medical check-ups’ that expats are required to take before marriage.

Bahrain has announced that it is going to increase the visa fees for domestic workers with sponsors and employers having to pay an extra $133 to help pay for their health insurance.

The Cayman Islands government has been told to expect an exodus of expats once new pension laws come into effect late next year with many deciding it would be more beneficial to quit their job to protect their final pension contributions. Under new rules, workers in the private sector will no longer be able to receive cash refunds after December 2019.

Expats in China who think they may make a living starting up an e-commerce business should be aware the country is drafting a law that will regulate the industry. The move will plug several loopholes in the country’s commercial and legal system and also boost consumer rights.

Expats moving to Basel City canton in Switzerland will now receive a voucher that provides free German lessons paid for by the area’s taxpayers. Organisers say the scheme is unique to the country though they point out that not everyone has cashed in their vouchers yet.

Expats working in Dubai must have health insurance in place before January 1 or face fines and even deportation. The country has introduced new rules for health insurance cover and non-compliance will be particularly tough for expats since they will not be able to renew visas without having valid insurance cover.

Regulators in the UAE have now banned financial advisers from charging upfront commissions in the expat sector. The move now brings the emirate in line with international jurisdictions including Hong Kong and the UK. The aim is to tackle the rising number of financial mis-selling and frauds being reported.


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