UK Pensions – Top 10 Tips & Facts for Expats

If you are receiving, or planning to receive, a pension then this quick fact sheet may prove useful. It is, though, aimed at those who have pension fund savings in a UK based scheme.

If your pension is held in another jurisdiction, do remember that these points may not necessarily apply to you.

– You should be able to receive your state and/or private pension payments directly into your expat bank account overseas without penalty.

– At the age of 50 (rising to 55 from 2010) you may be able to take up to 25% of your private pension savings out as a tax-free sum.- Currently under UK laws, you cannot freely access your pension in total without severe taxation penalties.

– When working you can make additional payments into both the state and your private or occupational pensions. This can offer benefits at retirement time.

– You can, under 2006 QROPS legislation, move your pension funds overseas to your new country of residence or a third country – whichever is most advantageous to you. Please see our separate QROPS articles for more detail.

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– Under most UK pension schemes, even if taking a 25% early withdrawal at age 55, a male will need to live to around 75 or older before they will have recovered in regular pension income what they have paid in over the years.

– Your ability to pass on to your family any surplus amounts in your scheme after your death may be very limited – check with your scheme’s administrators for details.

– Getting pension income in one currency while living in a different country can sometimes be advantageous but equally can sometimes be a problem. If Sterling is weak the value of your monthly income will be reduced in local terms. If Sterling is strong then the reverse can be true. This can sometimes be hard to manage and plan around.

– Pension funds in any country can at times prove vulnerable to market forces or illegal activities as some UK and other international cases have shown. Be careful before you choose your scheme and always see what state or association guarantees are in place to cover any unforeseen eventualities.

– Finally, always seek professional and independent advice before making decisions with regard to your pensions. Preferably speak to 2-3 advisers to get a broad picture of options as even professionals may not always agree on what is the best option for your circumstances.


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