International Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) are simply SIPPs designed for expats.
What is a SIPP?
A SIPP is a modern pension ‘wrapper’.
Modernised in 2006, the SIPP was designed to add transparency and choice to the typical private pension structure. Before SIPPs, most pensions were ‘packaged’, offered by a single provider with only their own limited investment options available.
By investing pension savings under a SIPP, the member has improved control over how their funds are directed and managed. The SIPP can contain a range of investments, including commercial property.
A modern SIPP can be managed online, with a portal to show investment and cash holdings, and full transactional history including transparency over fee deductions. Investments can be managed much like online banking or platform/ISA investing.
Trading and general management is typically conducted by a professional adviser, with an online ‘viewing’ portal available to members. That means, members are protected from transacting their pension, but total oversight of their pension account.
The SIPP is a UK regulated pension. There are many SIPP providers, who must be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Dependent upon where you live, keeping funds in the UK pension system can be very beneficial. SIPP funds are effectively held under a pension trust, meaning the value is not subject to inheritance tax upon death, and able to grow free of Capital Gains Tax (CGT).
We would always encourage expatriate SIPP members to consider their tax position once in the withdrawal/retirement stage of planning. Many countries hold a tax agreement with the UK meaning you do not pay tax twice upon withdrawals. In most cases, income tax is only applicable in your country of tax residence. However, some countries have a different tax ‘treatment’ to the UK’s tax-free lump sum benefit (Pension Commencement Lump Sum, ‘PCLS’). For some, an onward transfer to a local QROPS (link) can help with local income tax planning.
What is an International SIPP?
An International SIPP (“iSIPP”) is simply a SIPP designed for those living abroad, who want to retain the benefit of holding retirement funds under a UK pension.
The benefits of keeping your funds under a UK pension such as the iSIPP, while living abroad can include:
- Protection of pension funds via UK regulation
- Benefit from tax free growth
- A UK pension prepared for UK return & retirement
- Advantageous tax position utilising double taxation agreements for cross-border income
- 25% Pension Commencement Lump Sum, PCLS (“tax free cash”)
- Total flexibility over pension withdrawals, once the member passes minimum UK pension age (currently 55 years)
- Ability to utilise the PCLS under phased retirement, using tax free benefits across tax years
The key additional product benefits of the SIPP, built into specialist products by cross-border financial providers include:
Holding investments in an alternative major currency than GBP
International SIPP providers can approve regulated investment funds across a range of major currencies. Many SIPPs offer a panel of international investment platform options. Currency exchange strategy is important, a good planner will move funds across to local investment funds over time, ensuring dollar-cost averaging is considered to minimise exchange risk over time.
Holding cash accounts in major currencies other than GBP
The SIPP must maintain a ‘cash’ account, for payment of fees and processing of investment switches. The ‘cash’ account is a regulated bank account held for the pension member. The cash balance must be replenished regularly when drawing income, and is best prepared in advance to avoid investment withdrawals are not required under poor market conditions.
This cash account can be held in various major currencies. This allows SIPP members to prepare and withdraw income in their ‘home’ currency.
By switching your UK pension cash account to your local currency, you can remove the risks and costs of long-term currency exchange through retirement.
Service & Administration
International SIPPs are offered by cross-border, multinational companies. Their service is provided across different time zones, with appreciation and familiarity to local cultures and practices. Often offering tax guidance, International SIPP providers are specialists in servicing global members.
If you think an International SIPP could help your planning, contact us for more information and to be linked with a regulated financial adviser.