QROPS - Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes were introduced in 2006 as part of a major overhaul of Britain's pension framework, aimed at simplifying pension transfers to another country. New legislation was passed by the UK tax authority, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), in order to comply with an EU directive that pensions be free to move across Europe's borders. This ruling means that individuals, wishing to retire to countries such as France, Spain and Portugal can effectively take their UK pension funds with them: http://www.axis-finance.com/what-are-qrops.php
Who can apply for a QROPS?
A QROPS is specifically designed to allow anyone, not intending to retire in the UK, to transfer existing and frozen UK pension plans into a more appropriate retirement vehicle.
Individuals who are, or have been members of a UK registered pension fund and are currently living outside of the UK, or intending to leave the UK on a permanent basis, can consider transferring their retirement fund into a QROPS: http://www.axis-finance.com/qrops-living-in-France
Transfers to QROPS
The UK Government allows transfers to QROPS to be made free of UK tax. Their aim is to simplify the affairs of individuals leaving the UK on a permanent basis and to encourage them to continue saving in order to provide an income when they retire. There is no official limit to the amount of funds that may be transferred to a QROPS: http://www.axis-finance.com/qrops-France-pension-transfers
QROPS - HMRC Rules
What makes a scheme a QROPS?
In order to transfer your UK pension into a QROPS, it is necessary for the overseas pension scheme to be accepted by HMRC. The criteria outlined by HMRC for an overseas scheme to qualify as a QROPS include:
- The pension scheme must be established outside of the UK
- It must be recognised for tax purposes in the country where it is located
- It must be regulated in the country in which it is established
Age that benefits can be taken from a QROPS
The QROPS regime mirrors that of a regulated pension scheme in the UK. Benefits, including lump sum payments, from the transferred funds may not be distributed earlier than the normal retirement age of 55, if an individual has been a non-UK resident for less than five complete tax years: http://www.axis-finance.com/qrops-living-in-France-HMRC-Rules
QROPS Reporting requirements
HMRC should be notified if a payment is made within the first five tax years of a member becoming non-UK tax resident. Any benefits paid before five complete tax years of non-UK residency and not in accordance with UK Pension rules will be deemed an unauthorised payment.
The scheme manager does not have to notify HMRC if the payment is made 10 or more years after the day of the transfer that created the QROPS fund for the 'relevant member', provided that the person is non UK resident for the duration of this period. This 10 year 'bracket' for reporting payments took effect as of 6 April 2012.
When transferring your UK pension to a scheme overseas, it is important to check that the scheme meets the conditions to be a qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme (QROPS). Not all transfers to overseas or offshore schemes are QROPS transfers; it is therefore essential to verify that the scheme receiving your UK benefits is on the QROPS list published by HMRC, otherwise a transfer will be treated as a transfer to a non-qualifying overseas scheme and substantial penalties may be applied by HMRC at the time of transfer: http://www.axis-finance.com/qrops-list-living-in-France
How do I know if it is a legitimate QROPS scheme?
QROPS approved plans that agree to have their details published are listed on the HMRC website. A UK Pension administrator will confirm a QROPS listing before agreeing to a transfer. If not listed, the administrator will contact HMRC