Retiring in Spain with a UK State Pension – How does it work?
By Chris Burke
This article is published on: 7th March 2016
Many people understand that the UK is in the EU (for now at least) and therefore when you retire, it should be simple to understand how you claim your State and personal pensions. The main questions people have are what pension will you receive, how will you receive this, where should you be paying your taxes and how when retired, can you receive your pension in Euros and what could happen if you don’t have this organised correctly?
Over the last few years this has changed and, as of now, works in the following way.
Never worked in Spain but retiring here
In this scenario, having never paid Spanish taxes you will receive the UK State pension by contacting the HMRC on the following links:
How to check what State pension you have
How the State Pension works
How the new state pension will work
How to claim your state pension online
Early retirement and State Pension
You will be able to find out exactly what you will be entitled to and how it works. UK State pensions are always paid gross and never taxed, it is your duty to report this in your annual earnings whichever country you are resident in and along with your income, pay the relevant tax. State pension does come under the tax bracket as income tax.
You can choose to have your UK State pension paid into a UK bank account in sterling, or into a Spanish account in Euros at the rate of exchange that day (i.e. almost no costs for doing this).
If you have a private or company pension scheme in the UK, you should register on the following link and make sure this is also paid gross to you:
Then, you should be declaring this income in your annual tax return here in Spain (Declaracion De La Renta) and pay the relevant taxes, it’s advisable to find a good gestor to guide you.
A word of note here, unlike in the UK where your accountant/tax advisor is accountable for the advice they give you, here in Spain YOU are liable, even if the advice you are given is wrong. This stems back from Spanish culture, which you may remember when you learnt Spanish that they say in essence ‘The pen fell from my hand’ whereas in English we would say “Oops, I dropped the pen”.
Worked in Spain & the UK, Retiring here
In this scenario, as the UK is part of the EU, you should approach the local tax office in Spain and inform them of your situation. They in turn, would then contact the other countries you have worked in and where you paid tax and National Insurance contributions. This would then be paid to you by them directly as they collect from the relevant countries.
Different countries have different ages that they start paying your State pension from, so you need to bear that in mind.
Failure to correctly declare your pension income
What if you are or planning to be a resident here in Spain, but collect your UK state and private pension directly from the UK and do not declare here and in essence pay no taxes here? Surely, as the UK and Spain have a Double Tax Treaty (DDT, which means that you will not pay tax twice on any income you receive) as long as you are paying tax somewhere it’s not a problem? Well, consider that you are living in Spain as a resident, using their services, taking advantage of the healthcare and all the other things that make living here so enjoyable. Yet, you are paying UK taxes even though you are not living there. As you can see this doesn’t seem right! And it isn’t! Therefore, if you are found declaring your income incorrectly, it could result in you being fined, maybe even substantially. What is more, there is usually a minimal difference in the tax you might pay, whether it be in the UK or here, depending on your situation and income.
Also, give the fact that WILLS have now changed as of last August, meaning in essence you can choose which jurisdiction (country, laws) your estate would apply to, there seems little reason to risk this and not declare and pay your taxes as they should be. It would certainly stop a nasty knock at the door at some point down the road, especially as of next year when Common Reporting Standards come into rule (CRS – where countries around the world will be sharing information on the finances of their passport holders) meaning it’s even more likely you could be ‘found out’. Please note, this does not change where you are taxed for succession issues.
Therefore, we recommend making sure you are doing things properly, whether this involves you declaring this yourself or through a gestor, as well as making sure your WILL is up to date.