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UK investments living in Portugal

By Mark Quinn
This article is published on: 2nd August 2022

Can I keep my UK bank accounts, Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) and other investments?

Moving to a new country is exciting, although it does present challenges. New processes, bureaucracy and language, but it also may mean you have to reshuffle your finances.

Each person should seek individual advice when it comes to financial planning, but here I touch on commonly held assets, the main points that you should be aware of and what you can do about them.

Bank accounts
Whilst many expats will open a new bank account in their new country, most of us also keep our UK bank accounts, not only for practical reasons but also because we understand and feel comfortable holding them.

However, post-Brexit many UK banks are asking account holders living outside of the UK to close their accounts. This can pose a problem because if you have already moved to Portugal, it is unlikely that you will find an alternative UK bank that will be willing to accept new non-UK customers.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are popular alternatives to the UK when it comes to banking, but you should be aware that these are considered ‘blacklisted jurisdictions’ by Portugal and therefore interest is taxed punitively at 35%, rather than the usual 28% or 0% under NHR (Non-Habitual Residence).

Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs)
Firstly, consider the tax dimension. They do not retain the tax exemptions when held by Portuguese residents. For (NHRs), interest and dividends are tax exempt during the 10-year period but realised gains are taxed at 28%. For non-NHRs, interest, dividends and gains are taxed at 28%.

But whether you decide to retain your UK ISA or restructure it will depend on your longer-term plans, some things you might consider are: how long you will stay in Portugal, do you need to make withdrawals, do you want to top up, can you make changes to the underlying investments if a Stocks & Shares ISA, or what are the returns on Cash ISAs?

If your move to Portugal is short-term, or if you are not certain that it will be your long-term home, then there is a case for retaining your ISAs. Although you cannot add to them whilst non-UK resident, you can continue to hold them, and once you return to the UK they resume their tax efficiency.

A planning point you may wish to consider if you have a Stocks & Shares ISA is to ‘rebase’ by selling and then immediately repurchasing the same funds within your ISA prior to leaving the UK to ‘wash out’ any taxable gains accrued to the point of your departure. This way, if you did decide to restructure, encash, or withdraw from the ISA as a Portuguese tax resident in the future, there would be little or no tax to pay in Portugal.

As a general guideline, if you believe your move to Portugal is long-term (as a rule of thumb, 5 years or more) then restructuring and starting an investment vehicle that is suitable for residency in Portugal would make sense for greater tax efficiency, amongst other reasons. If this is the case, planning well in advance is advantageous, as there is no tax on ISA closure for UK residents.

UK investments living in Portugal

National Savings & Investments (NS&I)
NS&I savings and Premium Bonds are popular products held by many UK nationals and are seen as ‘safe and secure’ as they are backed by the UK Treasury.

Aside from this point, they do require you to hold a UK bank account which could be an issue for some. The interest rates offered are low, well below inflation, so you are losing money in real terms and interest is taxable in Portugal, unless you have NHR.

Premium Bonds on the other hand offer no capital growth or income, only the possibility of winning a sum of money. These winnings in turn are taxable in Portugal, not tax-free as they are for UK tax residents – this could be disappointing if you do win that million!

Investments with UK-based Financial Advisers
Most significantly, Brexit brought an end to the passporting rights that allowed UK-based advisers to advise clients across the EU member states and vice versa. This means that many advisory firms may not have the right permission to continue providing advice to clients living overseas.

Obviously, this can be worrying for those who have worked alongside their trusted adviser for many years, but in reality, good financial planning and structures for UK residents are unlikely to retain the same benefits for those living outside of the UK.

Understandably, many UK advisers do not want to lose their clients, and whilst you can continue your relationship with your UK adviser and pay their fees, without the right permissions, you should be aware that they cannot service your accounts e.g. provide investment advice for portfolio rebalancing or fund switches, and more importantly, you might not have proper recourse if anything were to go wrong. This will not only affect your investments and performance, but you will end up paying for advice that you cannot (legally) take advantage of.

Likewise, if you hold offshore investments provided by EU institutions, they may not be able to accept instructions from a UK-based adviser if they do not have the right licenses.

Lastly, there are practical implications. Does your UK adviser understand the rules in your new country of residence? Are you missing out on tax planning opportunities, paying more tax than you have to because you could be structuring or drawing your income better, or have they fully understood the knock-on effect of their advice in relation to income tax, interaction with NHR, or taxes on death?

What can you do?
The overarching message is that Brexit has changed the landscape for establishing and maintaining our investments. Reviewing your personal finances is more important than ever to ensure that you are not hindered when managing and making changes to your investments and savings, but that you are fully protected and have recourse should anything ‘go wrong’.

We are UK-qualified Chartered Financial Planners and tax advisers, so have a firm grasp of the planning and issues UK expats face. We have also been living and working in Portugal for a combined period of 15 years, so we not only understand the local rules and regulations but also have vital local experience and knowledge. If you would like an informal, confidential initial chat at no cost to you, please get in touch.

Article by Mark Quinn

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