Having recently written about the benefits of using a well-established investment or insurance company to manage your savings, within a Spanish compliant insurance bond, with the benefit of your money growing by more than inflation and far more than any bank has offered in recent years, I want now to explain how brilliantly tax efficient a Spanish compliant insurance bond is. I will do this by telling stories of two married couples. Mr and Mrs Justgetby and Mr and Mrs Happywithlife. Both couples are retired and tax resident in Spain. Also, both couples have two adult children in the UK.
Story 1 – Mr and Mrs Justgetby
Mr and Mrs Justgetby have lived in Spain for 10 years. They had sold up in the UK in 2007 and bought a property on the Costa Blanca (Valencian Community). This is valued at €300,000 and owned jointly. They each receive pensions from the UK in the form of State pensions and both have small company pensions. These cover their expenses but do not allow them to do much more. From the sale of their property in the UK, they were left with £200,000. They exchanged £50,000 before moving to Spain when the exchange rate was 1.45 euros to the pound. This gave them €72,500. They have had to eat into this because they needed a new car, they have done a bit of work on their house, and they have had to supplement their pension income. The exchange rate has also gone against them by about 20%. They are now left with €50,000 in their joint Spanish bank account. This does not pay any interest. The remaining £150,000 is in the UK in a variety of investments made up of premium bonds, ISAs, and fixed term savings accounts. The accounts have been split so that each holds exactly the same in individual accounts so that they each hold £75,000.
“ISAs and premium bonds are…..not tax free for Spanish residents”!
Whilst no interest is being paid on their Spanish bank account, at least there is not a tax concern there. However, some of the money in the UK is in tax free accounts. ISAs and premium bonds are tax free for UK tax residents but are not tax free for Spanish residents. Therefore, any income or gains from these investments should be declared to Spain. Mr and Mrs Justgetby have not been declaring any of the prizes they have received from neither the premium bonds nor the interest from the ISAs believing this not to be necessary. With automatic exchange of information that has come into force, Mr and Mrs Justgetby may be in for a nasty shock for unintentionally evading tax.
On the death of either Mr or Mrs Justgetby, there are some significant tax issues. As they are tax resident in Spain, the surviving spouse will be liable to Spanish inheritance tax (known as succession tax in Spain) on 50% of both the property value and the bank account as well as 100% of the assets owned by the deceased in the UK. The inherited amount in euro terms, based on an exchange rate of 1.13 euros to the pound, is €150,000 (property), €25,000 (bank account), and €84.750 (UK investments). This totals €259,750. The Spanish inheritance tax on this, after allowances, could be around €11,500.
On the death of the other spouse, the children in the UK would have a liability of around €5,000 each based on current rules and on the assumption that their pre-existing wealth is not over certain limits.
Story 2 – Mr and Mrs Happywithlife
By coincidence, Mr and Mrs Happywithlife were in the exactly same position as Mr and Mrs Justgetby in terms of when they sold their UK property and they had exactly the same amount of money as Mr and Mrs Justgetby in cash. They also have a property in Spain worth €300,000. Instead of investing in ISAs, premium bonds, and deposit accounts in the UK, from the £200,000 property sale proceeds, they put £175,000 into a Spanish compliant insurance bond in joint names. The policy will pay out on the request of Mr and Mrs Happywithlife or when the second of them dies. They felt that it would not be necessary to hold so many euros in a low or no interest bank account in Spain. They kept £5,000 in a UK bank account to cover the times that they pop back to the UK to see their children and the remaining £20,000 they exchanged into euros and deposited almost €30,000 with their local bank.
“……tax is only due when withdrawals are made.”
Once again, the interest in the bank account in Spain has paid little interest and so has not created a tax problem. However, the Spanish compliant insurance bond has increased in value but has not created a tax liability to date. This is because tax is only due when withdrawals are made and then only on the gain part of the withdrawal. This has allowed the plan to increase on a compound basis as tax has not been chipping away at the growth. They have decided to take regular amounts from the bond now. Each time the money is paid out, the insurance company deducts the appropriate amount of tax and pays this to Spain. As mentioned, the amount of the tax will be determined by the gain portion. In the early years, this is generally little or nothing due to the special tax treatment afforded to these types of savings plans. Longer term, the tax payable is likely to be a fraction of that payable by those who own non-compliant investments.
“….tax that they saved has gone towards a cruise….”!
Unlike Mr & Mrs Justgetby who would have had to pay €1,980 on the €10,000 gains they made, Mr and Mrs Happywithlife would not have had to pay anything. Instead, the €1,980 tax that they saved has gone towards a cruise they are going on next year.
On the death of either Mr or Mrs Happywithlife, using the same assumptions as with Mr and Mrs Justgetby, the surviving spouse will inherit 50% of the property value (€150,000), 50% of the Spanish bank account (€15,000) and 50% of the UK bank account (€2,825). This totals £167,825. The Spanish inheritance tax on this, after allowances, could be around €3,500, €8,000 less than Mr and Mrs Justgetby´s position.
On the death of the other spouse, the children in the UK would have a tax liability of closer to €4,500 each as their parents had less money in the Spanish bank than Mr and Mrs Justgetby.
The difference the Spanish compliant bond makes
As the bond was set up on a joint-life, last survivor (second death) basis, there is no “chargeable event”, as it is known, on the death of the first spouse. Nothing is paid out on the first death as the insurance bond was taken out to pay out when the second party dies. This will have saved either Mr or Mrs Happywithlife thousands of euros in tax.
Words of warning
Tax rules change regularly and the figures quoted are estimates based on our knowledge at this time. The allowances assumed are those applying to the Valencian Community at the time of writing.
Brexit could have an effect on the benefits received by the children in the above cases. Allowances apply currently to the children as they live in the UK and are part of the EU. The allowances may not be there after Brexit.
There are a number of other ways to reduce taxes by distributing wealth appropriately. Everyone is an individual and we all have different needs. Therefore, a financial review is the first part of the solution.
It is vital, from a compliance point of view, to take a look at all our financial arrangements and more importantly to review them on a regular basis. What we may have once bought many years ago, and which complied then, may now have become obsolete and could cause tax questions later.
Reviewing existing contracts and investment arrangements has become much more important with the open border tax sharing arrangement, the Common Reporting Standard’ which has now been fully implemented.
It might just be the right time to start looking at your existing arrangements to ensure they comply before anyone starts looking.
Fun Financial Fact
The Latin for head is caput. In ancient times, cattle were used as a form of money and each head of cattle was a caput. Therefore, someone with a lot of cattle had lots of caput or capital.