HMRC culls thousands of schemes from overseas pensions list

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HMRC has removed thousands of schemes from its list of recognised overseas pension schemes as new rules on early access to savings bite.

The Rops list, published today after it was suspended in June, shows the total number of schemes listed has dropped from 3,811 to 663.

Australia fared particularly badly, the previous iteration of the list had around 1,600 schemes, but this has now been reduced to just one, the local government superannuation scheme under Australia.

In addition, the number of Irish schemes fell from 797 to 56, for Switzerland the list was cut from 100 to one, Spanish schemes fell from 16 to two, France from 34 to 4, and the US from 12 to two.

The tax office suspended the publication of its list of recognised overseas pension schemes in June because of recent changes that exclude funds allowing early access.

A new requirement for qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes, introduced on 6 April, means access to funds pre-55 is only allowed where the member is in ill-health.

Schemes that did not respond appropriately to HMRC’s letter by 17 June were due to be removed from the list.

AES International director James McLeod says: “Anyone who is thinking about transferring to a scheme that is no longer on the Rops list should stop immediately. For anyone who has a transfer going through since 6 April, we understand the authorities, for instance in Australia, are in touch with the Revenue about getting relief.

“We don’t actually know the reason why any individual scheme has dropped off, the vast majority we think would be that individuals in those schemes can draw benefits from before 55. But some schemes may be dormant or have not bothered to reply.”

AJ Bell technical resources manager Gareth James says some compliant schemes may be off the list out of choice. But he says there would potentially be an unauthorised payment charge for transfer made to schemes that do not meet the Rops requirements.

“Normally it would be a 55 per cent charge. That’s made up of an unauthorised payment charge of 40 per cent, and if it is a transfer of the whole scheme there’s likely to be surcharge of 15 per cent and there will potentially be a scheme sanction charge on the administrator.”