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I would like to invest ~$20,000 a year, ideally mainly in funds. I am a British Citizen however I regularly move country, roughly once every 2 years. I have been in the UK for the past 2 years and have been using a stocks and shares ISA with Halifax for this time, however it is not allowed to continue using this when I am not resident in the UK. I will be moving to Canada soon for 18 months, and then after this I will be moving to Switzerland for at least two years, after which I will probably move again.

What options are available for people that regularly move where they are resident? Are any of these tax-free up to a limit like the stocks and shares ISA in the UK?

Thanks

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    In your question, do you end up back in Britain, when you finally retire? This makes a big differeence.
    – Fattie
    Apr 21, 2021 at 18:17
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    @Fattie Thank you for the clarifying question, however I do not know. If it's important would it be possible to say how this affects things? Thanks very much Apr 21, 2021 at 18:22
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    indeed it can drastically affect things! see answer and best of luck
    – Fattie
    Apr 21, 2021 at 18:47

4 Answers 4

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Immigration can create many tax difficulties. In its simplest form, you can assume that most countries, at the point where you cease to reside there (for tax purposes, which may be different than for immigration purposes), will consider you to have disposed of all of your assets. This means you may face immediate tax on unrealized capital gains on investments. For assets held in tax-free accounts under your old country's laws, you may be able to defer those gains, but your next country of residence may count those assets as being held in regular taxable accounts [ie: would pay tax on interest, dividends, and capital gains].

It is incredibly prudent to seek tax advice from an expert well-versed in both country's laws when doing a permanent move, particularly if you hold significant investments. There may be opportunities to reduce or defer your tax in the future, but probably only if planning is done ahead of time. Poor planning in this area can be disastrous.

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Investing when relocating often is complex due to varying tax laws. UK's ISA is for residents only. In Canada, check TFSA or RRSP for tax perks; in Switzerland, explore Pension Pillar 3a. Global brokerage accounts offer flexibility, but tax rules differ. Consult tax experts for optimal cross-country investing strategies.

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  • I don't think this answer is particularly helpful. Many countries have tax treaties that will extend some portion of the tax relief of their own pension-type systems, to another country, in the act of reciprocity for citizens who have immigrated the other direction. This is basically just a small list of mostly-relevant but possibly deceptive facts. Dec 13, 2023 at 20:47
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You can try to open an account in Interactive Brokers. They are present in most countries and allow to transfer positions when changing tax residency.

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Not much of an answer, but FWIW - based on my knowledge - there's unfortunately NO really international solution for "tax advantaged retirement saving".

  • Unfortunately each jurisdiction only offers a tax-advantaged-retirement scheme in their own jurisdiction. Indeed as you mention in the UK case, once you happen to leave, you're done, they cancel it or minimize it one way or another.

I feel the best you can do is

  • Create a savings account (perhaps with a brokerage or similar, or even just a plain bank) in some neutral, international jurisdiction. A natural for this is something like HSBC, which exists to cater to the world's major criminals international dwellers.

  • No matter where you are living/working, save your 20,000 a year in to that account

  • Note that there is NO front-side tax advantage here. You are completely removing yourself from national tax-advantaged-retirement schemes, wherein, you can "deposit tax free" and so on. You can only send that 20,000 after paying all the local normal taxes.

However ... when you eventually retire:

  • Depending greatly on your retirement situation, you may well enjoy (very) substantial back side tax advantages.

  • For example. Say it turns out in life's journey you end up marrying someone from, who knows, Dubai or New Zealand or such, and you end up retiring there with little or no connection to the UK. In fact, in many such places, all that money in your HSBC Jersey account is just yours. Nobody wants to know about it or otherwise, it's just your money. NO capital gains tax at all, no nothing. Conversely of course, if you end up in France or such, you've simply "made a good investment" and will (likely) have to basically pay "capital gains tax" like any other time in life you make money.

One problem is,

  • Some countries, notably the USA, actually "don't let you" have accounts overseas, or it's problematic, you have to report any and all overseas assets etc. So this is a factor depending on places you live.

Don't forget that

  • We mentioned "front-side" tax advantages. You get none of those. We mentioned back-side tax advantages: this can be massive depending on where you end up. But don't forget you do get along-the-way tax advantages. Your account with DBS in Singapore is "ALL YOURS", it builds endlessly with zero (0.0) withdrawls from taxes or fees each year along the way. Look at all that building!

Advantages

  • There are advantages along the way. That 20k a year will quickly become a fatass pile of dough. More and more commas. The good thing is, just like other major criminals international dwellers, once you have a good balance, companies like HSBC will welcome you with open arms as a "premier" / whatever branding term customer, and you enjoy even more privacy benefits and services. Often these are surprisingly beneficial.

  • Another good thing is, it's quite handy to have a pile of cash elsewhere. Say you happen to take a holiday in Dubai, Singapore or whatever it is. All that money is there for you. Additionally over the years you may prefer to (say) buy a flat or who knows what in some global locale. Once again - depending on where you end up - this can be hugely advantageous.

Again, just to repeat ..

not much of an answer, but FWIW - based on my knowledge - there's unfortunately NO really international solution for "tax advantaged retirement saving".

You have to distinguish between "front" "middle" and "back" advantages in tax advantaged retirement savings schemes; as I outline some (but not all) of the three area available to you if you adopt a "PT" lifestyle.

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  • Thanks for the detailed answer, I was ideally hoping to invest in stocks/shares/funds rather than just have a savings account, is this not really possible? Apr 21, 2021 at 19:01
  • (Savings accounts as far as I can ever find are... fairly pointless for large sums of money.) Apr 21, 2021 at 19:44
  • @DontWantPeopleToKnowMyFinances YES - 10000% percent. For example HSBC's international branches are indeed much much BETTER than so called "brokers". It's the place to have stocks shares funds (and also instruments like gold even) in your "master account". 1000% - that's the plan
    – Fattie
    Apr 21, 2021 at 20:51
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    Won't most countries the OP might reside in - not just the USA - expect them to pay tax "along-the-way" (e.g. on interest/dividends, or whenever you realise a capital gain)? Having money off-shore might make it harder for them to find out about it but won't change the legal requirements. And automatic exchange of financial information rules are making it more and more likely they would find out. Apr 21, 2021 at 22:36
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    Examples of more countries that tax offshore assets: France, UK, Germany Apr 22, 2021 at 18:07

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