Hong Kong QROPS Banned By HMRC

Lisa Smith, BA (Hons), CeFA

British expats living in China have lost the chance to keep their retirement savings in a QROPS offshore pension.

The country was serviced by 19 QROPS based in Hong Kong.

But all are missing from the latest HM Revenue and Customs list of schemes published on December 1.

The move will hit any expat or Chinese national with UK pension rights planning to move their pension funds from Britain to a Hong Kong QROPS.

Delisting means UK pension firms or QROPS providers outside Hong Kong are barred from transferring money into the schemes.

Overseas transfer charge

Anyone in China now wishing to switch to a QROPS faces a 25% overseas transfer tax on the value of their fund as they will not qualify for an exemption because they no longer live in the place where their QROPS is based.

Their options are to pay the transfer charge or switch their fund to a UK-based self-invested personal pension (SIPP).

HMRC routinely declines to comment on why pensions or financial centres are removed from the QROPS List, which is published fortnightly.

None of the affected firms have indicated why they have lost QROPS status.

The fact that 19 schemes with different providers have closed may indicate that HMRC has a jurisdictional problem with Hong Kong QROPS rather than issues with specific providers.

Dogged by controversy

Hong Kong QROPS have played a regular role in the offshore pensions market for expats since the scheme started in April 2006.

For much of the time between then and December 2017, the financial centre has averaged between 10 and 26 QROPS – with the latter the peak reached in the summer of 2013.

Hong QROPS reached a 12-month high of 22 schemes in April, with one delisting during the month and two more delisting in October. Again, no reason was given for the move.

However, controversy has dogged Hong Kong QROPS, with speculation of tax avoidance and rule-breaking over the years, although no scheme has been officially accused of breaching pension laws by HMRC.

The closure of Hong Kong QROPS takes the number of financial centres offering the pensions to 29, with 16 in the EU or European Economic Area and the rest outside Europe.

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