This chart shows the unstoppable spread of Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) across the world since their introduction on April 6, 2006.
The number of QROPS has risen continually since Day 1 with just one fall off the cliff in April 2012 when HM Revenue and Customs axed almost 400 pensions worldwide – with more than 300 delisted in Guernsey.
Other financial centres with notable casualties at that time were the Isle of Man and New Zealand.
HMRC declines to comment on why QROPS are delisted, but the industry believes the action was to tackle suspected tax abuse.
The latest figures from HMRC suggest around 10,000 retirement savers a year are transferring their pensions out of onshore UK pensions to offshore QROPS.
£6 billion switched to QROPS
These transfers are estimated to add up to £6 billion of pension investments.
Currently, the number of schemes is growing at the rate of more than one a day.
The latest HMRC QROPS list shows a record 3,115 pensions listed in 46 different financial centres.
QROPS are open to British expats who have moved permanently abroad and want to port their pension with them; and to international workers who have accrued UK pension rights after living and working in the country for some time.
The most popular QROPS destination is Australia, which has more than 1,200 QROPS, taking a lion’s share of 39% of the market by number of schemes.
Ireland and the Isle of Man take second and third places.
Ireland has 720 QROPS and a 23% market share, while Isle of Man QROPS number 224 and 7% of the market,
These three QROPS centres account for two-thirds of the market by number of schemes, leaving 43 other financial centres to make up the remaining third.
Transfer a UK pension to a QROPS
Expats or international workers considering a QROPS need to discuss their options with a suitably experienced and regulated international independent financial adviser.
With so many QROPS available, the IFA should tailor a scheme to match a client’s personal financial objectives.
The starting points for any QROPS transfer are to confirm tax residence and the transfer value of any UK pension funds.
A QROPS does not have to be based in the same country as the expat lives – although some financial centres, like Guernsey and Jersey, are restricted to offering QROPS to residents only.
Other QROPS centres offer ‘third party’ pensions, like Malta and Gibraltar. This lets a pension investor move between countries without having to transfer pension funds.
QROPS – Offshore pensions by numbers
Source: HMRC August 15, 2013