Are you retiring to Turkey with £25,000 or more in a UK pension scheme? Here is an overview of all the onshore and overseas transfer options for accessing your pension abroad, along with their respective risks and benefits.
Also consider: Read more about how to transfer your UK pension
Looking to transfer your UK pension?
Speak to me, Dan Ward, about transferring your UK pension funds to Turkey.
Checklist for transferring a UK pension to Turkey
- Collate all existing UK pensions
- Request a CETV (Cash Equivalent Transfer Value)
- Conduct a cost and performance comparison
- Identify the best solution for Turkey – I can help with this
- Submit transfer request documentation to the existing and new provider
Please note that while pension transfer advice from a suitable adviser is vital for everyone moving abroad, it is also mandatory when you have more than £30,000 in safeguarded UK pension savings. Yet most UK resident advisers don’t know what they don’t know about overseas pension schemes and cannot give you the correct advice to transfer your pension safely. Very few have the necessary licenses and expertise offshore, nor any working knowledge of all the currency and tax implications of retiring abroad; this can cost you dearly.
As an expat myself, I specialise in overseas pension transfers and have years of experience assisting countless people in making tax-efficient investments worldwide. Feel free to contact me anytime to discuss your retirement plans.
What is a UK-registered pension scheme, and how do you know which one you have?
A UK-registered pension scheme is any heavily tax-incentivised retirement savings plan under various names. Yours may be wholly protected with guaranteed returns or exposed to considerable market risk. Either way, under the current regulatory framework, it always attracts UK tax relief on your contributions, and its investment growth is, without exception, free of capital gains tax.
UK taxpayers can enjoy a generous annual allowance of £60,000 in contributions to their pension scheme per tax year, provided their relevant earnings are under £200,000. Higher earners have an incrementally tapered limit, while non-taxpayers may contribute up to £2,800 to their pension savings each year. You will pay a tax charge on the excess amount if you breach the annual allowance of your pension scheme.
Usually, UK tax relief applies automatically, but sometimes, you must claim it via a self-assessment tax return.
An employer may arrange your pension scheme, or you could have a personal plan with a private UK pension provider. It is perfectly usual to have both; in fact, many people find they have UK pension savings scattered across several schemes yet still qualify for the state pension.
As it has been compulsory since 2012 for British employers to enrol employees in an occupational pension scheme automatically, it is easy to lose track of these valuable assets whenever you change employers. The UK government provides a useful Pensions Tracing service on its website to help you locate these funds, and you can also ask to speak with the pensions manager at work for further information.
You can often consolidate various of your workplace plans through a transfer into one single pot to access your pension abroad; however, there are notable exceptions where this is either inadvisable or impossible.
Some private employers offer a defined benefit (DB) type of UK pension scheme, also known as ‘final salary’, which provides a guaranteed income for life. Still, these are most common within the public sector, such as the NHS, local government, teaching, etc. Yours may be ‘unfunded’, providing only an annuity, not a transfer value.
DB schemes are considered the gold standard for good reason, as your pension income is safeguarded and will be paid by the taxpayer, your employer or the pension protection fund. They often provide additional pensions for your spouse and dependents, all of which will take many years to reproduce in alternative pension schemes with no guarantees.
Please speak with your UK pension scheme administrator in the first instance if you have this type of pension. They should only agree to a transfer if you have accrued more than ample pension savings in at least one additional arrangement. Legally, you must consult an appropriate financial adviser when your DB pension scheme is valued at £30,000 or more; however, if yours is only just over this limit, and it is your only UK-registered pension scheme, then it is unlikely to be cost-efficient to pay for this advice. Note that this will not stop some unscrupulous advisers from offering you their services.
Suppose you have sufficient funds in any other UK pension scheme. In that case, you can always ask me to assess the viability of a DB pension transfer to an alternative plan suitable for access from Turkey.
Other workplace and all personal plans are always a form of defined contribution arrangement. While there is no obligation to seek advice regarding their transfer to overseas pension schemes, it is always wise to do so.
You may have a personal pension with a bank, insurance company or other UK pension provider. They are usually suitable for transfer to an overseas pension scheme or one ideal for access from Turkey.
The best way to verify which precise form yours takes is to look for the annual statement from the scheme administrator, which summarises your pension savings thus far. Like any workplace arrangement, you will have received UK tax relief on your personal pension contributions and their investment growth.
Unlike DB schemes, defined contribution (DC) plans accrue through investment growth. They are also often known as ‘money purchase’ schemes, and some older style arrangements may force you to purchase an annuity you don’t want or need out of your pot. You can escape this by transferring your pension to a scheme with more flexible overseas features. I can help you with that.
UK State Pension
Log in to the UK government’s pension forecasting website to check that you have made sufficient National Insurance (NI) contributions to qualify for the state pension and to determine your state retirement age. You will also find a link there to the international pension centre for further information about receiving your pension benefits in Turkey.
Sometimes, you can increase the amount payable by plugging any gaps in your NI history. I recommend doing so, as the current bilateral social security agreement between Turkey and the UK means your UK state pension benefits are guaranteed to increase yearly in line with inflation and will likely be a worthwhile addition to your retirement income.
Choosing an Overseas Pension Scheme for Turkey
When moving to Turkey, you have two transfer options for accessing your pension overseas: a transfer to a qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme (QROPS) or the use of a self-invested personal pension wrapper (SIPP) to invest in offshore assets, thus making it an ‘international SIPP’.
Every qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme has much in common with an international SIPP, including without limitation:
- They both offer protection against currency risk by allowing you to denominate a solid and relevant global currency.
- Sometimes, you can fix currency rates for a while for added security against future fluctuations in exchange rates during the transfer process.
- A transfer to a QROPS or SIPP grants access to a broader range of investment opportunities than any standard UK pension scheme.
- You can consolidate various pensions via transfer into one expat-friendly pot.
- Flexible drawdown is available with both schemes, with no obligation to purchase an annuity.
- You may withdraw a lump sum at pension commencement as tax-free cash, whilst still a UK resident.
- Depending on your situation, multiple potential tax benefits are associated with a transfer to either a QROPS scheme or a SIPP.
Given the similarities between pension transfers to recognised overseas pension schemes and international SIPPs, the two arrangements may seem interchangeable at first glance. Yet, essential differences distinguish them, so here’s how to choose the best solution for your circumstances.
Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme, QROPS
When any international organisation provides retirement savings plans that satisfy the standards of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), they may appear on a list of recognised overseas pension schemes. You must check this list for yourself on the HMRC website to verify that an overseas scheme you are considering is there; the list is updated at the start and in the middle of each month. Failure to do so may generate an ‘unauthorised payment’ red flag, in which case your existing provider should refuse to transfer your pension to the overseas scheme manager. You can be taxed up to 55% of your pot otherwise.
Currently, there are no recognised overseas pensions in Turkey. Instead, you could transfer to a QROPS scheme somewhere in the European Union or the wider European Economic Area (EEA). Malta is the EEA country of choice for many QROPS transfers. Yet, as you will not be resident within this financial jurisdiction, an overseas transfer charge applies, which is a tax of 25% of the transfer value. What could possibly make this tax charge seem like a good idea?
Despite its abolition in the spring budget of 2023, the UK lifetime allowance of £1,073,100 continues to make pension transfers to QROPS schemes a viable choice for those of you with funds near or over the limit. For one thing, the opposition has vowed to reinstate the lifetime allowance should they win the general election in 2024.
You can always ask me if you are concerned about the future implications of the lifetime allowance in your circumstances; I can help you access your pension overseas and keep all tax charges and fund management fees to an absolute minimum.
Meanwhile, those of you with pensions nowhere near the lifetime allowance should definitely consider a transfer to an international SIPP rather than an overseas pension.
A QROPS transfer is a benefit crystallisation event and, as such, can become quite complex, costly and time-consuming. In contrast, with a SIPP, you can simply move your investments into, for example, Euro-based assets before or after being ready to move to Turkey. No overseas transfer charge applies, and there is no requirement to remain resident in the same country for any length of time. The lifetime allowance is not a factor, and you can move in and out of the European Economic Area as freely as permitted throughout retirement.
An international SIPP is the ultimate flexible choice for anyone retiring in stages, which is increasingly the norm – rather than abruptly stopping work immediately. You may even continue making further contributions, but you will only receive UK tax relief on them if you are considered a UK resident for tax purposes. Withdrawals are permitted from ten years below your state retirement age or earlier in the case of severe ill health.
Of course, the tax-free cash lump sum is also available at pension commencement – note in some jurisdictions, you may have to pay tax, so if you are considering this, it is advisable to do so whilst still a UK resident.
Your international SIPP is monitored by the Financial Conduct Authority, which also regulates all SIPP providers. It is all but identical to any other SIPP except
What if your UK pension provider refuses the transfer request?
The scheme manager should refuse your transfer request if there are any red flags that could signify a pension scam. They cannot refuse pension transfers on the sole grounds that the transfer is not in your best interests; however, if you have been advised this, you should ask your scheme administrator to pay you by direct credit to your bank account rather than insisting upon an overseas transfer.
You must supply your scheme provider with your international bank account number, IBAN, and your bank’s identification code, BIC. When receiving income in this way, you will inevitably incur losses due to fluctuations in currency exchange rates. For this reason, direct credit ought to be viewed as a last resort. If an overseas transfer or a transfer to an international SIPP is advisable in your situation, you should almost certainly pursue it.
I’m happy to review this and all your other options with you, so do contact me for further information.
How to transfer UK pension to Turkey FAQs
Will I lose my UK pension if I move abroad?
You have multiple options for accessing your UK pension abroad: transfer to an overseas scheme, direct payment to your bank account or a transfer to an international SIPP.
Arranging your retirement funds for overseas transfer must only be done with expert assistance, considering your unique personal situation.
Can I move my UK pension to another country?
Overseas transfer to a QROPS is the only way to move your UK pension directly to another country.
Still, there are circumstances where it is much more tax-efficient to arrange offshore access via an international SIPP. In other cases, a transfer may not be possible to either scheme and you must ask your provider to make direct payments instead.
A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.
Overseas pension transfers can be complex. Make sure you take financial advice before you transfer your funds.