What Happens to My UK Pension if I Live in Japan?

what happens to a uk private or company pension if you live overseas in japan

Your UK pension is supposed to provide you with security and peace of mind in your retirement. Unfortunately, the UK pension system – along with other pension systems across the world – has been weakened by unfavorable population and labor demographics, economic hardship and poor investment performance. But did you know that if you live in Japan, your UK pension is at even greater risk? Without proper understanding and compliance with tax regulations in the UK and Japan, you could end up losing part of your nest egg and finding yourself under financial strain.

Understanding the UK Pension System

Pensions are a form of retirement income that individuals receive after reaching a certain age or meeting specific criteria. The UK has a multi-tiered pension system that includes both state pensions and private or workplace pensions. Here is an overview of the types of pensions available in the UK:

  • State Pension: The State Pension is provided by the government and is intended to provide a basic level of retirement income. 
  • Understanding the U.K. Pension System
  • -Workplace Pensions: Many employers in the UK offer workplace pensions to their employees. These are also known as occupational or company pensions. 
  • -Defined Benefit Schemes: In these schemes, the pension benefits are based on factors such as the individual’s salary and the number of years they have been a member of the scheme. The final pension amount is typically calculated using a formula determined by the scheme’s rules.
  • -Defined Contribution Schemes: In these schemes, both the employer and the employee make regular contributions into a pension fund. The contributions are invested, usually in a range of assets such as stocks, bonds, and funds. The final pension amount is determined by the performance of the investments and the contributions made over time.
  • -Personal Pensions: Individuals can also set up personal pensions, known as private pensions, to supplement their retirement income. These are typically defined contribution schemes where individuals make regular contributions into a pension fund, which is invested on their behalf. Personal pensions can be obtained from financial institutions such as banks, insurance companies, or investment firms.

How Does the UK Pension System Work?

One of the benefits of UK pensions is the associated tax benefits. However, these benefits can become compromised when you’re living in a country like Japan. To understand how the system works and to protect your pension funds from taxation, you need to fully understand the system, including key terms and processes. Some important terms and concepts related to the U.K. pension system include:

  • -HMRC: HMRC stands for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the UK government department responsible for collecting taxes, including income tax. They play a crucial role in the administration of the UK pension system.
  • -Tax Codes: Tax codes are used by HMRC to determine how much income tax an individual should pay. In the context of UK pensions, the tax code influences the amount of tax deducted from pension payments. For example:
    • a. 1257L: This is the standard tax code used for most individuals and refers to the tax-free personal allowance of £12,570. It means that you can earn up to this amount without being taxed.
    • b. NT (Nil-Tax): An NT tax code exempts an individual from paying income tax on specific income. Non-UK residents can apply for an NT code to avoid tax deductions on their UK pension.

Do you know how much the average person needs for retirement

  • -PCLS (Pension Commencement Lump Sum): The PCLS is the first 25% of a pension that can be withdrawn tax-free. When crystallizing the full pension amount, this lump sum is not subject to tax in the UK However, it’s important to note that you may be liable to pay tax on it in your country of residence.
  • What Happens to My UK Pension if I Live in Japan?
  • -P85 Form: The P85 form is a formal communication to HMRC that indicates you are no longer a UK resident. Completing this form is necessary if you become a non-UK resident.
  • -Double Taxation Agreement (DTA): A DTA is an agreement between two countries to avoid individuals being taxed on the same income in both countries. If your country of residence has a DTA with the UK, you may be eligible to apply for an NT tax code for your pension income.
  • -DT Individual Form: The DT Individual form, also known as the Double Taxation Relief form, is used to claim tax relief or exemption under the relevant DTA. Once completed, the form needs to be submitted to your local tax authority for verification and confirmation of your tax residency.
  • -Drawdown: Drawdown refers to the process of taking regular income payments from your pension instead of purchasing an annuity. It provides flexibility in managing your pension fund.

For residents of Japan who will be receiving UK pensions, understanding how taxation works in both the UK and Japan is essential. Not only must you adhere to reporting requirements of HMRC, but you must also make sure that you are complying with tax laws in Japan. 

Moving to Japan: Implications for UK Pensions and retirement benefits

Japan considers foreign pension withdrawals as foreign income for taxation purposes. Thus, the Pension Commencement Lump Sum (PCLS) that you receive is subject to Japanese income tax. Fortunately, you may be able to protect the pension money you receive from double taxation by applying for an NT code from HMRC. This process involves two primary steps:
Moving to Japan: Implications for UK Pensions

  • Step 1: Confirm eligibility for an NT code: Non-UK residents in Japan can apply directly to HMRC for an NT code, which exempts them from paying income tax on specific income. However, eligibility for an NT code depends on the presence of a Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) between Japan and the UK Your financial adviser can help you determine if the DTA allows for the application of an NT code for pension income.
  • Step 2: Complete the necessary forms: Once eligibility is confirmed, residents should complete the Double Taxation Relief form, also known as the DT Individual form, with their pension details. The form needs to be submitted to the local tax authority in Japan, which will verify tax residency and stamp the form. In some cases, residents may be able to submit the completed form directly to avoid delays caused by forwarding it through the local tax authority.

Once HMRC approves the request and applies the NT code, they will inform the pension provider that the NT code can be applied to the pension drawdown. At this point, you can enjoy a flexi-access drawdown with no UK taxes being withheld at source.

The Importance of Seeking Guidance For Your Retirement Plan

The taxation and regulatory landscape around receiving your UK pension in Japan can be complex and subject to change. A financial adviser can help you navigate this landscape, assessing your unique financial situation and goals to provide personalized advice. They can also evaluate various pension drawdown options, taking into account potential tax liabilities in Japan and strategies for maximising tax efficiency. Talking with an expert can help you make informed decisions that align with your long-term financial objectives.

Working with a financial adviser can provide peace of mind and alleviate potential stress associated with managing a UK pension while living in Japan. Reach out to a trusted professional for ongoing support with UK-specific experience, so that you can always be sure that you are making informed decisions that will protect you, and your wealth.

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Sources and Further Reading

- UK Financial Conduct Authority, Consumer Protection, Early Pension Release Primer

- The Pensions Advisory Service: Spotlight- QROPS

- HM Revenue And Customs: Qualifying Overseas Recognised Pension Scheme; transferring UK tax-relieved pension assets