Wednesday, July 30, 2008


If you propose to invest in property abroad or take a more permanent step and live abroad, tax planning is one of the most important considerations. Obtaining tax advice – and this should be from a professional tax adviser with knowledge of tax regulations both in your home country and the country where you plan to invest – before you make any investment decisions means that you can make the most of opportunities to reduce your tax liabilities.

Within the general tax considerations of owning assets abroad is the question of inheritance tax, an aspect that many property investors tend to overlook. However, this is one area that has wide implications for the future of your heirs. Careful inheritance tax planning can make the difference between your heirs continuing to enjoy your investments or losing them to pay a large inheritance tax bill.

While inherited assets in some countries attract no inheritance taxes, in other countries taxes can be higher than 80%, particularly if the beneficiary is not a close relative. It is therefore very important to bear this in mind when making investment plans. A further issue to consider is that regardless of the country you choose to invest in or move to, you may still be liable for inheritance tax in your home country. “Inheritance tax rules have important implications for investors,” comments Ken Thorkildsen, Director of Obelisk Private Finance. “If you do not plan your inheritance tax carefully, you may find that your heirs face high tax bills both in the country where you invested and in the UK.”

In general, resident heirs pay less inheritance tax than those who are non-resident and many countries also offer generous deductions or total exemptions for beneficiaries who are direct relatives, e.g. spouse, children or parents. This is the case in AndalucĂ­a, home to the Costa del Sol, where recent legislation means that direct heirs who have been resident in the region for 5 years, are exempt from inheritance tax on assets up to the value of €175,000. Ken welcomes this recent development which he believes “has hugely positive implications for the resident ex-pat population in one of Spain’s most popular investment destinations.”

Laws on inheritance tax are complicated and inheritance tax regulations vary in individual countries. For example, Spanish law rules that in the case of a married couple, 50% of the net assets are liable for inheritance tax on first death, whereas under UK law, a married couple may be liable for 100% of the assets minus allowances. Basic familiarity with a country’s tax regimes and its implications should be a high priority for the global property investor. This coupled with expert guidance from a tax expert, can make a substantial difference to the planning of an investor’s estate and by extension, to the beneficiaries. “An essential aspect of owning assets in more than one country is to draw up a will in each country,” advises Ken. “This helps speed up the inheritance process and makes things much easier for your heirs.”

Given the complexity of inheritance regulations and the fact that in many countries they are in a state of constant change, Ken offers the following advice: “No action should be taken without consultation with a professional tax adviser. While there are many ways of reducing inheritance tax liability, only an expert can offer guidance on the right ones for you and your particular situation.”

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