Q: I moved here in 2011 and transferred my UK pension over to an AMP scheme. My funds are locked in until I am 55. After five years can I transfer these funds to another scheme (not a qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme - QROPS), specifically to consolidate this with my existing KiwiSaver. Could I then access this money for a first-home deposit or would it still be locked in until I am 55?

A:

New Zealand is a popular destination for migrants from the UK. In the year to the end of May more than 10,000 Brits arrived here intending to stay at least 12 months.

Many, like you, are choosing to bring their retirement savings with them.

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It may help to consolidate your funds in one country or provider but there are fish hooks. It's a complicated area that needs some expert and individualised advice.

Irish-born Therese Singleton heads up AMP's insurance and investments business and also has a background in the Irish pensions industry.

She says there is likely to be a UK tax charge if you withdraw or transfer your UK pension funds and have been a UK tax resident in the preceding five tax years.

"If you transfer your UK pension funds to a non-QROPS before you turn 55 , early withdrawal penalties could apply. The same goes if you withdraw the funds for a first-home withdrawal before 55.

"Once you turn 55 you may be able to withdraw your funds without any penalties, as long as the withdrawal meets the UK tax authorities' income for life requirements.

Regulatory changes were made last year in a surprise move by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which mean KiwiSaver schemes can't accept QROPS transfers.

The HMRC dropped KiwiSaver schemes from its list of QROPS because of concerns people were accessing pension money saved in the UK to buy a first home or in cases of financial hardship - options that aren't available if the money had stayed in the UK.

Some fear it could also affect people who made the transfer into KiwiSaver funds before the rule changes - should they want to switch their KiwiSaver providers - or those whose funds are being wound up or merged.

It's also worth noting that although Australian retirement savings can be moved into KiwiSaver funds, there are conditions, meaning the Australian-sourced funds can't be put towards a first home and are only available when you reach the Australian age for eligibility.