Expatriates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) often struggle to get reliable financial advice about international tax laws, asset repatriation, and other international financial planning issues.
I am a qualified financial planner helping expats build wealth whilst in the UAE. I’ve built my career on serving clients from highly regulated environments, so I know the laws and always work in my clients’ best interest.
Every expatriate has a story. Wherever you’re from, wherever you’re going, let’s plan a future that inspires you.
Financial Planning Services
I specialise in helping expatriates in the following financial planning areas:
- International investment and savings
- International risk protection and insurance
- Tax mitigation
- Repatriation planning
- Pensions and superannuation
My Journey as an International Financial Planner
I was first inspired to help people achieve their financial goals when poor investment advice hurt someone close to me.
They endured financial and emotional distress because they weren’t educated on the risks, and their advisor didn’t put them first. I resolved to do things differently. My work as a financial planner is built on a trusting and honest relationship with my clients. I ensure they fully understand their financial strategy so they can achieve their desired outcomes.
My financial planning career started in Australia in 2011. I was mentored by experts who gave me invaluable experience in a wide range of financial services. I learned how forging strong relationships contributes to providing sound financial advice.
In 2015, I became a senior financial adviser and opened my own firm. Over the next three years, I helped over 200 families manage their financial future.
Now I live in the UAE where I am honored to serve expats from all over the world. I’ve met many people in the region who are confused by the financial idiosyncrasies of living abroad.
I am an experienced financial planner with a proven record of creating and preserving international income. I’m committed to offering my clients superior, personalized advice.
Today, I continue to study the evolving financial environments in the UAE and in my clients’ countries of origin. Understanding the latest financial planning strategies helps me customize investment plans that produce results.
Getting informed financial advice starts with discussing your goals. Describe what you’re looking for, and I’ll call you back for free.
Financial Planning Articles
Many Australian expats in the UAE make the mistake of sending their surplus funds home to invest in their superannuation, thinking it is the most tax efficient method of investing their savings for the long-term. This may be the case when working in Australia or other parts of the world, however UAE residents often end up paying much higher tax using this strategy and restrict access to their investments until retirement. There are other solutions available to you that may be more suitable, where you can effectively pay no tax at all and access your funds whenever you need them.
In this article I’ll explain the circumstances when making super contributions may be appropriate, and what alternative solutions are available that may be better suited to you.
First, it’s important to understand how superannuation works before deciding if it is the right time to make contributions now, and if so, how much to contribute.
What Is Super?
Superannuation is a tax effective vehicle for investments. This means there are tax concessions on contributions, income, gains, and withdrawals depending on certain conditions. This encourages Australians to lock their money away for retirement, when they will be able to draw on it tax free to fund their lifestyle.
How It Works
If you have a super fund, then you will be familiar with concessional (often referred to as ‘pre-tax’ or ‘before-tax’) contributions, which include your employer super guarantee (SG) and ‘salary sacrifice’ contributions when you were working in Australia. These are taxed at a concessional rate of only 15% when received by the super fund. When compared to the personal income tax rate that would be paid if these funds were paid to you from the employer as income, you could pay from 19% up to 45% depending on your total taxable income. At least 9.5% of your income would’ve been contributed to superannuation by your Australian employer so you can save in a tax efficient way for your retirement. Now you’re in the UAE, it’s unlikely that your employer is putting this away for you, so it’s up to you to make sure you make regular ongoing investments for your future retirement.
Personal contributions to super, known as Non-concessional (‘post-tax’ or ‘after-tax’) contributions, are not taxed on the way in to the fund. It’s these personal contributions that you will be making if you are living and working abroad as a foreign tax resident because the contributions will come from funds that you have earned and saved, which is regarded as funds that you have already paid the tax on – even in the case of UAE residents, where there isn’t income tax. Typically, you will not be claiming a tax concession for these contributions.
If you have less than $1.6 million in total super funds, you are limited to a maximum $100,000 per year in non-concessional personal contributions. If you want to contribute a larger lump sum, you can bring forward up to three years’ contributions (up to $300,000) if you have less than $1.4 million in total super funds. You would then not be able to make any more personal contributions for the next two years without being subject to high tax for breaching the cap rules.
Earnings on your super fund’s investments before retirement can be subject to up to 15% tax each year. This can be much lower than the tax you’d have to pay on earnings from investments held in Australia at foreign tax resident rates, or if you were an Australian tax resident. However, if you’re a tax resident of the UAE, there are other investment vehicles available to you, held offshore in other parts of the world, that effectively have no tax on earnings; meaning you can maximise the growth of your investments when saving your tax-free income.
Technically, superannuation is for the sole purpose of providing retirement benefits for its members, or members’ dependants if they were to die before retirement. So, if you are going to make contributions to super, you need to remember that once you contribute the funds, they are locked away until retirement – typically after the age of 60. Then, if you’re retired, you can transfer the funds into the tax-free retirement phase and draw the investments tax-free. There is a limit on the amount you can transfer into the tax-free retirement phase, called the transfer balance cap, currently at $1.6 million.
If you are getting close to 60 and intend on returning to Australia for your retirement, then making contributions to superannuation could be a good way to take advantage of tax efficient income and investments during retirement.
What’s The Alternative?
For most Australian expats in the UAE, there are other ways to better utilise your savings that will save you even more tax than making super contributions, and allow you to access the funds sooner, often without paying any tax at all.
Some investment structures I recommend for my Australian clients enable them to grow their investments tax free, held in an international account that that they can access when needed, but can also be maintained if they return to Australia; where if held for at least 10 years, satisfy the ATO’s rules to be able to draw on without being subject to Capital Gains Tax (CGT).
Certain international life insurance products are an attractive alternative to superannuation or pension plans. You can contribute to them through a regular savings plan or lump sum investments, with the flexibility of how you make the contributions and how you take the benefits at the end of the term.
If you are just starting out or want the discipline of making set regular payments that form part of your budgeted savings, then a regular savings plan might be most suited to you. If you have an accumulated lump sum already, a single premium bond could be more appropriate.
How It Works
Investment in an international insurance savings plan or single premium bond will be tax efficient even if you were to return to Australia. On your return to Australia, it will most likely continue to grow free of tax. Income tax will be payable on gains made, but only when you receive these gains and not while the growth is accumulating in the policy. If you have held your policy for more than 10 complete policy years since its commencement, you will not be taxed on the gains because after this time it is no longer included as part of your assessable income.
If you need to draw on your investment within the first eight years, the gain will be fully assessable for income tax. If you retire overseas and have used an international life insurance bond to build a retirement fund, there will be no Australian tax liability on the proceeds as long as they are taken after you are not tax resident in Australia. However, there could be a tax liability in the country in which you become tax resident.
It’s important to note that in order to keep within the rules to draw your investment CGT free after 10 years, you can only contribute 125% of the previous year’s premium each year. For example, if you contribute $10,000 to the policy one year, the following year you should only contribute a maximum $12,500. So, if you don’t contribute one year, the following year’s contributions could start a new 10-year tranche. Similarly, if you increase your contributions by more than 125% of the previous year, a new tranche can be created, effectively starting the 10-year clock again on that amount. To avoid this, set any additional contributions you make, to an amount that is sustainable over the long term. You could also take advantage of the rule by increasing your contributions each year by an additional 25% if you have the means to do so.
An international life policy is not part of the superannuation system so premiums will not count towards contribution limits and the value will not count towards the transfer balance cap. The multi-currency options of these plans can be a particularly useful feature for expats. By setting the funds aside now and investing wisely, your investments could generate an income that could enable you to enjoy the lifestyle you choose in retirement.
The information and opinions provided here does not
constitute investment advice or an offer to provide any product or service by
Jace Cordell. The facts quoted are accurate at time of writing, but with
changes in laws may not stay accurate. For personal advice tailored to suit
your circumstances, it is important to understand your entire personal
financial position and goals. Please seek professional advice, considering your
personal circumstances, before making investment decisions. Jace Cordell
accepts no liability for loss of any kind incurred as a result of reliance on
the information or opinions provided here.
If you would like a personal review of your position along with tailored personal advice from Jace Cordell, please enter your contact details or contact Jace directly.