The amended legislation is to be published in the Gazette, the Gibraltar Government’s official bulletin of record, either this Thursday or the following week, after which it will be considered to be in effect.
At that point, pension fund administrators say, they will be able to take their Gibraltar pension schemes first to Gibraltar’s commissioner for income tax for local regulatory approval, and then, to HM Revenue & Customs in the UK.
HMRC approval is normally deemed to have taken place when the scheme in question’s name gets added to the Revenue’s official list of qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes, updated twice monthly.
Steven Knight, chairman of the Gibraltar Association of Pension Fund Administrators, said a meeting of the GAPF’s management committee took place this morning, and a major event for the wider industry will be held at a Gibraltar hotel tomorrow, attended by a number of top Gibraltar government officials, including Gilbert Licudi, the minister for finance services.
In addition to an update of the situation, an industry code of conduct – which has already been drafted – will be presented, according to Knight.
“We are determined to ensure that Gibraltar remains a squeaky-clean jurisdiction for pension transfers,” Knight, who is also managing director of Gibraltar-based Castle Trust Group, said.
“There will be no pension-busting, no non-compliant investments permitted here, only the very best-practice administration of pensions.”
Knight’s comments came as around a dozen Gibraltar pension administrators faced the prospect of finally being able to transfer pensions voluntarily suspended in 2010, and others considered the prospect of launching new schemes.
Among the companies expected to be among the first movers is London & Colonial, the UK- and Gibraltar-regulated investment pensions provider. The company does not yet have a QROPS in any jurisdiction, but had been close to setting one up in Gibraltar in 2009, when pension administrators there jointly decided to suspend all pension transfers there after HMRC expressed concerns over how Gibraltar taxed pensions.
Also looking to move quickly is AIM-listed STM Group, Gibraltar’s largest pension fund and QROPS administrator, according to David Erhardt, director. He said the company will go to HMRC to “clarify the status of our suspended schemes” once the legislation has been published and takes effect.
Adam Wrench, head of product and business development at London & Colonial, said the company would be going to HMRC with its QROP scheme imminently, and predicted that as a result of the Gibraltar Government’s efforts, the jurisdiction’s QROPS industry “will grow in popularity, as more providers recognise its merits [as] the EU jurisdiction of choice”.
Wrench is referring to the fact that Gibraltar is one of the few major QROPS-transfer destinations – aside from Malta – that happens to be a member of the European Union. Some observers have said that going forward, they believe this could become more significant than it has been in the past, in terms of HMRC’s willingness to approve pension transfers.
This, they say, is because the law that brought QROPS into existence in 2006 had been created in response to an EU directive mandating that cross-border pension transfers within the bloc be made possible and simple.
"We are looking forward to finally being able to complete our range of UK and offshore self-invested pensions,” Wrench added.
“Until now the QROPS has been the missing piece in our jigsaw. The launch of our [Gibraltar] QROPS will fully complement our existing range, [which] currently includes our UK SIPP and [Gibraltar-regulated] QNUPS [non-UK pension, or EU SIPP].”
Wrench, Knight and other Gibraltar pension industry executives say they are convinced that HMRC will consider Gibraltar’s case for acceptance of UK pension transfers differently than it did Guernsey’s in April, when all but three of the island’s 313 QROP schemes were delisted after the jurisdiction made changes in the way it taxed pensions, in an effort to comply with an announced tightening up by the Revenue in December of the criteria under which it approves schemes.