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Taxation of Foreign Pensions

It is increasingly common for expats to come and spend their retirement in Madeira Island, Portugal. They bring with them not only their savings of a lifetime of work, but also their foreign pensions.

Fulfilling the criteria of tax residence in Portugal (residing more than 183 days in Portuguese territory, or, when residing less time, having a house here that can be occupied at any time in the same period of time), those who reside, for tax purposes, in Portugal, are subject to the legal obligation to annually report their foreign bank accounts and their worldwide earnings to the Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority.

It is therefore important to understand the taxation framework of foreign pensions that tax residents in Portugal are subject to.

According to the OECD Model Convention, to which most countries and territories adhere, in order to avoid double taxation “pensions and similar remuneration paid to a resident of a contracting State [in this case Portugal] as a result of previous employment can only be taxed in that State [Portugal]”. In other words, foreign pensions earned by tax residents in Portugal can only be, in most cases, taxed in Portugal.

Notwithstanding the previous paragraph, “pensions and other similar remuneration paid by a contracting State or by its political subdivision or local authority, either directly or through funds, constituted by them, to a natural person, as a result of services rendered by that person to the State, or its subdivision or municipality, can only be taxed in that State.” That is to say, foreign pensions paid to former civil servants can only be taxed by the State where the former civil servant has performed his duties.

Note, however, that the overwhelming majority of expats who come to live to Portugal will be receiving pensions derived from previous commercial or industrial activities, this means that under the law, their pensions in Portugal will be subject to progressive rates of up to 48%.

The only way to avoid such high taxation on pensions by obtaining the status of Non-Habitual Resident (NHR), which must be requested by the taxpayer on arrival in Portugal (provided that the conditions are met). Beneficiaries of the NHR regime thus have their foreign pensions subject to a fixed rate of 10% on earned pensions from foreign sources.

In addition to the benefits described above, beneficiaries of the NHR scheme may also benefit from exemptions and reduced personal income tax rates on other types of income for a period of 10 consecutive years.

auctor Miguel Pinto-Correia

MCS and its team have more than 20 years of experience in assisting private clients who want to transfer residence or invest in the Autonomous Region of Madeira.

Obtaining RNH status requires a careful assessment of the income structure of the potential beneficiary.

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