Tax Mistakes Brits Should Avoid When Retiring in Portugal

Financial Planning Portugal

An article by Henry Kent, an International Financial Adviser at Holborn Group of Companies.

After my recent financial planning webinar, we received an overwhelming response. So, I’d like to share the relevant points about planning for your retirement in Portugal to ensure your golden years remain truly golden!


As a British expatriate, you should be aware of when your UK tax residency ends and your residency in your new country begins.

In most countries, like the UK, there’s a 183-day test. If you spend this many days or more in a country, you’re considered a tax resident for the entire tax year.

Some countries also use a centre of vital interest test. This means even if you’re there for less than 183 days, you could still be seen as a tax resident if your family, business, main home, etc. are located there.


When you retire and move to a new country, you should understand how your pension income will be handled there.

Through the UK/Portugal tax agreement, most UK pensions are taxable only in Portugal. Under non-habitual residency (NHR), UK pensions are taxable at 10% for the first ten years in the country. For other residents, British pensions are taxable at the Portuguese income tax rates up to 48%.  Once you are tax resident in Portugal, your State Pension is taxable only in Portugal at the scale rates of income tax. For 2023 income, this starts at 14.5% for income up to €7,479 and rises to 48% for income over €78,834.

If you’re thinking of taking out 25% of your pension all at once, it’s better to do it while you’re still in the UK, if possible. If you wait until after you’ve moved to Portugal, you will have to pay taxes on that money, in the same way as other pension income.

Capital Gains Timing

If you’re leaving the UK and thinking about selling your main home, it might be a good idea to sell it before you leave. If that is not possible, it is important to understand the special tax breaks you could get for your main home.

If you delay the sale too long, this could result in a substantial tax charge.

Wealth Tax

Many countries have a “wealth tax”. This can be a tax on the value of real estate (like in Portugal and France) or a tax on most of your capital assets (like in Spain).

If what you own is worth more than the special limits and allowances available, you might end up having to pay extra taxes every year.

Portugal’s version of wealth tax affects those whose ownership of Portuguese property is worth over €600,000, regardless of where they are resident. Rates are 0.4% for properties held by companies, 0.7% for individuals and 1% for those whose share in Portuguese property goes over €1 million.

There is a €600,000 allowance deducted from the value of all Portuguese properties owned by individuals, but not companies. So married couples and civil partners, for example, can have a combined allowance of €1,200,000 on their home before the tax is due

Can you plan for wealth tax? Wealth tax only applies to real estate assets.  This may impact people with low income owning a high-value home who could find this a difficult tax to pay. Are you sufficiently prepared?

Inheritance/Succession Tax

In Portugal, the equivalent of inheritance tax is stamp duty, applicable solely to Portugal-based assets like property and vehicles. The rate is 10% for most individuals, exempting direct family members and spouses who don’t pay tax on inheritances.

British expatriates residing in Portugal might be unaware that they could also face UK inheritance tax, which is determined by domicile rather than residency.

An individual can be deemed domiciled in the UK. This is usually established through their parents’ (usually father’s) domicile at the date of the individual’s birth, known as ‘domicile of origin’.

The estates of UK domiciled (including ‘deemed-domiciled’ – see below) individuals are charged to UK inheritance tax on the worldwide assets held by that person just before they died. If an individual is non-UK domiciled, the estate is charged to UK inheritance tax only on UK assets. At least, that’s the basic rule.

Inheritance tax used to be unique, in that someone resident in the UK for 17 out of the last 20 years became ‘deemed domiciled’. The current rules are that, as well as for inheritance tax, non-doms become deemed-domiciled after 15 years’ residence, for capital gains and income tax. For inheritance tax purposes only, deemed-domicile ceases once an individual is outside the UK for four complete tax years.

Portugal’s succession law imposes forced heirship. This means that your direct family could automatically inherit a pre-defined proportion of your estate, regardless of whether that’s your intention. There are ways to work around this, which as a minimum include making a local will, as well as revising your UK will to take account of this.

Holborn Assets can provide viable solutions to ensure your estate is distributed according to your specific wishes, while also shielding your heirs from excessive tax liabilities.

UK Tax-Efficient Investments

Financial products like ISAs and Premium Bonds will not be tax efficient once you are a resident in Portugal.

You may want to consider cashing these in before leaving the UK for tax purposes and exploring options for what might be tax efficient in Portugal.

This information is for informative purposes only. While I’ve ensured the accuracy of the information at the date of publication, please note that some details might change over time. Therefore, it is essential to seek professional advice to customize your plans according to your unique circumstances. Proper planning can save you from unnecessary tax burdens and make your retirement abroad much more pleasant and effortless!

The Content within this material is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information or other material as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice. Nothing contained in this material constitutes a solicitation, recommendation, endorsement, or offer by Holborn.


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