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Blacktower Financial Management
Make your Money work for Life!
Make your Money work for Life!


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Disclosure of assets - by Christina Brady, Regional Manager Costa Blanca

In light of the Panama Papers and their revelations, it would appear that it is not only tax evasion is in the headlines but also tax avoidance schemes. Evading tax by concealing income is illegal, avoiding tax by exploiting the tax rules technically is not.

To help tax authorities in various countries hunt out those individuals and companies trying to hide assets, the UK has recently signed a disclosure of asset agreement with Spain, Germany, France and Italy. What does this mean? It means that the UK, in partnership with France, Germany, Spain and Italy, have passed regulations that will lead to the automatic sharing of information about the true owners of companies, complex shell companies and overseas trusts.

George Osborne said the transparency rules on beneficial ownership showed that Britain and other governments were working to shine a spotlight on “those hiding spaces, those dark corners of the global financial system”. Osborne said he hoped that the regulations, which will come into effect in January 2017, would be followed up by other countries.

It has also been reported that finance ministers from other European countries had pushed Britain to extend the new rules to all trusts, rather than just those that “generate tax consequences “and will continue to do so.

It is clear from the above that avenues that allow non-disclosure of assets to a tax authority - whether it be for the super-rich, corporations or individuals - are slowly being closed or their existence and beneficial owners are being disclosed to tax authorities.

If you haven’t done so already now is the time to get your financial affairs in order, you may no longer be able to evade or avoid tax but you can ensure your investments are in tax-efficient products, approved by the tax authorities with full transparency. There are many legitimate ways you can mitigate your tax liabilities, if you want to know what your options are, I am here to help you find the right solution to make your money work for you, in the most tax efficient way possible. 

You can find out more about our wealth management services by visiting 

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Tax evasion - by Christina Brady, Regional Manager Costa Blanca

As we all know we have been told time and time again that, because of the world´s economic state, we all have to pay as much tax to the governments as humanly possible and that, if we try to hide any money, we will be heavily penalised. Well, yet again it has been proved that there is one rule for us and another rule for them - by them I mean the 1% that are super wealthy, politicians, or large corporations. 

Governments, tax authorities, journalists and experts on tax evasion and avoidance on Monday tax evasion were digesting news of a major leak of confidential and reportedly revealing documents from a Panamanian law firm. Some are calling it the biggest leak of confidential information ever to hit the global financial services industry.

The news is expected to make uncomfortable reading for those who have been arguing that new regulations and disclosure laws have been at last putting an end to the use of so-called tax havens by wealthy people and companies keen to hide their assets from authorities.

In its online report, the BBC says the leaked documents “revealed how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth”, as well as to help its clients to “launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax”.

Those mentioned in the report are UK Politicians, current heads of governments from across the world, dictators, celebrities and the super-rich. Even David Cameron is under pressure to reveal if his family still has cash in tax havens after it was revealed his late father Ian ran an investment fund that never had to pay tax in Britain. But worse was yet to come; British-owned or London-based banks were revealed to be at the heart of the Panama tax scandal.

Leaked documents show that HSBC, Rothschild, Coutts and UBS - all giants of the banking industry - are among the top 10 banks who asked Mossack Fonseca to set up 15,600 offshore companies. HSBC, Britain's biggest bank and the second largest in the world, helped set up more than 2300 offshore companies, according to leaked documents. Private bank Coutts set up almost 500 offshore companies over the past 40 years, Swiss Bank UBS, whose investment bank is based in London, asked for 1,300 offshore companies for clients.

There are many legitimate ways you can mitigate your tax liabilities, without involving companies in far flung places you have never heard of or been to. If you want to know what your options are, I am here to help you find the right solution to make your money work for you, in the most tax efficient way possible.  Fill in an enquiry form on our website find out how we could help you with your finances.

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Euro vs Pound - Brexit Impact - by Keith Littlewood, International Financial Adviser Costa Blanca

As a Financial Adviser the most common question I get from people is about the Euro versus Pound exchange and which direction will it go.  My usual answer is ‘well if I knew that I would be a millionaire’!

Now, for the first time that I can remembeBrexitr there is the consensus of all the experts saying the same thing.  If the UK exits the EU after the referendum in June, then there will not be that much of a change as impact will be felt on both sides (it will be as bad for Europe as it is for the UK).  If the UK stay in, then there should be some sort of a rebound back to fair value levels to around the €1.40/£1 mark.  If this is the case, you should really try to hold off buying Euros until after the referendum.

 When judging the likelihood of a Brexit I prefer not to listen to polls as they never seem to get it right.  Currently, polls are showing 50-55% to stay in and 45-50% a Brexit depending on which one you look at.  I prefer to look at what the real experts are saying, the guys who put their money where their mouths are and use every resource and data available.  These are the bookies!  Both William Hill and Paddy Power are offering odds of 1/3 that the UK will stay in and 9/4 for a Brexit.  This averaged out indicates around a 30% chance of the Brexit happening.

When investing I try to eliminate extra risks for my clients so it is best to keep things simple.  If you hold Euros and live in Spain, invest in Euros.  If you hold Sterling invest in Sterling and do not change for change's sake as this will just create additional costs and risks that are not needed.

I have been a fully-qualified financial adviser for 28 years and also understand the needs of expats and the rules that apply to ex-British living and retiring in Spain. So if you need to talk through your own situation then please feel free to contact me and we can have a no obligation discussion about the best way forward for your investments. Get in touch today:

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Safeguarding your Pension and Assets - by Christina Brady, Regional Manager Costa Blanca

Many UK expatriates do not realise that even if they have left and are no longer resident in the UK, they remain UK-domiciled and therefore subject to UK Inheritance Tax (IHT) on their worldwide estate at a rate of 40 per cent after allowances. This can come as a major shock. 

What can be done about this? There are several options. 

Transfers of wealth on death between husband and wife are exempt from IHT, but only if the spouse is also domiciled in the UK (or both are non-domiciled). This catches out many expatriates who have married a foreign passport holder who is likely to be domiciled elsewhere. Even then, the IHT is only delayed rather than avoided, because on the death of the survivor the tax will be payable on the passing of the family assets to the next generation. 

IHT can be mitigated by giving away assets at least seven years before death. This is not an attractive option, as a person rarely know when they are going to die, and will seldom be content to rely on their relatives to maintain them, so this is generally a non-starter. 

But there is another option, and one which is finding increasing favour; the qualifying non-UK pension scheme (QNUPS). A QNUPS is exempt from UK IHT on the member’s death.

There can be problems if the only reason for setting up a QNUPS is to avoid UK IHT. There is a danger that, where the member is in ill health and sets up the QNUPS with the sole objective of avoiding IHT, HMRC could seek to attack the arrangement. They would do this by trying to claim the pension was essentially a sham and was no different to a normal trust. This could lead to the member suffering a lifetime IHT charge on the transfer into the QNUPS, and a further charge on his death if he were to die within seven years. But there are so many other well-documented advantages in setting up a QNUPS that these additional motives should be easy to point to in order to rebut the suggestion of IHT avoidance should it ever be made. 

The UK Government has shown that it is not beyond raiding UK pensions when it needs money to prop up its own finances. At the moment it needs money arguably more than at any time since the Second World War. This is not unique to the UK Government - most of the EU governments are in the same boat. Anything which puts assets into a friendlier tax climate, allowing more flexibility in their administration and drawing down, while also carrying substantial IHT tax advantages, would seem to be a very attractive proposition which should be grabbed with both hands.

A QNUPS can hold most assets subject to the Trustees consent; UK residential property (but not your main residence), fine wine, fine art and antiques may all be acceptable. Assets which will depreciate, such as cars and yachts, are generally excluded. Your investment decisions should be based on your specific circumstances and objectives. You should always seek advice and consult with a tax and wealth management specialist on how QNUPS can help you in your individual circumstances.

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Here today, gone tomorrow? - by Francisco Mahfuz, Regional Manager Barcelona

While the markets are going up and down madly, are you being looked after by your financial adviser? The economy has dominated the headlines since the turn of the year, and many people are concerned about their hard-earned savings and investments. Very often, the best approach is to either wait out for markets to calm down, or take advantage while they are lower.

Although there is a risk in wanting to take action every time big market moves are on the news, it’s still worth asking a few questions regularly: does the reasoning behind your investment strategy still hold true? If so, should you be taking advantage of lower valuations by committing more resources to your long-term finances? If it doesn’t hold true anymore, is it the right time to move out of certain investments and take a different approach with your money?

So, when was the last time you talked to your financial adviser about what you should (or shouldn’t) be doing? Reviews should take place three or four times a year, and you should be able to reach your adviser easily by phone or email for updates or catch-ups at other times. There are many advisers who are determined and solicitous while they are trying to get your business, but few who remember they are meant to be meeting you regularly and providing ongoing advice and service.

Even when there aren’t any changes needed in your financial planning, making sure a client has peace of mind is a very important part of our job. A good advisory relationship should be based on trust and professionalism, so if you don’t feel properly taken care of - or don’t believe your IFA has your best interests at heart - you should look for someone who does.

Here at Blacktower, we want you to achieve your financial aspirations. Get in touch today.

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Brexit - In or Out - by Christina Brady, Regional Manager Costa Blanca

That is the question concerning many expatriates at the moment. What a difference a few days can make to the whole issue, before Cameron went to the EU to try to negotiate with a group of people that dislike anything that could disrupt the status quo or threaten their position (no matter how valid the argument), it looked like the in vote had the upper hand. 

Since returning and announcing the referendum on 23rd June, people he once considered good friends, allies and colleagues who he could count on for support have decided to join the out camp and now this is gaining momentum.

There is a lot of scaremongering going on at the moment and even more unanswered questions on how a Brexit will affect expatriates in Europe, of which some 800,000 currently live in Spain. Be it in relation to healthcare entitlements, pensions, employment or the basic question of whether expatriates still have the automatic right to live within the EU. I am sure over the next few months this will become clearer to all.

Is in or out the right way to go? Like everything in life, everyone has their own opinions and only time will tell if the final decision was ultimately the right one. If you want your voice heard and your opinion to matter, and have lived outside the UK for less than 15 years, then you need to register to vote at

With all this uncertainty making the money and stock markets even more volatile, as well as the Bank of England and the ECB talking of cutting interest rates further or even making them negative, now is the time to make sure your financial affairs are in order, working for you in the best possible way and that they are in the right place for you no matter what life throws at you.

Blacktower Financial Management has been established for 30 years and has worked with clients through the good and the bad times, offering sound advice and helping clients make the best decisions for their needs. 

At Blacktower Financial Management we pride ourselves on being totally independent; we offer products that can suit all needs, be it a product that can to a certain extent smooth out volatility and offer consistent returns or a product that can mitigate inheritance liabilities. For those of you interested in wealth preservation we work with one of the oldest and most respected Swiss Banks, Lombard Odier, who specialise in helping high net worth individuals manage their wealth. We believe everyone should have a choice.

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Dividend Aristocrats - by Keith Littlewood, International Financial Adviser Costa Blanca

The Dividend Aristocrats are S&P 500 constituents that have increased their dividend payouts for 25 consecutive years.

The FTSE also has its own Aristocrats which many people who read this article will recognise and even have in their own portfolios, some of the dividend returns can make very interesting reading:


Anglo American: 14.08% dividend return
BP: 8.69% dividend return
Royal Dutch Shell:  7.59% dividend return
WM Morrison: 7.51% dividend return
HSBC: 6.11% dividend return
While these returns look fantastic in today’s current climate of low interest rates and investment returns, caution is well advised. For example, while from the above BP looks to have given a great dividend return of 8.69%, the selling price per share is around £3.20 at the time of writing.  10 months ago, however, the selling price was £4.80 so the value is down over 33%.  It is true that the markets in general are down over the last 12 months but this shows that caution still must always be taken even when investing in so-called blue chip companies.

The most important thing to do when looking at buying shares is spreading risk or ‘diversification’.  If a large enough spread is created this can improve your chances of getting a good performance and decent income without taking the hit of one or two underperforming companies.

Shares should definitely be looked at as long term investments (5 years plus) but buy selecting a portfolio that has the companies that consistently produce good dividend returns, an income can be enjoyed while the capital is invested for the long term.

Many of my clients do not want the pressure or hassle of selecting their own shares so a professional fund manager can be selected to do this for them – this usually incurs a cost of around 1-2% per annum but what can be achieved is expertise knowledge and experience alongside the benefit of pooling investments with thousands of others, creating a larger a pool of money to allow broader diversification and lower dealing costs.

In today’s financial climate it is essential you do everything you can to make sure your money is safe and secure so what you want to transpire in the future has the best chance of happening.

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Trumpism - by Keith Littlewood, International Financial Adviser Costa Blanca

There is a lot of fear and scaremongering about the prospect of having Donald Trump positioned as the leader of the world’s biggest superpower.  A lot has been written about the economic disaster that would inevitably prevail but I am not so sure. The last time a Republican high profile public figure took the post with Ronald Reagan Hollywood superstar becoming President, many sceptics would have had similar fears.  

 What followed over the next 8 years was one of the most successful economic periods in American history.

•20 million new jobs created
•Inflation dropped from 13.5% in 1980 to 4.1% in 1988
•Unemployment fell from 7.6% to 5.5%
•Net worth of average earning families grew by 27%
•Real gross national product rose 26%
•Interest rates down from 21.5% in 1980 to 10% in 1988

You know when a period of economic success has taken place when they name it after the leader and the term Reaganism economic policy is now embedded into American political history. It is true that Reagan held a degree in Economics but Donald Trump’s personal economic record is not too shabby either.

I have a feeling that Trump would be fired up to prove the world wrong and would want to make America great again. The American and world economy would be something he would take on as a personal challenge to establish his own place in history and he does seem to have the Midas touch.

How a President Trump would affect Europe is anyone’s guess.  Hopefully he would listen to his advisers and not continue to poke his nose into the affairs of Europe.  Criticising Merkel and other European leaders is not something that will build relationships and let us hope that the comments he is making about European policies on immigration, for example, are just his own electioneering.

What is needed is something to give the markets a boost.  Shares have continued to spiral downwards over a prolonged period and the price of Oil is continuing to float around the $30 a barrel price – though whether this is due to the normal supply and demand factors or whether it is due to the USA controlling the price by flooding the market for their own political reasons is another question.

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Don't delay - Pension/Future Savings for Expat workers Paris or elsewhere… - by Simon Verity, Country Manager France

For many, the stresses and demands of work often leaves little time to consider your personal affairs and it is easy to put things on the back burner. International jobs whilst often paying “top dollar” can be transient in the regard that you may be in Paris this year and New York the next. Compound this with changes of employers and local pension regimes (if there is one) and one can quickly find that retirement provision is fragmented and very soon not in line with current earnings or expectations for your exit from business and eventual retirement.

The longer you put off this planning the harder it will become later to meet your future objectives, as you will have less time to save and less time for investment to work for you. Unless you are very lucky, job security later could also be a question mark.

Likewise many ex pat workers in employers accommodation forget to consider to put aside funds for such things as for example future school fee requirements offshore and perhaps more importantly a paid home to come back to or buy later in life. Savings can be done on a regular or ad hoc basis but the key thing is to get things rolling.

In France there are many tax efficient ways of saving for the future and such things as tax free bank accounts and assurance vie (lump sums investments) can be used to great effect. As an example, surplus income can be saved into a tax free savings account at the bank and then transferred to an Assurance Vie (see my publication on Assurance Vie on Linkedin for more information) when sufficient funds are available. This will provide a safe place and a nest egg for your savings and allows some access to your money should the need arise. There are “offshore” Assurance vie companies that also offer flexible contracts that become efficient for different parts of the world as an example should you move from France to the UK you can keep the same investment and it will become UK friendly.

If you are sure that your future is not eventually in France then we can consider more international products at the outset and these can be started with lump sums and allow additional funds later.

As an alternative, many clients prefer to save on a regular monthly or half yearly basis and also prefer that their funds are kept secure for a specific date in the future, such as retirement. Theses plans typically span 10 to 20 years and can be extremely efficient if left to term although may be less flexible for withdrawals during the life of the plan. In general premiums can be varied subjects to a minimum with premium holidays available and the plan can travel with you wherever you land later, with payments being taken from a bank/currency of your choice or credit card.

Once you have decided on your savings goals and needs, it is easy today to calculate how much will need to be saved over time to hit this target. Regular reviews will also be required to keep things on track but one thing is clear, each month you delay is a month less you have to save!

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Good news only, please - by Dave Diggle, International Financial Adviser Costa Blanca

As an IFA I have become very sensitive to market reactions and I have always had an interest in current affairs, but at this time even I am getting bogged down by this endless supply of bad news.

The recent drops in the stock markets are simply down to confidence and not of the same making of the crisis eight years ago.

I still struggle to see why a barrel of oil at $27 dollars compared to the $108 of eighteen months ago is anything other than good news. After all, there are more consumers of oil than producers. Motorists felt the positive effect immediately and users of oil in industry such as manufacturing plants or airlines should post better than expected quarterly profits, which may help dividend levels. In many cases this is yet to be rolled out.

Further good news is that Rolls Royce has won a $2.7Bn order from budget carrier Norwegian Air for a package of new Trent 1000 engines and service support for 19 new 787 Dreamliner aircraft. This is just as well because it looks like the order book for Rolls Royce limousines to oil Sheiks will be slowing down. What a shame.

This week, Google, which is now part of our day-to-day language and activity, showed an impressive share rise by 6%. This pushed its market capitalisation above Apple making it the most valuable Company in our solar system, and possibly beyond.

Lastly, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England has said UK interest rates will remain low until well into next year, and I know many of you will be unhappy about that. Would you like to be happy again? Call us as we have several solutions and will find one that suits you and your circumstances best.

'Til next time, I'm off for a drive with the family, because I can and cheaply.

Time for action? Call us.
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