Pensions that can be transferred to New Zealand

There are three broad categories of UK tax relieved pensions that can be transferred to New Zealand QROPS, these are:

  • UK registered pension schemes
  • International Pension Plans set up by UK employers
  • Other QROPS schemes

Each of the above have different rules and regulations surrounding the transfers, which may mean some types of pensions within the category cannot be transferred.

UK registered pension schemes


The UK has the worlds second largest pension funds market (according to the OECD). A 2021 study by Willis Towers Watson shows the total value of UK pension assets as over US$3,500bn, and by far the largest category of pensions by value is occupational defined benefit schemes as shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: The split of UK pension types

DC vs DB 1

Source: Willis Towers Watson 2021 report

All defined contribution schemes that have not had an annuity purchased with them can be transferred to a New Zealand QROPS. That is a significant portion of the defined contribution market and includes:

  • Defined Contribution Company Schemes (often called Money Purchase Schemes)
  • Personal Pensions including Stakeholder and Group Personal Pension Schemes
  • Contracted out of SERPS (Protected rights)
  • Retirement Annuity Contracts (RAC) and s32 buy outs
  • Funds where income is in drawdown but an annuity has not been taken

The defined benefit market is considerably more nuanced and the breakdown of what can and cannot be transferred is show below:

Defined benefit pensions that can be transferred to a QROPS

Any of the following provided they are not in payment:

  • Final Salary Company Schemes (often called Defined Benefit Schemes), like:
    • The Universities Superannuation scheme
    • BT scheme
    • RBS scheme
    • etc
  • Funded Public Sector Service Schemes (e.g. Local Government)

Defined benefit pensions that cannot be transferred to a QROPS

  • State pension
  • Any pension in annuity
  • Unfunded Public Sector Service Schemes, including:
    • NHS
    • Teachers pension
    • Armed forces
    • Civil Service
    • Police
    • SPPA

We strongly recommend that you get professional advice to assess the transferability of your UK pension. It is an important to understand what the options are with your pension and the willingness of your provider to offer a pension transfer as an option.

International Pension Plans


International pension plans are like UK pension schemes in that they receive UK tax relief on the contributions into the scheme and have many similar characteristics in terms of look and feel. The schemes are usually set-up and administered out of tax friendly environments like the Channel Islands or the Caymans.

The two main types of schemes and the reasons for their establishment are:

  • Schemes set up for staff of UK companies that have been sent overseas to work – these schemes can be set up as final salary schemes or defined contribution schemes, and include schemes like the Shell International scheme.
  • Schemes established for resident non-domicile for tax individuals in the UK (such as executives in banks). These schemes offer significant tax advantages for the employees.

All of the above schemes can be transferred to New Zealand QROPS. The transferring out schemes are often not aware of the rules surrounding a transfer to a QROPS and we strongly recommend that you use a professional adviser as an advocate in the process.

Other QROPS schemes


It is possible to transfer existing QROPS to another QROPS (with a few caveats). The countries that QROPS are being transferred to New Zealand from are mainly:

  • Malta
  • Gibraltar
  • Channel Islands
  • New Zealand (inter NZ transfers)

The Malta and Gibraltar schemes were typically set up before March 2017 (and the introduction of the overseas transfer charge) as a tax efficient vehicle for people who were no longer living in the UK. Often it can be significantly more tax advantageous to move these pensions to New Zealand depending on the tax residency of the member.

Original QROPS transfers to the Channel Islands were typically done prior to April 2012. With significant rule changes since 2012 many people who transferred into these QROPS are questioning whether they are still the most appropriate vehicle for them.

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