Aude & Ariege Flyer Archive
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Aude and Ariege Flyer 15 March
I have no exact idea what I could and couldn’t do if I became Prime Minister of UK, but I don’t think I would get up and say yes I can change this and that overnight.
So why does President Trump think it’s any different in America? More a case of I will huff and puff and blow your legislation down? It’s worked well so far with the introduction of Trumpdontcare. Maybe he will walk away, saying it’s his ball and no one else can play with it? There could be, as some would say, the rest of the term in office for him to just deal with feathering his nest? But that couldn’t possibly happen…..
It’s funny that once upon a time the man who stood outside a concert/theatre offering to buy and sell tickets all those years ago was the somewhat threatening ticket-tout. Now it seems like he was an honest man of toil compared to his bot successors.
A new pound comes in looking like a threepenny bit. That could be about the value of the new pound in relation to the old coin.
I hope you are girding your loins for Toques, just remember no back-packs allowed for obvious reasons, just cords round necks with lots of tokens.
OH and if you are concerned about your Hot Cross Buns young Hannes the King Of Organic baking is producing them again this year and they will be available at the Fournil de Luc, at Luc sur aude or to order in all on to good biocoops of of departments 11, 66 and 34.
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Lost in France
To the person who queried that the hyperlinks on my last article didn’t work, I found the original article and there were what appeared to be hyperlinks but when I clicked on them they just linked to another picture of the same map.
Limoux Carnival took a turn towards the nasty for a friend of mine last month when she attended one of the events held in the square one Sunday. Just as an aside my friend is half French, is fluent in the language and having spent most of her childhood visiting the region understands the carnival and its traditions. She is aware of the irreverence and the satirical aspects. She is also about 5’2” and slight.
She was standing quietly with her cousin and her dog close to the ‘excitement’ when she was approached by one of the performers. First the woman (she thinks it was a woman) dressed in a silver costume and the ubiquitous masque seemed to take umbrage at the closeness of my friend to the parade. First the performer pushed against her as if pushing her back into the crowd, but she couldn’t move as she was hemmed in by the crowd. The performer then backed into her pushing her rear end heavily into her and trying to push her that way. My friend was starting to get anxious as the crowd behind were pushing and unfortunately her dog was becoming frightened. The woman then leaned into her aggressively with her
masque face pushed close into my friend’s face, and finally she pulled my friend towards her, grasped the neck of her jacket and rammed a handful of confetti into her chest. As far as I can see it was virtually an assault and there was nothing humorous or satirical about it and certainly not very entertaining.
And by the way, there is now a mask or carnival museum in Limoux but as is usual it is not well advertised so until I speak to my friend (above), I can’t tell you where it is yet.
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When is a guarantee not a guarantee?
On 20th February, the government issued its eagerly awaited Green Paper on reforming defined benefit occupational pensions, more commonly known as final salary pension schemes. This consultation document invites opinion from the pensions industry for giving the government powers to re-structure the benefits payable from such schemes in instances where the employer (and its pension scheme) are in financial difficulty.
For re-structure, read ‘water down’, as what the government proposes is that the scheme, with tacit government approval, can change the terms by which pensions are paid out to its pensioners.
The catalyst for this green paper is the situation surrounding Tata/British Steel, where the sticking point for any sale hinged on the deficit in the British Steel Pension Scheme. This deficit has been variously reported as between £300m and £700m and under current rules, any buyer would have to take on responsibility for addressing this shortfall. Negotiations between the trustees of The British Steel Pension Scheme, Tata and the government has resulted in the trustees amending the way pensions in payment are increased annually from Retail Price Index (RPI) to the lesser Consumer Prices Index. Experts believe this will save the pension scheme, on average £20,000 per member.
Fast forward to 20th February and the government now believes this would be beneficial for ALL schemes suffering from deficiencies in its funding to be able to water-down its benefits. But is this all bad news?
In the case of Tata/British Steel, the alternative was for The British Steel Pension Scheme, with £14 billion of assets, to enter the pension industry’s ‘safety net’ the Pension Protection Fund. If a scheme enters the PPF, its pensioners are guaranteed 100% of their pension
entitlement up to a ceiling of £37,420 (at age 65), but with annual increases limited to 2.5% pa. For those members yet to reach pension age, they are entitled to 90% of their pension.
The Tata deal gives its pension members better benefits than they would receive in PPF, and so received the approval of government and the unions.
The deal that Sir Philip Green struck with the Pensions Regulator for the BHS Scheme is structured along the same lines – the £363m that he ‘deposited’ alongside the BHS Scheme, which has entered PPF, will allow for the BHS pensioners to receive better benefits than would otherwise have been paid from the PPF. I say ‘deposited’, because it is a one-off, no-strings attached, contribution by this Knight of the Realm, to keep the Pensions Regulator happy, whilst preserving the number of yachts in his possession.
And the BHS deal adds to the uncertainty defined benefit pension scheme members must be feeling right now. Sir Philip’s ‘deposit’ has been labeled, within the industry, as a Zombie Pension Fund. In essence, it allows employers to deposit a chunk of money in a pot, separate to its pension fund, that will be called on to sweeten the pill if the scheme then enters PPF.
But why would an employer do this? Because a move such as Sir Philip Green’s puts a cap on the employer’s liabilities. If an employer can strike a deal where it can walk away from its continuing responsibilities to its pension scheme members, then it’s going to be attractive. We’re all going to hear a lot more about ‘sustainability’ of pension funds, with its open-ended responsibility and liabilities falling on the employer. This green paper is, I fear, going to open the flood-gates to more deals being struck by employers with their pension scheme trustees.
I may be wrong but I suspect Mergers and Acquisitions activity could reach unprecedented levels if the government gives the nod to these pension changes.
If you have preserved pension benefits held in a defined benefits pension scheme and would like to find out more about your pension entitlement and its funding position, then please contact me direct on the number below. You can also contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office in Limoux to make an appointment. Alternatively, I conduct a drop-in clinic most Fridays (holidays excepting), when you can pop in to speak to me. Our office telephone number is 04 68 31 14 10.
I look forward to seeing you soon.
Forum: http://csf.forum.org Local Association No : W112000594
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What You Need to Know About Pensions Today
By Thomas Marron
06 14 24 61 29
Pensions are complex, yet often the cornerstone of a comfortable retirement. Today, with Brexit looming and more options than ever for what you can do with your funds, it is difficult to establish the best approach – there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.
Here, we take a look at current pension issues that could affect you. While there may be some cause for concern, expatriates could find opportunities ahead.
Pension providers are feeling the pinch
Around 15 million Britons have ‘final salary’ company pensions, where an employer guarantees to pay a fixed amount for the whole of retirement. Widely considered ‘golden’ pensions, the income provided depends on salary and length of service, but is usually quite generous.
The biggest issue facing these pensions is how they are financed. The cost of providing them has soared as returns from the assets underpinning them – mostly UK bonds – have shrunk. With historically low interest rates and increased life expectancy, many companies face significant shortfalls in funding payments promised to members. Like BHS, with its £571 million pension deficit, companies with insurmountable deficits can fail alongside their pension schemes.
Transfer values are at an all-time high
To offload pension liabilities, many companies are offering members large cash sums to leave. Calculated as a multiple of a member’s future pension payment, it is not unknown for pay-outs to double from 20x two years ago to 40x since the Brexit vote. In an extreme example, if you had a final salary of £30,000 per year, you may have been offered £600,000 two years ago – but £1.2 million today.
Although this example is unusual, even more modest sums could provide a retirement income that well exceeds the original annual payment. Today’s unusually high transfer values can outweigh the benefits of drawing a guaranteed pension for life, but professional advice is essential.
Expatriates can access tax-efficient opportunities
Many expatriates in France benefit from reinvesting their UK pension funds into a tax-efficient ‘assurance-vie’. Alternatively, you could transfer to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) to unlock French-compliant tax benefits. This can also offer protection from UK inheritance tax and estate planning advantages. While most final salary pensions are payable to your spouse on death, QROPS and other arrangements offer the flexibility to include additional heirs and roll your wealth across generations.
These options can be advantageous, but tax benefits vary greatly between providers and jurisdictions. Also, the UK government has just introduced a 25% tax on overseas transfers to QROPS in certain circumstances. This charge will not affect you if both you and your QROPS are in the European Economic Area (EEA) or are both based in the same country outside the EEA. It is important to take professional, regulated advice to determine if this approach is suitable for you, navigate your options and avoid pension scams.
Advice is essential before transferring
As tempting as inflated pay-outs are, transferring from a final salary pension comes with risks and many members are better off staying where they are. An adviser can help you weigh up the advantages, disadvantages and long-term implications. For benefits worth over £30,000, the Financial Conduct Authority makes it compulsory to take regulated financial advice before transferring.
You should at least confirm your current transfer value and check if your scheme is at risk. The government’s Pension Protection Fund offers some protection but only compensates up to £33,678 a year at age 65, so if your pension offers more and your scheme is vulnerable, consider transferring.
A lower pension allowance could catch you out
If your total UK pension savings (excluding the State Pension) are close to £1 million, you could breach the UK lifetime pension allowance. Anything you access over the limit is liable to 55% UK taxation when taken as a lump sum or 25% as income, even if you are resident in France.
Calculating your lifetime allowance is complex and you could go over without realising it, for example through investment growth. Those close to or over the limit should consider HMRC ‘protection’ options or transferring to a QROPS before attracting further tax penalties. Once in a QROPS, funds are out of reach of lifetime allowance charges.
The window of opportunity may be limited
If you decide transferring is right for you, now may be the time to act. Some speculate that the UK government may change the rules to make withdrawals more difficult, or introduce extra taxation on pension transfers for non-residents post-Brexit. Consider what could work for you now, under current rules, before the window closes.
With so much uncertainty ahead, there has never been a better time to review your pension arrangements. Take personalised, professional advice to establish what makes financial sense for your individual circumstances and objectives. A locally-based adviser can keep you up-to-date with any developments that may affect you as an expatriate so you can enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want in France.
Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual is advised to seek personalised advice.
Blevins Franks Financial Seminar
Brexit – Managing the uncertainty
Our seminar presentation examines some of the ongoing issues facing expatriates in France and those thinking of moving here.
While we cannot predict the future, we will discuss some of the possibilities and advise you how to ensure your affairs are set up for France, not the UK.
When it comes to pensions, we look at what has been happening recently as well as the options and considerations for taking your pension in France.
Book your place now by phone, email or from our website www.blevinsfranks.com
I hope you are all enjoying this lovely March weather, what great weather to be out in the garden! Here are few bits of news and information about upcoming events.
* Open Jardins/ Gardens Ouvertes is a scheme that was set up in France just a few years ago with the aim of opening gardens to raise monies for charity - rather like the Yellow Book scheme in Britain. They are keen to expand into the Occitanie region and we have agreed to open the garden here on Sunday 21st May, Sunday 25th June and Sunday 24th September (10 to 18h each day) as part of the scheme so for those of you who would like to visit the garden here occasionally we shall hope to see you. You can see more about the scheme at http://www.opengardens.eu/ , they are keen for more gardens to be involved so if you think you and your garden could be part of this you can contact Catriona McLean <email@example.com>; who is the lead Co-ordinator for our region.
* Sunday June 4th 2017 - we shall be holding a day in the garden here as an awareness and fundraising day for Languedoc Solidarité avec le Réfugies (http://languedocsolidarite.com/refugies/), this will partly replace the open weekends that we have held in the past and will include garden tours and other garden related acivities, La Table d'Emilie will be organising the food as always and there will be a range of activities on a garden fete theme .... come and try Sjoelbak, Jenga, Splat the Rat and many other garden games and fun activities .... more info nearer the time but please put the event in your diaries. We are still looking for one or two more people to become involved to organise and staff individual activities so if you would like to help please get in touch.
* last autumn we ran a gardening course - Aromatics for Languedoc gardens which was well received and a number of people have asked me to repeat it so we will be offering the Aromatics course again on Wednesday 10th May (10am to 4pm), as before this course is for gardeners and foodies alike. We will consider a range of over forty common and more unusual aromatics (herbs and spices) which we can grow in our gardens. We’ll look at how to identify plants, how to propagate and grow them, how to harvest and use them as well as thinking about how to incorporate aromatics in ornamental gardens and using them as companion plants. The course fee will be 50€ and as usual we will provide teas & coffees and ask you to bring a packed lunch. For more info contact Gill@lapetitepepiniere.com
* Imogen and Kate have been working very hard on their new garden and nursery next door - Le Jardin Champetre - and it is really looking good, they are open every Saturday from 10 to 5pm or by appointment so do come and see it. They are also taking part in the Open Jardins scheme and will also be offering a number of events throughout the year, more information on the attached leaflet. You can contact them at <firstname.lastname@example.org>; or <email@example.com>;
As ever, for general gardening queries please don't hesitate to get in touch, enjoy your gardens and we hope to see some of you during 2017.
[BTW, your printing press still seems to be working on a different calendar. Last issue dated 1 March, received 8 March. Maybe your hosting issues ???]
I persist not (only) for the sake of pedantry, far less because I want to put anyone down, but because I have serious concerns about fake news, false facts, etc. Someone says something on whatever medium, people read it, some of them believe it and then . . . Seriously, sometimes people die as a result. The Nazis famously used propaganda to great and devastating advantage.
Any connection to Todmorden and/or Iraq?
A pity that your charts re European languages can't be opened. I (and some French friends) have an interest - we discuss the topic often.
CELTIC LEGENDS 28 MARCH Zenith Toulouse
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES 11 April Bikini Toulouse
TOOTS AND THE MAYTALS 28 April Bikini Toulouse
PLACEBO 24 April Zenith Toulouse
SIMPLE MINDS 29 April Halle Aux Grains Toulouse
XAVIER RUDD 18 June Bikini Toulouse
CARO EMERALD, DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER 6 July Cognac Blues Passions
BEJART BALLET 9 July Carcassonne Festival
PIXIES 27 July Carcassonne Festival
TY SEAGALL 30 August Bikini Toulouse
JAMIROQUAI 22 Nov Zenith Toulouse