Faced with rising taxes and falling living standards, many British workers may be wondering if it is time to pack up their bags and take their career in a more international direction.
Over the past year, the UK has recorded higher levels of inflation than any other economy in the G7, leaving workers across the country experiencing a painful drop in their spending power. Record wage growth of 7.8pc should offer some consolidation.
However, the Government’s decision to freeze income tax bands – and cut the threshold at which the top 45pc rate kicks in – means any pay rise a worker receives is soon eaten up by soaring tax bills.
Labour has ruled out introducing a wealth tax or increasing the top rate of income tax if the party gets into power, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves recently revealed.
But in the unlikely event the party refrains from tinkering with the tax system, the Government’s tax freeze will still leave Britain on track for the highest tax burden since the Second World War.
Many workers have had enough. An estimated 557,000 Britons emigrated last year, according to the Office for National Statistics, and higher earners and entrepreneurs are among those jumping ship. This year, consultancy Henley & Partners forecasts that 3,200 millionaires will abandon the UK – double the number seen in 2022.
But working out where to relocate can be a challenge. Beyond salary, it is important to factor in the cost and quality of living, as well as how much tax you are likely to pay on income earned.
Here, we outline the best countries to move to for a higher disposable income.
Dubai of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an increasingly popular destination among British expats. Living there is expensive, and workers will need to pay for medical insurance, but with no income tax, they can keep more of what they earn.
Among the UAE’s biggest industries are oil and gas, real estate and hospitality. Bob Parker of Holborn Assets, a financial advice firm, said: “Saudi Arabia is a next door neighbour and is about to become the next big thing – Neom is attracting world attention and thousands of key workers who currently prefer to have their families in Dubai.”
The majority of expats are found in Dubai, he added, however many are also found in Abu Dhabi “and the lesser known but fast-growing Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, an hour’s drive from Dubai and with much cheaper housing”.
There is no tax on income in the United Arab Emirates.
The average apartment price per square foot is 1,294 dirhams (£282) according to property consultancy CBRE.
Emirati nationals can access public healthcare for free, but British expats must pay. Both nationals and expats are required by law to have health insurance. You may also want to pay for a health card, which costs 320 dirhams (£70) for an adult.
A monthly Metro pass in Dubai is likely to cost about 350 dirhams (£76).
To work and live in the UAE, you need a residence visa.
If you are employed by a company based in the UAE, then they can apply for a standard residence visa on your behalf, usually valid for two years.
However, getting a company to sponsor you is not the only way to move to the UAE.
The country also offers green visas to “skilled workers” with a bachelor’s degree and an employment contract, investors, and freelancers – also with a bachelor’s degree – provided they have earned more than 360,000 AED (£77,629) annually over the past two years.
Mr Armoils said: “The UAE is relatively easy to migrate to, especially for wealthy people that buy a property there.”
This is because “golden visas” are available to investors who buy a property worth more than two million AED (£431,485), as well as:
- Entrepreneurs who own a business with an annual revenue of AED one million or more
- “Outstanding” students from top universities
- Specialists in scientific fields
- Doctoral degree holders
- Specialists in the fields of engineering and science
- Nurses, medical assistants, lab technicians and pharmacologists who worked on the frontline of the pandemic
Once you have your own residence visa, you can sponsor family members to come and join you.
Salaries in Switzerland are the highest in Europe and among the highest in the world, making it a top destination for migrants looking to bump up their paycheque.
Major companies based in Switzerland are Nestlé, Zurich Insurance Group and Glencore.
Working out your rate of income tax in Switzerland is complicated. The maximum overall rate of federal income tax is fairly low, at 11.5pc. However, each of the 26 cantons also has a separate law for cantonal taxes.
Switzerland is widely considered the most expensive country in Europe.
The median monthly rent for apartments in Switzerland is CHF 1,580 (just over £1,400), according to the platform RealAdvisor. In Zurich it may be more common to spend over CHF 2,000 (£1,800).
However, based on an average salary of CHF 72,993 (£65,500), this would still leave someone with a decent amount of disposable income.
You should also expect to pay around CHF 400 (£360) a month on health insurance, which is compulsory in Switzerland.
Depending on how many zones you travel within, an annual public transport pass in Zurich could cost between CHF 460 (£412) and CHF 2,226 (£2,000).
You will need a company to sponsor you in order to work in Switzerland. Generally, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) will only give authorisation if you are a manager, specialist or otherwise skilled worker.
If you want to be self-employed in Switzerland, then you will need to show that your self-employment “will have a lasting positive effect on the Swiss labour market”.
To do this, you will need to submit a range of documents including a business plan, planned investment, projected turnover and profit.
Australia is expected to attract the highest number of millionaires from other countries this year, according to Henley & Partners.
Among those heading for Australia’s sandy beaches are British doctors. An anaesthetist working as a consultant for the NHS and earning £115,000 could double their salary in pounds by moving down under.
Australia has the world’s highest minimum wage, and set salary requirements for expats.
If you reside in Australia for more than half of the year and you intend to stay in the country, then you will be considered a resident for tax purposes.
Whereas the income tax rates for non-residents range from 32.5pc to 45pc, for residents the range is between 0pc and 45pc.
Average rental costs in Sydney are currently $670 (£340) a week, according to data from Domain – making the capital significantly more expensive than Australia’s other biggest cities, such as Melbourne and Brisbane, where average weekly rents are $500 (£250) and $530 (£270).
Living in either of these cities on an average salary of $59,408 (£30,500), you might expect about half of your monthly take-home pay to go on rent.
Australia’s healthcare system is a blend of public and private. Its public health system, known as Medicare provides essential hospital treatment, doctors appointments, and medicine for free or for a reduced cost.
The UK has a Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement with Australia, so while in the country, Brits can access emergency healthcare for free.
However, additional services such as dentistry, ophthalmology and physiotherapy are part of the private system.
Cost for health cover varies depending on your age, and the level of care you want to pay for. For just hospital treatment, a person can expect to pay $2,257 (£1,160) for those under 36, $2,713 (£1,390) for people between 36 to 59, and $3,076 (£1,580) for those aged 60 and over, according to financial comparison site Canstar.
For combined hospital and extras, it’s $3,017 (£1,550) for those under 36, $3,456 (£1,770) for those between 36 to 59, and $3,829 (£1,970) for those aged 60 and over.
You could choose to get just insurance for “extras” – at a cost of $877 (£450) for lower level of coverage, $1,046 (£537) for mid level coverage, and $1,157 (£595) for higher level of coverage – given Medicare covers emergency treatment.
The Employer Nomination Scheme visa lets companies nominate workers to stay in Australia permanently. To be eligible, your job must be on the relevant list of eligible skilled occupations, which includes accountants, engineers and doctors.
“People that move to Australia generally need to fill some kind of critical skills shortage,” said Mr Amoils. “Migrants to Australia also need to show they financially support themselves.”
You can also get a temporary visa for up to four years if you are filling a role that the company is struggling to hire for.
You can earn significantly more working in the US compared to the UK. Graduates in the UK can expect a starting salary of £30,921, according to the Institute of Student Employers, compared to $58,862 – or £49,526 – in the US.
The top places in the US attracting expats are the San Francisco Bay Area, for tech, and New York City for finance roles. Andrew Argoils of Henley & Partners said: “Commuter towns near NYC such as Greenwich, Darien and Old Westbury also have very high average incomes.”
The trade-off is that living in New York or San Francisco will be far more expensive than living in a less populous, more obscure area.
The US has seven federal income tax brackets, with rates of 10pc, 12pc, 22pc, 24pc, 32pc, 35pc and 37pc. The top rate applies to income of over $500,000 (£400,860).
On top of this, US states apply their own income taxes. Living in New York for instance, will add a further 9pc to your income tax rate.
Rent in the US varies dramatically across the country. Average monthly rent in Manhattan stood at $5,588 (£4,500) in July, according to Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman. You might want to consider moving to an outer borough like Queens or The Bronx for cheaper rent.
You can buy a MetroCard for $132 (£105) a month to ride the subway and buses as often as you like.
You’ll also need to factor in health insurance costs. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit, the average annual premium for family coverage was over $22,000 (£17,600) in 2022 and almost $8,000 (£6,400) for an individual.
Most Americans get health insurance through an employer, which will cover some of this cost. For family coverage, a worker will typically contribute $6,106 (£4,900), or about $509 (£400) per month, while the average worker contribution for a single policy is $1,327 (£1,060). This means about $110 (£90) and $509 (£410) dollars a month may need to be spent on health insurance.
You will generally need to be sponsored by a US employer before you can apply for an immigrant visa.
To become a permanent resident, you will need a Green Card, typically only available to highly skilled workers, unless you have a close relative in the US.
Sensor Global’s latest smart internet of things (IoT) devices and connected cloud-based software allow smoke alarms to be remotely monitored, tested and managed. For property managers and home owners alike, this innovation serves to make life easier and less stressful.
Andrew Cox, Sensor Global co-founder and chief executive officer, explained: “Our team has been motivated by the shocking Fire and Rescue NSW statistic that 56 per cent of fire fatalities occurred in homes that had a non-working smoke alarm.”
Sensor Global’s IoT smoke alarms eliminate the need for regular smoke alarm inspections, removing all the cost, coordination and access issues such procedures can induce.
“Landlords are obligated to have smoke alarms installed in all states,” he stated. “But physically inspecting them regularly has a huge impact in terms of time, coordination and cost.
“If the smoke alarm fails between inspections, tenants are at risk. No one wants that,” he stressed.
Mr Cox detailed the Sensor ecosystem has been purpose-built to allow property managers to test smoke alarms automatically or manually from anywhere in the world and receive real-time alerts on any smoke alarm issues in one of their properties under management. On top of this, the IoT smoke alarms send alerts to property managers if they are tampered with by tenants, or become dirtied by dust or other obstructions.
He believes the company’s product “offers a system that assures compliance 24/7 with a simplified and automated workflow, that replaces current and inefficient systems that require manual inspections.”
While the company remains presently focused on smoke alarms, Mr Cox hinted at the production of future products, including water leak detectors, carbon monoxide and gas alarms.
“We have other IoT devices in development because it just doesn’t make sense to send a man in a van constantly with all the work involved for all parties,” he concluded.
I have had a Lifetime Isa (Lisa) since they launched in 2017, as I am saving for my first home.
During the first five years I maxed out my contributions, saving £4,000 per year, and with the Government bonus and interest on top I now have over £25,000 in the account.
There is a £450,000 limit on the value of a property that can be purchased with savings from a Lisa. This was perfectly adequate in the East Midlands where I lived until last year.
But in 2022, I moved to London. I stopped adding money to the Lifetime Isa, as I think I would struggle to buy a suitable home in London for less than £450,000.
The Lifetime Isa was launched in 2017 to help savers get on the property ladder. Savers under the age of 40 can open a Lifetime Isa and get a 25% Government bonus
Is there likely to be any movement from the Government on the maximum property value?
If not, me and many others are going to have to withdraw our money – and pay significant penalties – in order to purchase our first property.
Is it worth moving my money out of a Lifetime Isa now while savings interest rates are higher to try and build back some of the penalty that will be lost, or should I keep it in the Lisa in the hope that the Government does the right thing?
Also, can you transfer from a Lisa to an Isa so it stays in a tax free wrapper? Via email
Helen Kirrane of This is Money replies: Many banks – not to mention prospective homeowners – have been calling for the maximum property value on the Lisa to be increased.
Savers between the ages of 18 to 40 can save up to £4,000 in the account each tax year and the Government will add a 25 per cent bonus, up to a maximum of £1,000, each year.
Lisas can be used to buy homes worth up to £450,000, both within and outside London.
But London’s average house prices remain the most expensive of any region in the UK, with an average price of £528,000 in June 2023, according to the ONS house price index.
This is £78,000 more than the Lisa maximum property value, meaning first time buyers like you looking to get on the property ladder in London could be stuck.
We asked property experts for their advice on what you should do.
Will the maximum property value be increased?
Brian Byrnes of saving and investing platform MoneyBox replies: Market conditions have changed considerably since 2017, so Moneybox has been campaigning for all parties to commit to reviewing the Lifetime Isa property price cap in advance of the next election.
While it is impossible to predict the future, our proposals that the Lifetime Isa property price cap is index-linked and subject to an annual review have been well received.
With an Autumn Statement and spring Budget coming up in the next six months and an election on the horizon, it won’t be long before we have greater clarity on the measures that will be taken to support the needs of first time buyers into the future.
Tom Selby, head of retirement policy at AJ Bell replies: We know the Government are open to Isa reform and potentially Isa simplification.
But it is not clear whether that extends to improving the terms of existing products such as the Lifetime Isa.
There is a strong argument that the house price threshold of the Lifetime Isa should be increased and the exit penalty reduced from 25 per cent to 20 per cent, but there has been no formal indication that either are under consideration.
Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at Hargreaves Lansdown replies: More and more of the industry is calling for this, but unfortunately, we can’t guarantee it will happen by the time you want to buy.
We at Hargreaves Lansdown think the property maximum value ought to be linked to house prices.
Some savers hoping to get on the property ladder choose a Lisa as a home for their savings, but those hoping to buy in London find the £450,000 maximum property value a barrier
What are the penalties?
Helen Kirrane of This is Money replies: If you withdraw money from a Lisa for any reason other than buying a first property before the age of 60, the Government withdrawal charge of 25 per cent will apply.
Any withdrawals within 12 months of your first payment will also incur a 25 per cent Government withdrawal charge.
The only other reason you can withdraw funds is if you are terminally ill.
As you maxed out your contributions for five years, you have paid in £20,000 and received a £5,000 Government bonus in those five years, so you have accumulated £25,000 in your Lifetime Isa.
If you withdrew this money, without using it for a suitable home deposit, the 25 per cent penalty would apply to the whole £25,000, leaving you with £18,750 and £6,250 out of pocket.
Should you move money out of a Lifetime Isa ?
Brian Byrnes replies: This really depends on your intentions. If you are not in a rush to buy immediately and can be flexible about where you eventually buy your first home, I would recommend that you really consider your options before incurring the penalty.
It would take quite a long time saving outside of the Lifetime Isa for this reader to recoup the loss of the Government bonus on his deposit savings.
The upcoming Autumn Statement and election on the horizon will provide more clarity from all political parties on the extent to which they will continue to support first time buyers and future proof the Lifetime Isa to support the next generation of home buyers in the UK.
Tom Selby replies: This will depend on circumstances but you need to be aware that the 25 per cent early withdrawal charge applied by Government is, effectively, a 26.25 per cent penalty.
It would take a long time to get that back through marginally higher interest rates. It’s worth remembering the Lifetime Isa can be accessed tax-free from age 60, so if it is possible to build up a deposit for a first home without touching the Lifetime Isa, this could be beneficial from a purely tax perspective.
Retirement fund: Other than using a Lisa to buy a first home, the only other penalty-free option is taking out the money after the age of 60
However, this won’t be an option in all circumstances. You should be absolutely certain that you have no other options other than accessing your Lifetime Isa early (and taking the penalty hit) before taking that decision.
Sarah Coles replies: If you are on track to buy a property worth more than £450,000, you should start by calculating three different scenarios.
Start by working out the penalty you’d pay if you withdrew the cash today.
Then calculate any possible growth between now and when you want to buy, and calculate the penalty if you had to withdraw this larger sum.
Finally, look at the position you’d be in if you left the money to grow in the Lifeitime Isa and were able to buy a property using it.
The difference between the first and second figures is what you would lose by hanging on in a Lifetime Isa, just in case the rules change. The difference between the first and the third is what you would gain if you were in luck and the rules changed in time. Your decision will come down to whether the potential upside is worth the risk of the downside.
Can you transfer money out of a Lifetime Isa into another type of Isa?
Sarah Coles replies: If you choose to give up on the Lifetime Isa, you can transfer to another type of Isa – assuming they accept transfers in. However, you will pay the same penalty as if you were withdrawing the cash.
Brian Byrnes replies: Yes, you can transfer a Lifetime Isa directly into an Isa but it would depend on the provider you choose.
Your savings will remain tax free as long as long as you transfer via the funds via an Isa transfer rather than withdrawing the funds and re-depositing them into an Isa.
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Property investor Nick Gentle is warning renters to be careful after a scammer claimed his company was the landlord in a bogus rental agreement. Photo / Andrew Warner
A Fiji-based scammer has impersonated one of New Zealand’s best-known property investors in a bid to steal money, his victims claim.
Investor Nick Gentle said the scammer sent an Auckland rental agreement to a prospective