Claiming your pension in the USA
If you contributed to a British pension when you lived in the UK, all is not lost just because you moved to the USA. Even if your contributions were very small and you made them a long time ago, you are still entitled to receive your state pension. If your pension fund was with a British company or if you made social security contributions, your funds will have been frozen when you ceased employment.
Although these funds will not grow in the absence of your contributions, your money is safe. If you supplemented with a private pension plan, you may want to continue to make contributions until you reach retirement or until the plan matures.
The first thing you will need to do if you are approaching retirement age is to get a UK state pension forecast six months before you retire. First, go to http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Diol1/DoItOnline/DG_179755 and follow the link for a forecast application. You can apply for a forecast by printing a copy of form BR19, completing it by hand and mailing it to:
State Pension forecasting team
The Pension Service
Newcastle upon Tyne
You can also fill the form out online, print it off and mail it to the above address. It’s helpful to mark your envelope “Overseas Pensions.” If you have any questions concerning your forecast, call 01144 191 218 7777.
There is however a catch to claiming your British pension. If you have lived and worked in the USA for a number of years and have been paying into the American Social Security fund, the amount of pension you receive in America may be reduced based on your British state pension.
Thanks to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), the UK state pension authority is obligated to inform the American Social Security Administration that you are receiving a British pension. You will also be expected to declare all foreign income on your American tax return, so there’s no escape. For further information about this, call the US Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213.
You will also find that despite the WEP, Britain does not have a reciprocal agreement with America for increasing your pension. In other words, your pension will not be index-linked and the payments will not increase annually in line with inflation. If however you are only living in America temporarily, you may be entitled to payment in arrears of any increases upon your return. Also, if you have not previously claimed any pension in the UK, you can opt to defer your pension for a number of years so it will continue to receive annual increases until you claim it.
If you hold a pension with a British company or contribute to a private pension scheme, you should start by calling the company to find out the value of your assets at maturity. You should then call the Inland Revenue to find out if there is any tax implication associated with withdrawing your assets while residing in another country.
Check the following Web sites for more detailed information on state pension and forms needed:
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