I’ve worked abroad for 44 years. Am I entitled to an Irish pension?

Ask the Experts: Can my small pensions from other countries be accumulated?

Question:

I have lived, studied and worked abroad for the last 44 years. I plan to return to Ireland next year and live there as a pensioner. I shall sell my house abroad and buy a house in Ireland. Because I have lived in various countries and paid tax abroad, will I be entitled to an Irish pension and healthcare? I’m told I can collect various little pensions from where I lived before - I worked as a teacher in the UK, Switzerland and Italy, but for small salaries. I’m not sure where to start. Can they be accumulated?

This is a query which will most certainly become more commonplace within the pensions industry. From a macro level, yes there is scope to have an entitlement to an Irish State pension and healthcare, as well as having options to facilitate the transfer and accumulation of any private pensions and/or pension schemes from abroad into a private Irish pension. However, there are many factors to be considered prior to commencing such a process.

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Regarding the Irish State pension, if you paid social insurance contributions abroad and if you worked in a country covered by EC regulations or a country with whichIreland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement, you may qualify for a pro-rata pension. This pension combines your Irish social insurance record and your social insurance record in the other country. The UK, Switzerland and Italy are all covered under EC regulation. You should contact the Irish Department of Social and Family Affairs to check and calculate your potential entitlements. More information is available on the Citizens Information website.

Regarding any overseas pension plans or occupational pension schemes where you are still in or have left service, it is important to note that any possibility to access pension savings and/or to transfer pension savings to Ireland from another country will be dependent on the rules and regulations applying in the country in which the pension savings have been made.

As mentioned, there are several factors to be analysed in this scenario. Some important generic details to note is that the Irish Revenue will allow pensions from overseas to be transferred to an approved occupational pension scheme, Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA) or Buy-Out Bond (BOB) providing:

- the transfer takes place before pension benefits under the overseas scheme come into payment.

- the scheme member requests the transfer.

- the rules of both the Irish and overseas scheme permit the transfer.

- the trustees or administrator of the transferring scheme comply fully with any transfer rules, regulations or requirements in the other jurisdiction.

- the revenue authority in the state from which the transfer is made approves/permits the transfer.

It is imperative that you seek advice from the Irish Department of Social and Family Affairs prior to any decision making. A financial planner can also assist.

Have a query for our panel of experts about emigrating, life abroad or moving home? Email them to abroad@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice. Unfortunately we cannot provide personal responses to every query and only those selected for publication will be answered.