While prior to March 2020 it was possible to move to Portugal and pay 0% tax on a pension through Portugal’s Non-Habitual Resident Tax Regime (NHR), that amount has now changed to 10%. This basically means that if you move to Portugal and you have a €20,000 annual pension, under the NHR scheme you’ll pay €2,000 tax on that pension.
Along with pensions (both public and private), this classification also includes annuities, *IRAs, *Roth IRAs, and *US Social Security Income for those from the US and Lifetime ISAs for those from the UK. Although pensions is a vague term, anything that that gets withdrawn after retirement is generally treated as a pension and subject to 10% tax under the NHR rules.
*These are investment wrappers that are specific to the US.
What is NHR?
The NHR Tax Regime is a 10-year incentive that’s designed to make Portugal more financially attractive to certain individuals including entrepreneurs, freelancers, and pensioners. You don’t have to join the NHR scheme to move to Portugal, and isn’t the same as obtaining residency — it’s simply a tax regime that you can opt into if you meet the conditions (the main one being that you haven’t been habitually resident in Portugal over the previous 5 years).
Is NHR worth it for pensioners?
If you don’t join the NHR scheme, you’ll pay standard tax rates. The Portuguese tax system has a number of bands which go as high as 48%. It’s definitely more financially favourable to join the NHR scheme for that initial 10-year period, if you move to Portugal.
That if is important.
If you’re planning on moving to Portugal and spending more than 183 days there, that normally means that you should become resident in Portugal (and consequently tax resident there too).
However, if you are only planning on spending some of the year in Portugal, it may not make financial sense to become resident in Portugal as a pensioner. If you don’t need to become resident in Portugal because you’re not going to be spending enough time here, it may make sense to remain tax resident where you are (or choose somewhere else).
In the UK, for example, people have a tax-free allowance of £12,500. That means that if someone has a pension of £15,000, they would only pay tax on £2,500 (which works out to £500). In Portugal, under the NHR scheme, you would be taxed on the whole amount (which works out to £1,500). Similarily, Americans living in Portugal will pay tax on social security income that they might not pay in the US.
But, tax isn’t everything
While it’s possible that you might end up paying more tax in Portugal than in your home country, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be financially worse off by moving to Portugal. Those taxes, for example, allow you to use the public healthcare system here in Portugal, which wouldn’t be an option.
Even if you plan to use private healthcare for the majority of your hospital visits, it’s worth noting that private health insurance is much cheaper in Portugal than it is in the US.
Then there’s your lower cost of living, cost of property, and all of the other things that are cheaper in Portugal. It’s something you need to think about.
What happens after 10 years?
After 10 years, the “tax holiday” ends and you go onto standard Portuguese tax rates should you decide to stay in Portugal. Taxes aside, many people return home after 10 years in Portugal as it’s not uncommon for people to decide that they want to be closer to friends, family, and home comforts as they get older.
Portuguese income tax rate
up to €7,112