MONEY CLINIC | I'm an expat and did not complete financial emigration. What now?

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South Africans can only access and withdraw their retirement funds once they have ceased to be a tax resident.
South Africans can only access and withdraw their retirement funds once they have ceased to be a tax resident.

An expat who did not complete financial emigration due to Covid-19, wants to know how to go about accessing her retirement annuity given the change in South African tax laws. She writes: 

I am a 52-year-old widow and I emigrated to Australia two years ago to be with my children and grandchildren.

I had intended to complete financial emigration last year, but my plans were disrupted by the pandemic and I have since learned that South African tax laws have changed and it is no longer possible for me to complete formal emigration. What must I do now to access my retirement annuity? Can I still access my money?

Ryno Viljoen, Chief Executive Officer of FinGlobal responds: 

With tax law amendments, South Africans can only access and withdraw their retirement funds once they have ceased to be a tax resident and maintained non-resident status for three consecutive years or longer, on or after the effective date.

What this means is that you will have to complete the process of tax emigration with the South African Revenue Service to have your status changed from resident to non-resident for tax purposes, and then maintain this non-resident status for three years from the date at which you ceased being a South African tax resident. 

Once this time has passed, you will be able to withdraw your retirement annuity in full and once you’ve paid SARS their cut, you will be able to transfer your funds to Australia. 

Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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