Can I combine my pensions transatlantically?
September 17, 2008 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Can I get money invested in a UK private pension transferred into my US 401K?

I am a UK citizen living in the US (and plan to stay here, no interest in moving back to the UK). I have a small amount of money in a private pension in the UK, with Norwich Union. I have not made any contributions to it for nearly ten years now. The money is just sitting there, essentially being useless, since its too small an amount to actually retire on. I would love to get at the money and roll it into my 401K. I did call Norwich Union, but they were pretty unhelpful and evasive. They said I could only transfer it to another pension that is on their approved list (no idea where to find that list). I did make it very clear that I live in the US now, and I wanted to get it into a US pension, and they agreed to send me some forms to start the process. The forms arrived today, and are for transferring it to a UK pension. Before I call back and try again, I want to know if this is even possible, if anyone else has done it, or if I should just give up and leave the money sitting there. Hoping some UK expats have tried this and can offer advice.
posted by Joh to Work & Money (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Short answer: No. You currently cannot transfer funds from a UK private pension into a 401K or any type of US retirement plan.

Longer answer: I'm in the same boat as you except sorta reverse in that that I'm from the US and worked in the UK for six years and as of this year have now moved back to the US. Over the course of my years in the UK I personally contributed to a Standard Life private pension and had also opted out of the secondary state pension so the Pension Service dutifully contributed a (to me, surprisingly generous) sum each year as well. Anyway, at the end of last year when I was planning to move back to the States I talked to my UK financial advisor and well guess where the money is going to have to sit until I retire? Yep, in the UK. They will not allow you to transfer it to a 401K or any type of US retirement plan. Apparently it's an international tax issue not covered by our standard UK-US tax treaties. Since there are relatively few people in this situation I have little faith that our two countries are going to sit down and work something like this out to our benefit . . . The situation could potentially change (though I'm not holding my breath) so it's something into which I plan to look every couple years. If you hear of anything changing or get any differing advice I would definitely love to hear it! I'll link to you and keep you posted as well -- you'll just have to make sure you check your MeFi mail every now and then until you retire. :-)
posted by lazywhinerkid at 10:30 AM on September 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks lazywhinerkid! I've added you too, in case either of us hears something. It's so frustrating because I'm going to be collecting a UK pension of about 5p a month with the amount that's sitting in there.
posted by Joh at 11:41 AM on September 18, 2008

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