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Isle Of Man Constructs International Pensions Framework

by Jason Gorringe,, London

17 December 2001

For the last two years the Isle of Man has been putting in place a series of pieces of legislation aimed at creating a favourable environment for tax-effective retirement schemes for individuals and companies.

First, Tynwald established the Isle of Man Insurance & Pensions Authority, and in October 2000 the Island passed the Retirement Benefits Schemes Act 2000 (RBSA 2000), a core piece of Legislation which established a broad pensions framework for all schemes operating in or from the Isle of Man. As a further evolution, and in consideration of the fact that domestic and international markets are entirely different from both a regulatory and a marketing perspective, the Insurance & Pensions Authority decided to develop market-specific legislation subordinate to RBSA 2000 by creating separate "international" and "domestic" regulations under the main Act. This "umbrella" approach (ie. the ability to address home and overseas markets within one overriding Act) is entirely consistent with the new "level playing field" approach to regulation that is being adopted within the Island.

The Authority is now in the process of presenting legislation to the Island's Parliament (Tynwald) which puts in place a framework to enable the creation of authorised international retirement benefits schemes in the Isle of Man. Once introduced the Retirement Benefits Schemes (International Schemes) Regulations will enable the Isle of Man to strategically enter the global pensions market, a market of increasing importance within the international financial services industry. The International Regulations are now embodied within the Retirement Benefits Schemes (International Schemes) Regulations 2001, and will take effect from January 2002 whilst the Domestic Regulations are anticipated later in 2002.

Mike Lightfoot, the Authority's Marketing Executive (Pensions) clarifies that "The Authority has spent a great deal of time developing the framework to ensure its fit with the market, and as part of this process we have consulted extensively with the pensions and financial services industry both within the Island and elsewhere. As a consequence I firmly believe that we are in the right place at the right time with what we have to offer, and this has been reinforced by the response that has already been received from many parts of the world".

He continues "We have focussed very much on our role as prudential regulator and the need for us to ensure that all schemes authorised by the Authority provide suitable protection for members and beneficiaries, in addition to making sure that we have reached the right balance between providing the market with a large degree of flexibility in scheme construction, and establishing our core Regulatory controls.

"Given that we are looking at a global market, the ability for schemes to be tailored to suit multi-jurisdictional requirements is a highly attractive feature of our infrastructure. We have already been involved in discussions with multi-national companies who feel that the Island has a great deal to offer in this area."

The Authority sees the introduction of the international regulations as an opportunity for Manx Companies to capitalise extensively on pensions trustee, and pensions investment and administration business - particularly as the Island is home to highly skilled legal, trust, insurance, corporate and fund administration industries.

The International Regulations prescribe that all schemes established on the Isle of Man in respect of non Island based employees are operated by appropriately approved and registered trustees and administrators, and specify the information that must be provided to members of such schemes. Additionally, they set out rules regarding the management and reporting requirements associated with international retirement benefits schemes.

The overall objective is to provide suitable protection for members and beneficiaries, which the Insurance & Pensions Authority sees as its primary regulatory responsibility. However, having achieved this objective, the Authority has avoided being too prescriptive regarding the way in which schemes are constructed, or the precise format or dates at which benefits can be taken by members. This enables scheme rules to be adapted to take into account bespoke jurisdictional or corporate requirements, which should assist scheme construction for certain global markets.

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