If you ever had the feeling that you have spent half your working life just paying tax, you are not far wrong. What with income tax, national insurance/social security, capital gains tax, VAT, council tax, excise duties and so on, a considerable amount of our income goes straight to the taxman each year.
Even if you are retired, you are still faced with tax on savings, investments and pensions, not to mention VAT. Having paid so many taxes all your life, you will not want to pay more than necessary – that’s why tax planning plays such an important part in protecting your wealth. If you thought you paid too much tax in 2021, now is the time to take action to improve your situation in 2022.
Defining the tax burden of typical workers in the EU
For the past 11 years, the Institut Economique Molinari has measured taxes payable across EU member states. Its 2021 edition has been given a global expansion to include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the USA.
The report focuses on employees and the tax and social security they pay, illustrating the general tax burden of each country and how they compare to each other. It calculates a “tax liberation day” for each member state – the date on which an employee has earned enough to pay off all taxes for the year. It also identifies the average “real tax rate” for typical workers in each country (gross salary minus all tax liabilities).
How did Portugal fare?
The study reveals that Portugal’s tax freedom day landed on June 11 this year, the same as 2020 and 13 days later than in 2011 when tax rises were introduced. It now has the 13th latest day in Europe.
This means that for 162 days of 2021, every cent earned by the average Portuguese employee was taken by the government in tax. The average gross salary in Portugal is €23,249, but after the real tax rate of 44.36%, workers are only left with just €12,935 to spend on themselves.
That said, the prospect of living in Portugal can be a very positive one from a tax perspective if you have taken the time to seek personalised, expert advice.
In Europe, Cyprus has the earliest day with April 14, while France and Austria have the latest day, both on July 19.
What about the UK?
According to the study, the UK’s tax freedom day again comes third for Europe this year, landing on May 11, with a real tax rate of 35.78%.
However, many think tanks undertake their own research to calculate their country’s tax freedom day, using different methodologies. While the Institut Economique Molinari looks at income tax, social security contributions and VAT, the UK’s Adam Smith Institute (ASI) measures the entire tax take, including indirect taxes.
The ASI’s approach places the UK’s 2021 tax freedom day almost three weeks later, on May 31 – latest date for UK since comparable records began in 1995.
And from April 2022, national insurance contributions will increase by 1.25% and dividends will suffer higher taxes too.
What does this mean for taxpayers?
The Institut’s overall outlook is that ageing populations are putting pressure on pension and healthcare spending for governments throughout the EU. This may not bode well for future tax cuts; as the population ages and fewer people are actively employed, taxpayers are required to plug the gap. However, there may be a silver lining to be found.
Although less than half of the EU’s 448 million citizens are currently in the labour force, the report states that “a great recovery has begun, jobs are becoming available, and new advances in teleworking make employment possible for a greater number than ever before”. It concludes that “by lowering the taxes levied on employees and employers”, workers will be able to spend more of their hard-earned wages, quickening the journey toward prosperous economic growth.
As we all do our part in rebuilding the damage caused by the Covid pandemic, we can expect some ‘taxing’ times ahead of us. However, most European countries have seen a rise in average salary figures, indicating we are headed in the right direction.
Of course, the research is just indicative of the average taxpayer in each country – higher earners will generally have a later tax freedom day.
In many cases, there are steps you can take to lighten your tax burden, especially on your capital investments and pensions. Cross-border taxation is complex; do not risk getting it wrong or paying more than you legitimately have to. Take personalised, specialist advice on the compliant tax mitigation opportunities available in Portugal – you may be surprised at how you can improve your tax situation.
All advice received from Blevins Franks is personalised and provided in writing. This article, however, should not be construed as providing any personalised taxation or investment advice.
By Adrian Hook
Adrian Hook is a Partner of Blevins Franks in Portugal and has been providing holistic financial planning advice to UK nationals in the Algarve since 2008. He holds the Diploma for Financial Advisers (DipFA) and is a member of the London Institute of Banking and Finance (LIBF).