Fuel for thought for Brits in Spain

LAST UPDATED: 3 Dec, 2011 @ 08:41
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Fuel for thought for Brits in Spain

By James Bryce

THE number of expats claiming the winter fuel allowance has soared by 50 per cent in just five years, leading to calls to scrap it abroad

The tax-free payment was claimed by 33,495 pensioners living in Spain last winter, making up a sizeable chunk of the 73,000 claimants in mainland Europe.

The payments to those overseas – available to anyone born before 1951 – came at a cost of 18 million euros to the UK coffers.

The 52 per cent increase represents a nine million euro hike from the 47,920 who claimed the payment in 2006-07.

It has led to calls for the allowance to be scrapped for those living in the traditionally warmer climes of the Mediterranean.

Emma Boon, a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “This is a shocking increase and is yet more evidence that we need to reform the welfare system.

“Money needs to go to those who really need it, not to well-off expats living on the Costa del Sol.

“The Government should scrap schemes like this because it doesn’t make sense to take people’s money in tax, then give it back in benefits that they might not want or need.”

Charity Age Concern however insisted that many local pensioners were in dire need of such payments.

A new wing in Madrid ACASA, run by case worker Angela Keay, is already helping to repatriate one pensioner back to the UK a month.

“A lot of people cannot even afford the flight home,” she said. “People don’t realise how much some elderly UK pensioners are suffering over here.”

The amount received, which varies depending on personal circumstances, can be as much as 350 euros each.

18 COMMENTS

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  1. Every single year the grandly named Taxpayers Alliance hauls this old chestnut out and dusts it off ready for another round of shameless self promotion.

    The fact is that only people who received the allowance before they left the UK can continue to claim it as an expat. However it should be noted that there are many other benefits which would be available to pensioners if they lived in the UK, but which are not transferable when they leave the country. There are plenty of pensioners living in Spain who survive solely on their UK State Pension, who, if they returned to Britain would be able to receive those extra benefits, thereby costing the country many more millions than the Winter Fuel Allowance.

    Let us not forget that pensioners have worked all their lives to receive the meagre benefits which they currently have and if the fuel allowance were to be means tested, (which actually might make more sense) then there would be far more people in the UK who stopped receiving it than expats. Perhaps the authorities should concentrate on stopping benefit fraud, both at home and abroad before cutting those legitimate payments.

    I am not a pensioner and do not receive the Winter Fuel Allowance by the way so I have no axe to grind on that score.

  2. Dear Taxpayers Alliance
    Not all ex pats living in Spain are wealthy, far from it, in fact a lot live in Spain because until quite recently the cost of living actually allowed them to survive on their state pension something they could not afford to do in the UK without claiming top up benefits like housing allowance, council tax benefit and pension credit. As for being hot all year round please feel free to come and spend a couple of nights in my casa in the winter, it’s in rural Andalusia, has no central heating, we can’t afford to run the electric heaters (can’t use gas because of my wife’s asthma) too long as the cost of electricity has shot up despite all the hills being covered with wind turbines. Yes we may get some warmth from the afternoon sun but believe me it gets just as cold at night if not colder than the UK. Just because you have had a couple of cold winters don’t come after us, we have no representation despite my repeated requests to the Prime Minister to give ex pats an MP as the French do. If you want a target go after the work shy little toe rags who live their lives on benefits, pay no taxes and go around killing old age pensioners still unfortunate enough to live in the UK. My wife and I worked all our lives paid our taxes and National Insurance contributions as most ex pats did, so take your petty little attitude and shove off.

    Yours not very sincerely and I’m getting angry now Peter

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with the above posts. The Winter Fuel Allowance is an entitlement, not a beggar´s handout. As Ralph Cornish says, for those of us who paid into the system, now is the time to get a little bit of it back.

  4. @reap. There is no such thing as a UK “family allowance”. Whichever benefit or allowance you mean, are you suggesting that they are doing so illegally? If so, do you have any evidence to support your assertion, and what does this have to do with the Winter Fuel Allowance?

  5. Many expats with young children claim family allowance illegally when living in other countries. That is a fact. There are people in Spain who are not of retirement age claiming benefits for bad backs etc but who are fully fit. There are people in the UK like that as well.

    I do not think the fuel allowance should be paid to overseas pensioners. Pensions yes, but the fuel allowance is not for taxes paid.

    I do not think a lot of the other benefits we give to many people should be paid. The UK is soft.

  6. @reap. I will ask the question again but I will reword it slightly. Is there any evidence, any at all, that supports your assertion that people are claiming benefits illegally?

    Which pot of money do you think is used to pay the Winter Fuel Allowance and who paid into it?

  7. @reap Please explain why ex pat pensioners who have worked for over 40 years paid full NI contributions and taxes should not get the winter fuel allowance as supposed to a pensioner living in the Scilly Isles where the average temp in January and February is 6 degrees Celsius. Remember you don’t get this allowance unless you were receiving it before leaving the UK. Of course all of us millionaire ex pats could all return to the UK and start claiming, council tax benefit, housing allowance, pension credit and then shuffle off into a care home at a cost of over 2,00 pounds a month. The vast majority of ex pats worked hard and planned hard for their retirement and remember we are still in the European Union where our benefits should be equal to those in our native country.

  8. hear hear peter .well said. why should pensioners be penilised (yes i have spelt this wrong but in retrospect in this case i think what the u.k. government is doing it is appropriate wording) for moving from one side of europe to another.

  9. I feel I must join in this discussion. The logical conclusion of not paying the WFA to Brits who reside abroad is not to pay the State Pension either, which would clearly be nonsense.
    As has been pointed out, both are entitlements, as opposed to means-tested benefits. Also, I fail to see why you have to have been in receipt of the WFA prior to leaving the UK in order to continue receiving it.
    I can endorse the comments about the weather – the other morning at 8.00 am it was -4C outside our house near Ronda and I had to scrape ice off the windscreen. It’s been below zero for over a week. It’s normal for the winter to be cold at 700-800 metres above sea level.
    As for the cost of heating don’t even get me started on that! Instead read http://www.a1-solutions-spain.com/content/en/paul-whitelocks-andalucia-blog/601-cost-of-keeping-warm.html

  10. I fully agree with the comments made by Paul Whitelock and find it interesting that the one dissenter hides behind a nom de plume.
    Before attacking ex pats who have paid into the UK system the government would be better advised to look at the number of people who are not UK passport holders and do not come from countries with reciprocal agreements but are claiming benefits, free education, and healthcare.
    I am not an ex pat. I still live and work in the UK and receive the winter fuel allowance.

  11. Just a point of clarification. Ex-pats cannot claim the WFA; they have to already be in receipt of it when they emigrate and it is paid automatically by HMRC. I get just £200. With heating costs as high as they are in Spain, that’s a tiny amount. I just paid 900 euros for heating oil and 180 euros for logs which will not even last me through the winter.

  12. I don’t come on this site too often, mostly since you lot keep posting about this DJ in Malaga.

    First of all, do I have evidence re family allowance. I have lived in Spain and people there openly admitted to me that they still claimed the UK family allowance. Others tell me their relative is on invalidity benefits and have a few months out there in the summer and so on and work on their holiday homes. I have seen them with my own eyes, too young to retire…Other than seeing their bank statements I think many of the brits abroad know of people that work the system just as they work the system in the UK. I don’t need evidence anyway, there is a task force and you can also read about all of this in news papers. Surprised you don’t know of this, you must be one of the few.
    Just a few ‘bullet points’ here and off subject as well, don’t care. As for the Winter fuel allowance, sorry I am not falling in line but with the country being left with a debt of over £1trn lots of things are going and sending money abroad for heating is one that should go. My parents are comfortable and they receive the fuel allowance as well, that should go if you are wealthy. I am not really interested in deserving etc. I started saving for my retirement when I was 18 and still save hard now. I know of people that squander all of their money, no house, no pension, no savings and then they expect people like me to support them when they have just drunk their lives away. I don’t think N.I. payments or tax paid to a heating fund for the retirees. Also, giving benefits that enable people to turn baby making in to a profession is wrong. If you have paid to the system then you deserve a good pension of course, but all these add ons to the benefits are costing too much. I know 95% of people here won’t agree with me as you want all you can get, and more, but it is just my opinion and sorry if this makes your bood boil in sunny Spain. I may well live in Spain again one day if I don’t find it too boring but I don’t think the UK should be sending me heating money if I do. BTW, I would not have given the long term unemployed a 5% pay rise in the UK as well. Reduce the foreign aid bill as well, £12 billion a year – Madness.

  13. You’re on a bit of a rant, aren’t you, reap (come on, what’s your real name? Why hide behind a nom de plume?)

    It’s quite clear there are Brit scroungers out here in Spain as well as in the UK. Why else would the govt set up a whistle-blowers hotline? But over-60s who LEGITIMATELY receive a heating allowance do not come into that category.
    If they take the heating allowance away from everybody, or means test it, that’s fine by me, but discriminating against British citizens who live abroad is not acceptable.

    Your assertion that 95% of people living out here won’t agree with you cos we want all we can get is inaccurate and downright offensive!

    I for one only want my entitlement. If that entitlement changes, so be it. But it needs to be done fairly. We’re all EU citizens after all.

  14. Hear hear Paul, I don’t know about you but I get the distinct impression that there is a bit of a witch hunt going on with pensioners in general, like you all I want is what I paid for and what I am entitled to. Nothing more nothing less.

  15. Now just sit down while I tell you all a story.

    This bloke walks into a bar. Nobody really knows him, except to say “hello”, and nobody really knows what this bloke does for a living. All they know is that he says he´s from the UK. And, judging by his accent, he´s telling the truth. So, what do you think happens next?

    Well, one by one those customers start telling this bloke (I´ll call him “reap” for want of a better name)how they are breaking the law by claiming UK benefits illegally. Just like that. No names, no pack drill. And, do you know what? This “reap” bloke goes around repeating the stories he has just heard as if he believed those customers were of a sound mind.

    Nice story, innit?

    Now, I have lived in Andalucía for 4 years now. The funny thing is that I have never met anybody who told me how they were breaking the law by claiming UK benefits illegally. Not one. Mind you, if somebody did start telling me, I´d finish my drink and move on to the next bar because clearly they would be out of their tiny minds.

    Of course, I read of people who claim this has happened to them. I just know know if I should believe them or not.
    What do you lot think?

    Oh, and by the way, I apologise if you can´t see a link between what I have just told you and the Winter Fuel Allowance. Don´t go looking because there is none.

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