Michael O’Sullivan v Canada Life Assurance (Ireland) Ltd

On 1 April 2014, Mr Justice Ryan delivered judgment in a case concerning the refusal by Canada Life to facilitate an overseas transfer of PRSA assets to a Maltese pension arrangement. That decision was challenged by Mr O’Sullivan, leading to Mr Justice Ryan’s decision in the High Court earlier this month. The decision represents an important precedent in the context of the overseas transfer of pension assets.

The case concerned the Occupational Pension Schemes and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (Overseas Transfer Payments) Regulations 2003 and certain related Revenue circulars. The Revenue circulars were issued in 2009 and 2012 to impose stricter conditions on overseas pension transfers. Specifically, the 2012 circular introduced a requirement whereby a member of a pension scheme or PRSA wishing to make an overseas transfer must sign a declaration to the effect that the transfer is for ‘bona fide reasons and is not primarily for the purpose of circumventing pension tax legislation and Revenue rules’.

Before the court, Revenue argued that it is incumbent upon PRSA providers to endeavour to ensure that the signed declaration is what it appears to be and that a declaration could not be accepted where it did not make sense due to some other circumstances of which the provider was aware or some additional information that the provider had on file…

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