Find out what the legal retirement age in South Africa is, along with how to approach retirement planning in South Africa.
South Africa is a popular destination for expat retirees due to its favourable climate, affordable living costs and sizeable expat population. According to the latest South African census figures, there are around 2.2 million foreign-born residents living in South Africa, just over 4% of the total population.
This guide will discuss the main aspects of retiring in South Africa, including:
- Who can retire in South Africa
- Pensions in South Africa
- International pensions
- Applicable taxes
- Inheritance implications
- Life for retirees in South Africa
Anyone can retire to South Africa providing they have proof of sufficient earnings and pass the necessary checks. Official retirement age in South Africa is currently 60 but there are no age requirements or restrictions on retiring in South Africa, making it a good destination for those who wish to take early retirement.
There are two retirement visa options available – a retired permit or an independent financial person’s permit. For a retired permit, you will need to show proof of a guaranteed monthly income of R37,000 if you are applying for permanent residence (or R444,000 per annum if applying for temporary residence). For an independent financial person’s permit, the applicant must demonstrate a net worth of R12 million, plus they must make a one-off payment of R120,000.
As of 2014, spouses or long-term (minimum 2 years) partners and minor dependent children can also receive visas without proof of additional funds.
In addition to meeting these financial requirements, applicants who want to retire to South Africa must present a valid passport, medical and radiological reports and a police clearance certificate.
Visa applications can be made in the applicant’s home country or while in South Africa, although there are complications with applying for a retirement visa if you are in South Africa on a standard 90 day visa.
For information on applying for residence permits in South Africa, see here. If you are planning on applying for a South African retirement visa in your home country, you should contact the South African High Commission within your country. Information on how to apply from the UK is available here.
There is no universal state South African pension. Instead, there is a means-tested Grant for Older Persons funded through taxation that can be made to any citizen or permanent resident aged 60 or above who meets the requirements. This is paid by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).
Those retiring to South Africa are unlikely to be eligible for the SASSA grant as the earnings threshold is well below the amount needed to gain a retired person’s permit. The only other pensions available are occupational and private pensions.
More information on South African pensions is available in our article here.
South Africa doesn’t have a reciprocal social security agreement with any country other than the Netherlands, although as the South African pension isn’t contribution-based, this isn’t too much of an issue.
It is possible to live in South Africa on an overseas or international pension that has been transferred. This is the route that most expats choose to take. With private pensions, it is possible to use schemes such as the Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) in the UK, through which you can transfer private funds to a recognised South African provider without incurring charges (7). Read more about QROPS schemes here.
The South African government doesn’t impose any tax on overseas pension schemes, although you will need to check how your payments from state pensions overseas might be affected. For example, you may be entitled to only a flat rate pension that doesn’t rise annually in line with inflation rates back home.
It is possible to retire to South Africa and claim a UK state pension if you are entitled to one. More information available here.
South Africa operates on a residency-based taxation system, meaning that residents (whether permanent or temporary) pay tax on their worldwide incomes. Residents are those with citizenship or residence permits, but you are also considered a resident for tax purposes if you have been living in South Africa for more than 91 days in total in each of the last five tax years and at least 915 days in total across those five years.
Recent changes to South African tax laws mean that all home-owners in the country must now be tax registered (11). Income tax is set at progressive rates starting at 18% for income below R188,000 per annum to 41% for income about R701,300 per annum. Capital gains tax rates are fairly low, currently set at 40% of any net gain exceeding R40,000.
However, there is no tax on overseas pensions in South Africa. Those retiring to South Africa who are receiving a South African pension, you will be liable to pay tax on annual earnings above R114,800 and at least 18% tax on lump sum payments above R500,000.
South Africa has tax treaties with Australia, Japan, UK, US, Thailand and Sweden. These treaties have been set up to help ensure that individuals moving from one country to another don’t get ‘double taxed’ on income derived from their home country. More information on tax issues for those moving to South Africa from the UK available here.
Healthcare in South Africa consists of both a public and private system. The public healthcare available is used by approximately 80% of the population but is underfunded. Those with money to do so will usually choose to go private. It is advisable to look into health insurance options before retiring to South Africa. There are a variety of South African medical aid schemes available that offer everything from full medical cover to small hospital plans.
You can compare international health insurance plans using a website such as International Insurance. Comparison of some of the South African medical aid schemes, both good and bad, is available here.
The public system uses a Uniform Patient Fee Schedule (UPFS) which charges patients either full or partial costs, or offers a fully subsidised option, depending on ability to pay. The Department of Health in South Africa is responsible for public healthcare and oversees more than 400 public hospitals in the country.
Illnesses that you will need vaccinating against in South Africa are cholera, hepatitis, rabies and typhoid. You will need to ensure that these vaccinations are up-to-date before retiring to South Africa.
Inheritance tax is known as Estate Duty in South Africa. It is payable on all estates with a net worth in excess of R3.5 million, at a rate of 20% of the value above this amount. Those that retire to South Africa will be liable to pay Estate Duty on property wherever it is situated in the event of their death, although properties located outside of South Africa are exempt if they were acquired prior to residency or if they were inherited from or donated by someone who is not a South African resident.
Property located within South Africa is subject to the same Estate Duty whether it is owned by a South African national or a foreigner. The South African government has agreements to avoid double death duties with the UK, the US, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Sweden.
South Africa continues to be a popular retirement destination for global retirees that can afford to relocate, largely due to warm climates, picturesque landscapes and affordable living costs. Having said that, there are continuing concerns over crime rates, income inequality, unemployment and pollution that affect the overall life quality and well-being scores for the country.
The most popular destinations for those retiring to South Africa are the bigger cities Cape Town and Johannesburg, both of which have sizeable expat retiree populations. These cities are particularly popular for retirees from the UK. Other slightly cheaper options that have sizeable expat retirement communities are the Garden District along the south-east coast, Durban, Knysna, Krugersdorp and Sedgefield. There are a number of retirement villages in South Africa, including retirement villages in Cape Town. A list of retirement villages can be found here.
The good climates means there is a range of outdoor sports and recreational activities that more active retirees can partake in at relatively low costs. Those that want a more relaxing lifestyle upon retiring to South Africa can enjoy the array of beaches, national parks and vineyards.
South Africa scores high in terms of quality of life, despite the concerns mentioned, while having low cost of living and property price/income ratio scores, which makes it an appealing choice for those looking for a good mix of attractiveness and affordability. Property prices are around $100,000 to $200,000 in the cities. However, although those retiring to South Africa from Europe or the US may benefit from reduced living costs, there are concerns over the rising cost of living in the country.
- Advice and support on getting a retirement visa and settling in South Africa
- Legal advice on pension funds
- South African pensioners’ association
- Details on retirement places and villages
- South African expat community website
- South African government website
- South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) website
- information on taxation
Click to the top of our guide to retiring in South Africa.