BREXIT: German Pension Refunds?
Update: January 2023
Can I Get a Pension Refund After Brexit?
A Guide for UK Nationals and Expats Residing in the UK
You may love it or hate it, but Brexit actually happened: The UK withdrew its 47-year membership leaving the EU and EEA on December 31st, 2020 which marked the last day of a one-year transition period during which a new agreement was negotiated to find a solution on how to exit best for all parties involved.
After Brexit, starting from January 1st, 2021, the UK and Northern Ireland are considered non-EU and non-EEA territory. From a social security agreement point of view, the former EU member is now considered a contracting state. And that comes with a lot of changes for UK and Non-UK nationals residing in the UK.
If you are a UK national or a non-UK national residing in the UK, you must have been most excited to finally get an answer to your question:
Can I finally get a refund of my contributions after Brexit?
We have heard this question hundreds of times in the past months. As the new agreement was not ready before the last day of 2020, we were not able to provide answers then – nobody was.
But the waiting is over, and here you will find everything you need to know about your pension refund eligibility, old and new agreements, and how they affect you if you are a UK national and you worked in Germany before or after BREXIT or if you are a Non-UK national of a contracting or a non-contracting state residing in the UK these days:
1. Regulation Before BREXIT
Social security agreements between the EU member states before Brexit were defined in REGULATION (EC) No 883/2004 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 29 April 2004.
In short, this regulation guarantees equal treatment for every member state national within the member state territory. For social security matters, to avoid cumulations, double charges, and general confusion, the legislation of the country of residence was to apply to every member state national residing there. In other words, a UK national residing in Germany before Brexit was to be treated like a German in terms of social security rights and obligations.
What does that mean for my German pension contributions?
Every national of an EU member state residing in Germany has to be treated equal to a German national, specifically in terms of social security matters.
2. The Brexit Agreement
On exit day, the TRADE AND COOPERATION AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE EUROPEAN ATOMIC ENERGY COMMUNITY, OF THE ONE PART, AND THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND, OF THE OTHER PART (we will further refer to as “BREXIT agreement”) was signed. Amongst other topics the regulation covers social security matters between the UK and other EU member states after Brexit. Most importantly, the agreement states that social security agreements that have been entered before Brexit are upheld after Brexit for those who were affected before Brexit. From now on, the UK and Northern Ireland are considered a contracting state
3. How Does the New Agreement Affect My Refund Eligibility?
a) UK National: Contributions Before BREXIT
When you started working in Germany, REGULATION (EC) No 883/2004 required you to be treated equal to a local German national and the German legislation was applicable. According to the German Social Code, an insured person (= anyone who paid contributions the pension scheme) can get a refund of contributions before reaching the legal age of retirement if a) the insured person is not subject to mandatory contributions nor b) given the right to pay voluntary contributions.
Unfortunately, the “right to pay voluntarily” is not affected by whether or not you actually make use of that option. The option is enough not to qualify for a refund.
Why do you have the right to pay voluntarily, if you do not even want to?
As mentioned above, REGULATION (EC) No 883/2004 demands you to be given the same rights as a German national. So, from the first contribution month on you qualify for paying voluntary contributions, once you are no longer subject to mandatory contributions after you leave Germany or become self-employed.
The Dec. 2020 BREXIT agreement guarantees that social security relations that were entered before BREXIT are upheld.
In other words, you cannot get a refund of your contributions paid in Germany before you reach the legal age of retirement.
Instead of getting a refund you could pay voluntary contributions to the Germany pension system, if that seems a good option.
UK NATIONALS: BREXIT does not make you eligible for a refund if you worked in Germany before 2021.
We were all hoping for a different Brexit outcome regarding refund eligibility. But that is what the governments have decided.
b) UK National: Contributions After BREXIT
Technically, if you are a UK national that started to work in Germany after Brexit (from the 1st of January 2021 on) you are not covered by the 2004 regulation. You are considered a national of a contracting state and here Brexit does affect the new relationship. Unless you reach the minimum contribution time to qualify for German retirement payments (60 months) you could get a refund of your contributions 24 months after your last contribution paid in Germany, if at that time you reside outside the EU/EEA/CH – like e.g., back in the UK.
UK NATIONALS: If you started working in Germany after BREXIT, you are eligible for a refund*
*24 months after your last contribution in Germany, if you reside outside the EU/EEA, and if you have contributed for less than 60 months
c) Contracting State National (Non-UK) Residing in the UK
If you are a non-UK contracting state national and you worked in Germany before or after Brexit, you should have become eligible for a refund of your contributions paid while you were in Germany. Unfortunately, the Deutsche Rentenversicherung is still waiting for further agreements before they allow your refund. Your refund eligibility might also be affected by a maximum of 59 months contributed to the pension scheme. Feel free to contact us for further details.
Contracting State National Residing in the UK: Brexit has not made you eligible for a refund yet
d) Non-Contracting State National Residing in the UK
If you are a national of a non-contracting state currently residing in the UK, and you paid your last contribution in Germany 24 months or longer, you should be eligible for a refund of your contributions, no matter how long you have paid contributions, because you are considered to be residing outside of the EU/EEA/CH and you are not given the right to pay voluntary contributions. Yet, the Deutsche Rentenversicherung asks everybody to wait indefinitely until further specific agreements are in place. For now, they simply reject every request.
Non-Contracting State National Residing in the UK: Brexit has not made you eligible for a refund yet