Pensions Back on the Government’s Agenda Again!
By Spectrum IFA
This article is published on: 4th March 2016
The date that is etched in everyone’s mind at the moment is 23rd June, when the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU takes place.
However, if you still have pension benefits in the UK to claim, there is another date that you should be focused on – 16th March – the date of the UK Budget.
Last summer, the government launched a consultation on pension tax relief and this is what the Chancellor said ……….
“With increased longevity and the changing nature of pension provision, the government needs to make sure that the system incentivises more people to take responsibility for their pension saving so that they are able to meet their aspirations in retirement.”
Incentivising people to save for retirement? Well that’s not new. The current system of the tax-free Pension Commencement Lump Sum (PCLS) and tax-relief on pension contributions is already a good incentive, even though the latter has been capped and steadily reduced since 2006. So what more does the government think should be done?
The chancellor goes on to say ……..
“That is why the government is today publishing a consultation on pensions tax relief. If people are to take responsibility for their retirement, it is important that the support on offer from the government is simple and transparent, and that complexity does not undermine the incentive for individuals to save.”
Now “simple” and “transparent” are not words that appear in my dictionary on the UK pension system. On the other hand, “complexity” does, particularly as concerns the new State pension system coming into effect in April, something that I will cover in another article.
The most radical idea that the chancellor floated was the introduction of the Pension ISA, where all pension contributions would be paid on post-taxed income, but thereafter, no tax would be payable – either on the investments in the pension fund or on the pensions in payment. Definitely attractive to a cash-strapped chancellor who wants to at least ‘balance the books’ during the remainder of this government’s term of office, but hugely short-sighted for future generations, when demographic pressure on public spending and the need for tax revenues is likely to be more severe.
The system would also be hugely complex as, in effect, two separate pension pots would have to be kept – the old system ‘post-tax pot’ and the new system ‘pre-tax pot’. Maybe the government would introduce some transitional arrangements to convert ‘post-tax pots’ into ‘pre-tax pots’ and if so, for sure there will be some losers. Costs for administering the new arrangements would increase and for the dwindling number of remaining defined benefit pension schemes, this could lead to these ending up in the ‘pensions graveyard’ – who will pay the levies to the Pension Protection Fund then?
An alternative idea proposed is for pension contributions to be paid out of post-taxed income and for a flat-rate of tax relief to be paid by the government into the pension pot or into the defined benefit scheme. If the tax-relief is limited to the basic rate of 25%, higher tax rate payers will lose out – some incentive!
The government’s current thinking on this to incentivise people is – ‘if you pay into your pension, the government will top it up’. This is spin, the tax-relief at source already exists for occupational pension schemes and a delay in getting the government’s so-called ‘top up’ into the pension scheme would be detrimental for the pension member.
The effect on the employer of defined benefit pension schemes should also not be underestimated, where the employer is legally obliged to ensure that the pension assets can meet the liabilities. Any delay on getting the tax-relief due into the defined benefit scheme is in effect, an interest-free loan to the government. My pensions career started more than 40 years ago and I remember well how long we had to wait for National Insurance rebates to be paid by the government into occupational pension schemes. Another nail in the coffin, on route to the pensions graveyard?
I save the ‘best’ to last – the abolition of the tax-free PCLS. Of course, I am being cynical because there is nothing good that could come out of taxing the beloved PCLS and definitely not the best way of incentivising people to save more for retirement. Receiving a tax-free cash sum has been at the heart of the UK pension system for decades. To take this away now, when people have saved for years and planned for retirement on the basis that they would receive this tax-free PCLS is quite simply wrong.
Of course, the government could just tinker with the existing system more by reducing the maximum amount that people can pay into tax-relieved pension funds and perhaps also by no longer allowing employers tax-relief on National Insurance contributions. The latter would hurt employers, particularly with the abolition of contracting-out of the State Second Pension from April, which anyway results in increased National Insurance Contributions (another nail in the coffin?).
The first organised UK pension scheme can be traced back to the 1670s, when the Royal Navy put in place provision for its officers. Other public sector pensions followed over the centuries, but it was in the 1950s and 1960s that corporate pensions became a prominent part of the remuneration package. In the good old days of easily understandable pension schemes, we were encouraged to pay Additional Voluntary Contributions – after all you got tax-relief and so were incentivised to save more for retirement. When I started work, the maximum amount that we could contribute was simply limited to 15% of earnings – regardless of whether you were a basic rate or higher rate taxpayer.
Do you trust future politicians not to change the UK pension rules again?
If you would like to have a confidential discussion about your pension or any other aspect of your personal financial situation, you can either contact us by telephone on 04 68 31 14 10 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, drop-by our Friday morning clinic at our office at 2 Place du Général Leclerc, 11300 Limoux, for an initial discussion.
The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter.
UK Pension Tax Changes 6th April 2016 (lifetime allowance)
By Chris Burke
This article is published on: 3rd March 2016
Anyone who has a private or company pension in the UK could be affected by the changes being brought in on the 6th April this year. This may be anyone with private pension(s) whose combined value is around £1,000,000, or a company pension scheme which would give an income in retirement of approximately £40,000 per annum.
In essence, the changes affect the tax you would pay on this money. Up until now, any pensions combined under £1,250,000 in real value would not be subject to any further taxes than those of normal income or inheritance tax. However, any pension with a value higher than this would be subject to additional taxes. This allowance is called a ‘Lifetime Allowance’ (LTA). The tax on pensions over this value can be up to 55%.
As from April this year, this Lifetime Allowance Value is being reduced to £1,000,000. Therefore, any pensions combined worth more than this would now be liable to these potentially additional taxes.
If you have a Corporate, Company, Final Salary or Defined Benefits Scheme this will also be tested against the new Lifetime Allowance. These Schemes are based on your final salary when leaving your employer as opposed to contributions and investment growth, and the amount usually has to be multiplied by a factor of 20 in order to calculate the capital equivalent value. These Schemes also usually pay a tax-free lump sum, and this also has to be included in the LTA calculation. Therefore, depending on the pension(s) this new limit may affect you.
What are the key factors involved in the Lifetime Allowance testing?
Retirement after age 55: Once a lump sum/income is taken from a Pension, these are tested against the LTA.
At age 75: Any Pensions that have not been accessed will be tested against the LTA at this time. Pensions in drawdown will also be tested again at this time.
Death pre-age 75: Pensions will be tested against the LTA to ensure that the limit has not been exceeded.
Transfer to a QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme – when you transfer your pension outside of the UK): If a UK Pension Scheme’s funds are transferred into a QROPS, the value of the transferred funds are tested against the LTA.
Of course, the main point here for many people is death before age 75. If this happens, as is stands your pension will be subject to this potential tax from £1,000,000 and above.
What are the tax charges?
If the Lifetime Allowance is exceeded, then the tax charges will depend on how the excess is paid from the Scheme.
If as a lump sum (normally the case in inheritance): subject to a 55% tax charge.
If as a Pension Income: subject to a 25% tax charge.
Transfer to a QROPS: subject to a 25% tax charge on the excess above the LTA.
Is there any protection against Lifetime Allowance charges available?
The UK Government has confirmed that from April 2016, the following two protection regimes will be available, allowing individuals a fixed or individual LTA dependent on the value of their Pensions and/or the type of protection:
Fixed protection 2016: This ‘fixes’ the LTA at the current £1.25m. In order for this to apply, no further Pension benefits can be accrued in a Scheme on or after 6 April 2016.
Individual protection 2016: The LTA will be set at the value of the Pension on 6 April 2016, when the new £1m LTA is introduced, so long as it is valued between £1m and £1.25m. This protection does allow further contributions, but any Pension in excess of the protected LTA will be taxed on the usual way when tested.
What about a transfer to a QROPS/Overseas pension scheme?
This currently enables an individual to safeguard their Pension Fund against this tax charge and allows the fund to carry on growing. As detailed above, the fund is tested against the individual’s Lifetime Allowance at the point of transfer, rather than at the point of each pension being tested as per above scenarios, i.e. death before pension accessed etc.
Perhaps the most important information to know regarding this, is that not so long ago the Lifetime Allowance for pensions was £1,800,000 in the UK. It is consistently reducing, which is worrying considering every twenty four years historically inflation doubles, and yet the Pension Lifetime Allowance is dramatically being reduced instead of increased, such as the tax bandings for income tax have been after years of lobbying by the general public. This could lead us to one main conclusion, the UK governments’ need to collect more and more taxes. Therefore, as the years pass by it could be this differential continues to grow and grow, in real terms meaning individuals will pay more and more tax.
The key points to consider with this are:
Having your pension(s) in the UK will enable them to be liable to the UK rules and the government’s ability to change them, including the uncertainty of what these changes may be in the future.
The Lifetime Allowance is consistently decreasing, meaning taxes are consistently increasing.
Understanding of these changes and how it might affect you could save you or your loved ones considerable money in potential taxes.
If you have no plans to retire in the UK and have pensions there, it could be worth having these evaluated to see whether it would be beneficial for you to transfer them securely outside of the UK.
Talking your personal circumstances through will put your mind at rest, or enlighten you on what your options are and how you can best plan for this eventuality.
If you would like to ask any questions regarding this subject, or speak to Christopher, a UK pensions expert who wrote this article, feel free to contact him on the details below.
The UK referendum on the EU – Lose your vote or use it!
By David Hattersley
This article is published on: 20th January 2016
In the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men, to do nothing.”
For the sake of equality I will add women as well! But, perhaps this is the greatest test of democracy that my generation has faced, and some of us, either through neglect or lack of knowledge, do not realise what we can do, as expat individuals. To simplify matters, detailed below are the facts. It is up to each individual to take the required action. I am including links to the relevant websites so you can get the full details if you require.
From the Electoral Commission’s website, it clearly states that British citizens living abroad for more than 15 years are not eligible to register to vote in UK elections.
On the aboutmyvote.co.uk website it states that registered overseas voters will be able to vote in the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. The date of the referendum has not been announced yet but it is scheduled to happen before the end of 2017.”
If you visit https://www.gov.uk/voting-when-abroad, this site gives clear guidelines on how to register your vote as an overseas voter under British Citizens moving abroad, provided that this is done within 15 years of leaving the UK.
Alternatively, one can register on the following site. It only takes 5 minutes, but you will need your old address including post code, passport number and National Insurance number.
Renewing you registration will then need an Annual Declaration. This is based on the Electoral Commission document dated March 2010 and can be viewed as below. The specific section is;
“2.21 Consequently, entries may be made or registration renewed after the end of the 15-year period where the applicant meets the application deadline as set out above. Accepted applications last for a full 12 months in all cases unless: they have been cancelled by the elector; the elector is added as an ordinary Parliamentary elector or in pursuance of a declaration other than as an overseas elector; or it is found that the elector should never have been registered through the above procedures (i.e. as a result of an objection or review).”
For those that are less fortunate than myself and many others, an alternative for those that do not qualify can register their protest on the following website;
This is not only about us as individuals, but about the freedom of choice for our children and grandchildren.
Do not waste your voice !
Queen Elizabeth II becomes longest reigning British monarch
By Spectrum IFA
This article is published on: 9th September 2015
Congratulations to HRH Queen Elizabeth II who, today on September 9th 2015, becomes the longest serving monarch in British history, beating the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. The exact time that she will set this new record is not known because her father King George VI passed away in his sleep in the early hours of February 6th, 1952.
Our 89 year old queen, who has been our monarch for an amazing 63 years and 7 months, will spend the day on official duties in Scotland and has reportedly said “she doesn’t want a fuss”. There will be a salute along the River Thames with a flotilla of historical vessels taking part in a procession between Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. Business at The House of Commons will also be postponed by 30mins so that MP’s, lead by Prime Minister David Cameron, can pay tribute.
Congratulations Your Majesty on 23,226 days of reign!