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.