New pension opportunities, but you may need to act fast!

In the 2023 Spring Budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt took many by surprise with his chosen policy changes, particularly in regard to pension allowances. Not only was the Annual Allowance increased from £40,000 to £60,000 and the more restrictive Tapered Annual Allowance increased from £4,000 to £10,000, but it was also announced that the Lifetime Allowance would be abolished.   

Consequently, and taking into account a looming election and possible change of government, now could be an opportune time to consider whether you are aiming to maximise your pension contributions prior to the end of the current tax year to take advantage of these tax benefits. 

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What is the Annual Allowance?

The annual allowance is the maximum amount of pension savings an individual can make each tax year without an annual allowance allowance charge applying.

As noted above, from the start of the current tax year, the annual allowance was increased to £60,000, and you can receive tax relief on your personal contributions up to 100% of your relevant UK earnings (including salary, bonuses, commission). 

However, high earners could be subjected to a tapered annual allowance, which gradually reduces their annual allowance to a minimum of £10,000 for those with taxable income over £260,000.

Personal pension contributions are eligible for tax relief at an individual’s marginal rate of income tax. This means that a basic rate taxpayer will receive a 20% uplift on the money they contribute to their pension. A higher or additional rate taxpayer can then also claim an additional 20% or 25% via their self-assessment tax form, resulting in an overall potential tax saving of 40% or 45%! 

Employer or Company contributions are also paid gross and can receive corporation tax relief as a business expense.

What is ‘Carry Forward’ and does it apply to me?

Unlike with an ISA, whereby if you do not contribute the full ISA allowance of £20,000 by the 5th of April in a given tax year then this unused allowance is lost forever, this rule does not apply to pensions. The Government introduced the carry forward rules in April 2011, allowing individuals to utilise any unused pension annual allowance from the previous three tax years. 

Those with a tapered annual allowance can also still use carry forward if they have any unused annual allowances remaining in previous three tax years.

In order to carry forward any unused annual allowance from these tax years, you must:

  • Be a member of a UK-registered pension scheme and had a qualifying pension (this does not include the state pension) since the 2020/21 tax year.
  • Have used up your entire annual allowance in the current tax year.
  • Have remaining unused annual allowance in previous tax years. 
  • Have sufficient relevant UK earnings in the current tax year for a personal contribution.

Lifetime Allowance & Transitional Protections  

Due to the tax advantages of making pension contributions, the Government previously placed a limit on the amount of pension benefits an individual could accumulate over their lifetime, without incurring a tax charge. This tax charge is known as the Lifetime Allowance (LTA) charge and applied to individuals with pensions valued over £1,073,100. 

However, with the UK Government announcing that the LTA charge would be removed from 6 April 2023 and then the LTA abolished from 6 April 2024, this means there is an opportunity for those who are near to or who have exceeded the £1,073,100 threshold to consider recommencing pension contributions. 

Historically, the Government has provided individuals with the opportunity to apply to protect their LTA before any changes in legislation. Certain types of transitional protection were introduced with the stipulation that you could no longer make any further pension contributions, but this restriction was then also lifted for those with existing protection before 15 March 2023.

Therefore, this has presented another potential opportunity, as those previously unable to make any contributions due to the risk of losing their protection, may have a significant level of unused annual allowance from previous tax years.

Use it or lose it

With wage growth reaching 7.3% for the period between August to October 2023 (according to the ONS), the tax band freeze means people are technically paying more income tax than ever before. Therefore, it would be prudent to look for ways to maximise the tax-efficient legalisation currently on offer. 

Aside from the fact that any unused annual allowance from the 2020/21 tax year will be lost after 5th April 2024, there is no predicting if or when changes will be made again to this legislation. It seems as if the UK population collectively hold their breath at the sign of any Budgets which have seen a vast array of changes to pension rules over the years. 

Whilst the most recent changes were positive for pension savers, it is important to consider the implications of the impending election in the next 6-12 months; if there is a change in government then this policy change could be reversed. With that and all the above in mind, it is worth exploring your options and taking appropriate action concerning your carry forward allowance; use it before you lose it! 

Pensions can be a complicated and daunting matter to navigate, from obtaining the relevant information from your pension providers to a thorough understanding of ever-changing UK legislation. Therefore, please do reach out to a financial adviser if you would like help making the best use of your savings and pension allowances. 

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This article is intended for general information only, it does not constitute individual advice and should not be used to inform financial decisions.

A pension is a long-term investment. The value of an investment and the income from it could go down as well as up.  The return at the end of the investment period is not guaranteed and you may get back less than you originally invested.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) does not regulate tax advice.