Annual Allowance for Pension Contributions: The Tapering rules

Tapering of annual allowance for high incomes

Source – Royal London – pensions technical, 2015.

 

This measure restricts pension tax relief by introducing a tapered reduction in the amount of the annual allowance for individuals with an adjusted income of over £150,000 and a threshold income over £110,000.

Key facts

  • The annual allowance will be reduced for individuals who have ‘adjusted income’ over £150,000 a year.
  • The reduction in the annual allowance is not a flat rate but reduces by £1 for every £2 over £150,000
  • The maximum reduction is £30,000
  • The reduction does not apply to individuals who have ‘threshold income’ of no more than £110,000.

 

Since 6 April 2016, individuals who have taxable income for a tax year of greater than £150,000 will have their annual allowance for that tax year restricted. It will be reduced, so that for every £2 of income they have over £150,000, their annual allowance is reduced by £1. Any resulting reduced annual allowance is rounded down to the nearest whole pound.

The maximum reduction will be £30,000, so anyone with income of £210,000 or more will have an annual allowance of £10,000. High income individuals caught by the restriction may therefore have to reduce the contributions paid by them and/or their employers or suffer an annual allowance charge.

However the tapered reduction doesn’t apply to anyone with ‘threshold income’ of no more than £110,000.

Clearly the definitions of the two incomes are crucial to understanding whether someone is affected by the tapered reduction or not.

Adjusted income v threshold income

Both include all taxable income. So this is not restricted to earnings – investment income of all types and benefits in kind such as medical insurance premiums paid by the employer will also be included.

The difference is pretty simple; adjusted income includes all pension contributions (including any employer contributions) while threshold income excludes pension contributions.

Unfortunately, HMRC’s definitions of adjusted and threshold income tend to cause a bit of confusion because they start with something called ‘net income’. A common sense meaning of this would be ‘income after tax’, but it’s not.

Net income in this context is all taxable income less various deductions. The most important (or at least the most common) of these deductions are member contributions paid to an occupational pension scheme, both money purchase and defined benefit, under the net pay arrangement. This is where the sponsoring employer of the pension scheme deducts employee contributions before deducting tax under PAYE.

The other deductions are things like trade losses, share loss relief and gifts to charities.  A full list of the deductions can be found at s.23 of the Income Tax Act 2007.

However it all becomes a bit easier if we consider taxable income from a more practical view point.

When someone says ‘I earn £x p.a.’, they don’t usually mean that that’s the amount after the deduction of net pay arrangement contributions. We can therefore assume that when someone has earnings of £160,000 and pays contributions of £20,000 under the net pay arrangement, they’ll state their earnings as £160,000, not £140,000. The £160,000 includes the pension contributions.

This is therefore a good place to start for calculating adjusted income (which includes pension contributions). For threshold income, all member pension contributions need to be deducted and you wouldn’t add in employer contributions.

Calculating adjusted income and threshold income

*for a DB scheme, this would be the pension input amount less any employee contributions.

Example

Phil is a company director and sole shareholder of his own company.  His taxable income is £100,000 and he decides to pay an employer contribution of £60,000 (using carry forward to avoid an annual allowance charge).

His adjusted income is therefore £160,000 which would on the face of it trigger a reduction of £5,000 in his annual allowance (half of the £10,000 excess over £150,000).

However his threshold income is only £100,000 and so the tapered reduction does not apply.

Anti-avoidance

To avoid individuals entering into a salary exchange or a flexible remuneration arrangement after 9 July 2015 so they received additional pension contributions but reduce their adjusted or threshold income anti-avoidance rules have been put in place.

The anti-avoidance rules apply if:

  • It is reasonable to assume that the main purpose for the change to the salary exchange or flexible remuneration agreement is to reduce the individual’s adjusted or threshold income (this includes any reductions to nil).
  • The change affects their income in either the current tax year or two or more tax years, including the current tax year.
  • In return for the income being reduced the individual receives an increase in their adjusted or threshold income in a different tax year.

If the anti-avoidance rules apply then the income used to calculate the reduction to the annual allowance for that tax year is the one before any adjustments were made.

Carry forward

It’s still possible to carry forward unused annual allowance from previous years to a year where the taper applies.

However the amount of unused annual allowance available when carrying forward from a year where the taper has applied will be the balance of the tapered amount.

Flexible drawdown

Where an individual flexibly accesses their pension savings they are subject to the money purchase annual allowance.

Individuals who have flexibly accessed their pension savings will continue to have a money purchase annual allowance of £10,000. But where this applies, the alternative annual allowance (normally £30,000), against which their defined benefit savings are tested, will be restricted by the same taper.

This means that those with incomes of £210,000 or more will have an alternative annual allowance of £0 although any available carry forward can be added to this.

Money purchase annual allowance (MPAA)

If someone is subject to the MPAA as well as tapering, the taper reduces the ‘alternative annual allowance’ which applies to any DB benefits they may have.  This is the standard annual allowance less the MPAA of £10,000, so currently the alternative annual allowance is £30,000.

………… (Royal London – July 2015)

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