High Earners – Time is Running out to Maximise Pension Funding and Guarantee your Tax Relief.

It has already been announced that high earners will see their annual allowance for tax relieved pension contributions reduced from £40,000 to as low as £10,000, commencing next tax year 2016-17.

But the impending budget on March 16, 2016 may well contain an announcement concerning the outcome of the pension tax relief review which could limit the level of tax relief which is allowed. If it does, then higher rate and additional rate taxpayers are most likely to be affected.

Whilst it is possible that no material changes will occur, it is also possible that substantial changes to the pension tax relief system may be enacted with immediate effect on March 16th. For those in a position to do so therefore, it would be prudent for higher rate and additional rate taxpayers in particular to consider maximising pension contributions between now and March 16, to obtain tax relief at the taxpayers highest marginal rate whilst it is still available.

Take advantage of carry forward to utilise contribution allowance available from 2012-13.

One must use all of this year’s remaining annual allowance, then you can look back up to three years and use earlier unused allowance. The tax relief obtained is applied in the current tax year. The example below shows how this might stack up:

PIP start PIP end Annual Allowance actual Pension input Available Notes
10-07-15 05-04-16 nil £16,500.00 £23,500.00 Special rules. Balance of 2015-16 capped at £40k. This will be available for c/fwd.
01-04-15 09-07-15 £80,000 £5,500.00 nil Up to £40k additional was available from 1-4-2015 to 9-7-2015 (only) (no c/fwd applies)
01-04-14 31-03-15 £40,000 £22,000.00 £18,000.00
01-04-13 31-03-14 £50,000 £20,000.00 £30,000.00
01-04-12 31-03-13 £50,000 £12,500.00 £37,500.00
£109,000.00 Total Allowance remaining in 2015-16
£61,000.00 Gross payment required to use all of 2012-13 allowance

In the example above, The maximum contribution which would still attract tax relief is £109,000. The lesser payment of £61,000, which comprises the remainder of the current tax year plus all of the remainder of 2012 – 13, may be attractive as it utilises that tax year’s remaining allowance before it disappears.

If you have sufficient earnings to obtain 40% or 45% tax relief on a large lump sum payment now, and have the means to do it, then you should consider this very closely.

It can even be sensible for certain individuals to pay more than they can comfortably afford at the moment, in effect paying next year’s contributions now in order to obtain the certainty of tax relief, particularly in view of the “squeezed” annual contributions allowance which applies next tax year for higher earners.

What is the new reduced annual allowance and who is affected?

I covered this in an earlier blog – see https://www.dfmadvice.co.uk/november-2015-autumn-budget-statement/ , but to summarise:

Test one: If your “adjusted income” exceeds £150,000 in a tax year, then your annual pensions contribution allowance will be reduced by £1 for every £2 of excess ” income”, until your allowance reaches £10,000. “Adjusted income” is essentially your income from all sources plus employer pension contributions.

Test two: If your “threshold income” (your income from all sources but excluding employer pension contributions) does not exceed £110,000 for the tax year then test one does not apply to you and there should be no reduction of annual pensions contribution allowance.

Therefore the ability for higher earners to make large pension contributions and obtain tax relief at their highest marginal rate is going to be severely reduced starting next tax year.

So what happens when pension contributions in excess of the annual allowance are made? The contributions can still go into your pension plan, but employee contributions will not receive tax relief on the excess, and employer contributions will be taxed on the excess.

Conclusion

Whilst the above is admittedly quite tricky to follow, what it adds up to is that higher earners should be considering making extra pension contributions between now and March 16th, to make sure of obtaining tax relief at their highest marginal rate, 45% or 40%.

 

Disclaimer: the foregoing does not constitute financial advice . We do not hold a crystal ball and do not know what the outcome of the budget review will be. And as ever we cannot state whether any particular course of action is best for one individual over another. The information offered in this blog is intended purely to inform and where necessary act as a call to action, namely to review your situation and consider whether the taking of certain steps is to your advantage. It is essential therefore that if you intend making any major pension contributions in the coming days and weeks that you seek independent financial advice.

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