Tax, Allowances and State Pension

When you are deciding how you want to take your pension account, it is important to consider the tax you would pay on the different options, and also the benefits you will receive from the State.

How does tax on pension savings work?

When you are building up savings…

You won’t usually have to pay tax as you save into a pension unless the amount you save into, or build up, over the tax year exceeds the Annual Allowance.

This means that saving into a pension arrangement is usually tax efficient, as you receive tax relief at your highest marginal rate of income tax.

For example, if you are a basic rate tax payer, for every £100 you save into a pension, this only costs you £80.

When you retire

When you retire – that is – you access your pension savings – the value of your pension savings will be tested against the Lifetime Allowance.

If your pension savings are greater than the Lifetime Allowance then you will need to pay an additional tax charge; your pension savings will be reduced to meet this charge.

In most cases, you can usually take up to 25% of your pension savings within the Lifetime Allowance as a tax-free cash lump sum.

Alternatively, if you are moving into a drawdown fund or taking more than one cash lump sum, then you may be able to spread your tax-free cash by taking 25% of each future payment tax-free.

When you’re drawing a retirement income

Once you have taken any tax-free cash at retirement, and paid any additional tax charges if you exceed the Lifetime Allowance, the remainder of your retirement income will be taxed at your marginal rate of income tax as you receive it.

This works in a similar way to the tax you currently pay on your employment income, except you won’t have to pay any National Insurance Contributions.

If you are spreading your tax-free cash by taking 25% of each payment tax-free, then any amount above this on each payment will be taxed at your marginal rate of income tax.

What are the Allowances?

The three Allowances which apply to pension savings are the Annual Allowance, the Lifetime Allowance and the Money Purchase Annual Allowance.

Annual Allowance

The Annual Allowance (AA) is the maximum value of pension savings you can build up over a tax year without incurring a tax charge. The standard AA for 2019/20 is £40,000 but this can reduce to as low as £10,000 for individuals whose total income (including pension savings) over the tax year is more than £150,000.

Lifetime Allowance

The Lifetime Allowance (LTA) is the maximum value of pension savings you can build up over your lifetime (in all arrangements) without incurring an additional tax charge. The LTA for 2019/20 is £1,055,000, and will increase in future years in line with the Consumer Prices Index. You may have a higher LTA if you applied for a form of LTA protection when the LTA reduced in previous years. It is your responsibility to let the administrators of your pension arrangements know if this applies to you.

If you have a final salary (defined benefits) pension, the value of your pension is calculated as 20 times the starting level of your annual pension, plus any tax-free cash. If you have a defined contribution (money purchase) account, this is just the value you use from your account.

Each time you start to use your pension savings, you will be told how much of your LTA you have used. It is up to you to tell each pension arrangement that you are taking savings from how much of your LTA you have used. If you don’t have enough LTA left to cover the value of the pension savings you are using you’ll need to pay additional tax.

If you expect to exceed the LTA and you have pension savings in both a final salary and a defined contribution pension, you should consider the order in which you access your pension savings as this can impact on the LTA value and how much additional tax you have to pay.

The Illustrator tool does not take in to account the Lifetime Allowance or any tax impacts as a result of exceeding it. If you think you may be affected by the Lifetime Allowance, please discuss this with a Financial Adviser. You can read more about the Lifetime Allowance on the Money and Pensions Service website.

Money Purchase Annual Allowance

The Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA) applies once you have accessed your pension savings ‘flexibly’ and taken a taxable income. This includes taking taxable income from a drawdown account, as well as the taxable part of a cash lump sum, known as an Uncrystallised Funds Pension Lump Sum or UFPLS. It doesn’t apply if you buy an annuity or if you take a small pot lump sum (see below).

Once the MPAA is triggered, this restricts the amount of pension savings you (and your employer) can make into a money purchase (defined contribution) pension arrangement each tax year without incurring a tax charge. The MPAA for 2019/20 is £4,000.

You will need to make sure that you tell any other defined contribution pension arrangements that you are continuing to save into that you are subject to the MPAA so that they can assess your contributions against this lower level.

To assist you with this notification, your pension provider should send you a ‘flexible-access statement’ within 31 days of you first taking a taxable withdrawal. You will then need to let your other pension providers know within 13 weeks of receiving your ‘flexible-access statement’, otherwise you may be subject to a fine.

Therefore, if you are planning to continue working and/or saving into a pension arrangement after taking any of your pension savings, you should take the MPAA into account when deciding which option to take.

What is a small pot lump sum and how is it taxed?

If your Scheme pension savings are less than £10,000 you may be able to take this as a small pot lump sum. This means that you can take your entire Scheme pension savings as cash. Up to 25% of the lump sum would be tax-free, with tax paid on the remainder. Taking a cash lump sum in this way would not trigger the Money Purchase Annual Allowance; you would need to let the Scheme administrators know that you are taking a ‘small pot’ lump sum rather than an Uncrystallised Funds Pension Lump Sum (UFPLS).

If you have pension savings in more than one scheme, and your total savings are worth less than £30,000, you may also be able to take all of your pension savings as a one-off lump sum. Please contact the Scheme’s administrators if you believe this could be the case for you.

So how much tax will I actually pay on my retirement income?

You will pay tax on your retirement income at your marginal tax rate, which will depend on the amount of income you receive from all sources.

If you are currently employed and receiving a salary, taking your pension could potentially mean that you move up to a higher tax band.

In addition, if you decide to take all of your pension savings as a cash lump sum in one go, this could mean that you end up paying more tax, as you may move up to a higher tax band.

What tax will my dependants pay on my death?

The amount of tax your dependants pay depends on how you take your pension savings and how old you are when you pass away.

If you die… Annuity Drawdown Cash
If you die…Before age 75 AnnuityIf you have bought a joint annuity, which includes a regular income for your dependant following your death, they will receive their income tax-free for the rest of their life. DrawdownYour dependants can receive a tax-free lump sum, or receive a tax-free income – as long as the payments start within two years of your death. CashAny cash remaining from pension savings you have taken from your pension account as a cash lump sum will form part of your estate for inheritance purposes.
If you die…Age 75 or over AnnuityIf you have bought a joint annuity, which includes a regular income for your dependant following your death, they will receive their income for the rest of their life and will be taxed at their marginal rate of income tax. DrawdownYour dependants will pay tax at their marginal rate of income tax, whether the account is paid as a lump sum or a regular income. CashAny cash remaining from pension savings you have taken from your pension account as a cash lump sum will form part of your estate for inheritance purposes.

Note that additional tax charges may apply if you die before age 75 and you do not have sufficient unused Lifetime Allowance (LTA) to cover any pension savings you have not yet accessed.

State Pension benefits

State Pension Age (SPA)

When you reach your State Pension Age, you may also be entitled to receive a pension from the State called your State Pension.

Your State Pension Age will depend on your gender and your date of birth. You can find out your State Pension Age (SPA) here.

State Pension

For individuals who reach State Pension Age, the full amount of State Pension is set by the Government.

However, this amount will be lower if you haven’t paid full National Insurance contributions (or received full National Insurance credits) for 35 years.

This could be due to periods when you were not working and not claiming benefits, had low earnings, were ‘contracted-out’ of a pension plan, or were living abroad.

The amount payable to you will reduce proportionately depending on how many years’ full contributions you have made. You may be able to make voluntary National Contributions to fill any gaps in your contribution record.

Currently The full new State Pension is £168.60 per week. You can find out the State Pension you will be entitled to receive here.

Tax on your State Pension

Income from your State Pension will be taxed at your marginal rate of income tax, in the same way as other retirement income.

How your State Pension increases in retirement

The new State Pension increases each year in line with the highest of the increase in average earnings, the increase in prices as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, and 2.5%.

Delaying your State Pension

You can’t take your State Pension earlier than your State Pension Age, but you can delay it. If you are due to reach your State Pension Age on or after 6 April 2016, your State Pension will increase by just under 5.8% for each year you defer.

You can find out more about delaying your State Pension on the Government’s State Pension website.

Other State benefits

You may also be entitled to other State benefits in retirement. Please visit the Money Advice Service website to find out more.