Budget and Pension

Posted by siteadmin on Friday 4th of March 2016. Comments

With the Budget just weeks away Royal London has published its own analysis of the options for reform of pension tax relief. A few of their suggested options open to the Chancellor are given below. If you would like to discuss this or any other topic in detail please contact us.

Option 1: more tinkering

The first - and probably worst - option is yet more tinkering. The Chancellor can always find a few hundred million pounds by changing some limit in the tax relief system. But we believe that the system desperately needs simplicity and stability, not more tinkering and added complexity.

Option 2: pension ISAs

The second option is the idea floated in the July 2015 Budget of making saving for a pension more like saving for an ISA. Under this approach, you would no longer get up-front tax relief on contributions into a pension. Instead, contributions would be made out of after-tax income. But all growth in the pension fund and later withdrawals would then be tax-free.

Whilst we can see the attraction to the Chancellor of this approach, we have grave misgivings. Abolishing up-front tax relief on pensions would be hugely disruptive and it is not clear how employers in particular would respond. If the new system made them query the value of providing workplace pensions (beyond the legal minimum for automatic enrolment) then this could fatally undermine pension saving.

Running pension ISAs alongside the huge 'legacy' of existing pension accounts would also be hugely expensive. Each individual would have one or more 'not-yet-taxed' pension pot from the past and would need a separate 'already taxed' pension pot for the future. The cost and complexity of this does not bear thinking about.

A pensions ISA would move tax revenue from the next generation (when today's workers retire) to the present generation (when today's workers are saving). This is attractive to the current Chancellor but reduces the funds available in a generation when the cost of an ageing society will be more acute.

We view this as a form of 'theft' from the next generation.

Option 3: up-front relief

The final option is a flat-rate of up-front relief. We have no problem in principle with a generous rate of up-front relief (eg 33%) giving more help to lower earners whilst still making pension saving attractive for higher earners (who can still benefit from a tax-free lump sum).

But a much lower rate of relief, such as the 25% that has been mooted would seriously damage pension saving. The Chancellor should not be balancing his books by stealing money from those who are being prudent in saving for their old age.

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