Protect Your Pension Fund

Newsletter issue - July 08.

The taxation of pensions changed on A Day: 6 April 2006. From that date a cap (the so-called lifetime allowance) was set on the value of a pension fund that can be used to pay out tax favoured pensions, including a tax free lump sum of up to 25% of the fund. On A-day the lifetime allowance was £1.5 million, but it increases every year and is currently £1.65 million.

If your pension fund exceeds the lifetime allowance when you start to draw your pension the excess funds above the cap are taxed at up to 55%. The cap of £1.65 million sounds a lot, but if you have been in an occupational pension scheme for 20 plus years, especially one that has been well funded by your company, your personal pension pot could exceed that limit.

If your pension pot did exceed £1.5 million on A-Day you can register the total value of the fund with the Taxman. That higher registered value becomes your personal lifetime allowance, which increases each year until you retire. The higher personal lifetime allowance protects your pension fund from the 55% tax charge. But you need to get the registration process completed by 5 April 2009 for this protection to apply, so if you haven't already done so, its time to start sorting it out.

You first need to get a valuation of all your pension funds from your various pension companies as the lifetime allowance applies to the sum total of the combined values. As you can imagine it can take months to collect all the necessary information, as some pension companies are very slow to respond. The pension industry estimates that up to 500,000 people could be eligible to apply for pension protection.

As a rule of thumb if you have been a member of an occupational pension scheme for 20 years or so and your highest salary multiplied by the years you've been in the scheme is more than £3 million, then your pension fund could be at risk of higher tax charges. However, the figures for you will depend on how the pension from your scheme is calculated. If you have the annual statements from your pension company we can help you get a rough estimate of the value of your pension fund, before going to the trouble of asking for a formal valuation of the fund.