To encourage you to pay into a workplace pension there are a number of tax incentives for contributions and benefits. However, some limits and restrictions apply.

Tax relief on your contributions

If you make your own contributions to your pension, the Government will boost your savings in the form of tax relief. You may not currently be making contributions to the University of Edinburgh Staff Benefits Scheme, but you will be entitled to tax relief if you are making contributions to another pension arrangement.  

There is a limit on how much your pension can grow each year while you receive full tax relief. This is known as the Annual Allowance and is £40,000 for 2017/18.  Any unused Annual Allowance can be carried forward for up to 3 years. A lower limit may apply if you are already taking your benefits from a pension plan/scheme (you will have been notified if this is the case) or your income for the year exceeds £150,000.

For the University of Edinburgh Staff Benefits Scheme the value of your benefits you build up in the year is compared against the Annual Allowance.  If you contribute to any other scheme a different test may apply for that scheme.

If the growth in your pension exceeds the Annual Allowance tax may apply and it will be up to you to declare this on your self-assessment tax return.

Lifetime Allowance Changes from the 2017 to 2018 Tax Year

 If your pension savings are worth more than £1 million you may need to protect your pension savings from the lifetime allowance tax charge. 

What is the lifetime allowance?

The lifetime allowance is the amount of savings you can take from your pension schemes without facing a tax charge.

The lifetime allowance was £1.25 million but reduced to £1 million from 6 April 2016.

From 6 April 2016 if you take more than £1 million from your combined pension savings, you may face a tax charge. 

How much is the lifetime allowance tax charge?

The lifetime allowance tax charge is: 

  • 55% of any amount you take from your pension savings as a lump sum that is over the lifetime allowance and
  • 25% of any amount you take from your pension savings as pension income that is over the lifetime allowance.

Do you know the value of your combined pension funds?

The lifetime allowance applies to the value of your combined UK registered pension schemes and some overseas schemes. Your pension scheme administrator(s) may already send you information that will help you to find out the value of your combined pension savings. If not you should contact your pension scheme administrator(s) for more information.

This information will help you if you need to apply to protect your pension savings from the lifetime allowance tax charge.

Do I need to do anything now?

If you are agreeing salary and pension contribution levels with your employer for next year, increases in contributions to your pension schemes based on higher earnings may mean you exceed the lifetime allowance.

You may need to act to protect yourself from a tax charge even if you are not yet nearing retirement.

If you have existing protection but know that you may lose this you may also need to consider whether to apply for the new protections.

What do i need to do to protect my pension savings? 

Since April 2016 you have been able to apply to HMRC for one of two new protections when the lifetime allowance is reduced. These will be known as fixed protection 2016 and individual protection 2016.

You can apply for these protections by using a new on-line self-service system which can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pension-schemes-protect-your-lifetime-allowance.

Your pension savings may already be protected

The lifetime allowance was introduced in 2006 and was reduced in 2012 and again in 2014.

Each time the lifetime allowance reduced, people who had already planned their pension savings on the basis of the higher lifetime allowance could protect their pension savings by applying to HMRC and should have received a certificate to confirm their protection.

However you may still be subject to the lifetime allowance charge if you lose this protection.

You can still apply for protection from the 2014 reduction in lifetime allowance until 5 April 2017. You can find more information about how to do this along with other information about the existing protections and when these may be lost at https://www.gov.uk/tax-on-your-private-pension. 

Tax and your retirement income

Once you retire, your pension will become your income and Income Tax will be deducted at your normal rate before it is paid to you.

You can also take up to 25% of your Account as a tax-free lump sum once you retire, if your total savings are under the Lifetime Allowance for the year you take your benefit. For the tax year 2017/18 the Lifetime Allowance is £1 million. 

You can get more information about tax allowances for both the Annual and Lifetime Allowance from HMRC.