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Pension Lifetime Allowance Now Abolished?

At Retirement Planning / Pensions

Spring budget April 2023 changes

In April 2024, the government will be scrapping the Lifetime Allowance (LTA), and any withdrawals over the LTA from 6 April 2023 will not be charged, essentially making the LTA rate 0%.

This will allow for the existing rules to be changed, and the new updates will be added into a Finance Bill. This will get rid of the limit on lifetime savings, providing more options for funding even if the LTA has already been fully taken advantage of.

However, a cap on the tax-free cash of 25% of the savings with a maximum of £268,275 (25% of the current LTA) will be implemented.

Though the LTA charge will render many forms of LTA protection superfluous, they may still be applicable when calculating tax-free cash.

If specific stipulations are met, individuals with a tax-free cash entitlement higher than £268,275 due to their LTA protection can maintain that privilege.

They will also be allowed to resume pension funding on April 6th, 2023, without forfeiting the protection they currently have. Those with scheme-specific tax-free cash greater than 25% or with single lump sum rights will also be able to keep their entitlement.

Pension Lifetime Allowance, Why and how it worked

In 2006, the government introduced a lifetime allowance on pensions, which affected the amount of retirement savings you could accumulate. If your pension fund exceeds the lifetime limits, you will pay a tax charge.

The lifetime allowance (LTA) has changed over the years. This post covers the concept of the allowance. It includes its history, how it works, and its implications for savers.

History of the Lifetime Allowances

The lifetime allowance was first introduced in the UK in April 2006, when the Pension Simplification Act announced changes to pensions. At the time, the limit was set at £1.5 million.

The allowance’s purpose was to simplify registered pension schemes’ tax rules and limit the tax breaks given to savers. It also gave savers an idea of how much they could save for retirement.

Over the years, the allowance has changed several times. 2010, the government reduced the lifetime allowance to £1.25 million in 2014.

The Conservative government then changed the allowance for the 2016 tax year, reducing it to £1 million.

This was then increased in line with inflation. However, the government has frozen the allowance at £1.073m until 2026. This might be reviewed due to pressure from groups wanting reforms to the allowance.

Past year’s Lifetime allowances

2015/16 £1,250,000
2016/17 £1,000,000
2017/18 £1,000,000
2018/19 £1,030,000
2019/20 £1,055,000
2020/21 £1,073,100

What is pension protection?

Changes to the LTA have had an impact on some savers. Successive governments introduced lifetime allowance protection schemes. They are in place to safeguard those affected by the changes. Initially, primary and enhanced protection was introduced.

These give savers their own Standard Lifetime allowance. The amount will depend on the value of their pension pots, the date the new rules took effect, and the protection they applied for. Retirement Savers need to apply to HMRC to get this protection.

If you don’t, you might incur extra tax charges.

If you think you are likely to exceed this limit, seek advice.

You can apply for protection if your funds exceed £1 million on April 6, 2016. There are two formats: Individual Protection 2016 and Fixed Protection 2016. The rules regarding the two types of protection will vary.

It is essential to seek advice before applying for fixed protection. There may be other implications to consider. It could also put a restriction on future pension contributions.

What happens if you go over the allowance?

When your retirement savings exceed the LTA, they are subject to a tax charge.

The lifetime allowance charge will be levied on the excess over your lifetime allowance. This tax charge can be as high as 55% for lump sum payments or 25% for income payments. This is on top of the regular income tax rates that apply.

The allowance applies to all types of pension savings. It includes final salary, defined contribution schemes, and personal pensions. The lifetime allowance consists of the value of all retirement savings and benefits from all previous employments will be considered.

The Impact on Pension Savers

The LTA has significant implications for savers. This is especially true if they have amassed substantial retirement savings.

The reduction of the LTA in recent years has meant that many people are now at risk of breaching it.

Breaching the lifetime allowance can be costly. People who exceed the limit will face significant tax charges. This can erode the value of their retirement income.

If you are close to breaching the lifetime allowance, you may need to use alternative savings. Investments such as ISAs, VCTs, or Enterprise investment schemes should be considered.

The lifetime allowance reduction has also discouraged individuals from saving for retirement. The idea of additional tax is not appealing. Many employees have left existing pension schemes or retired early.

This could result in lower annual pension levels for future generations and a more significant burden on the state pension system.

Is it worth going over the LTA?

It depends on your circumstances and financial goals.

Going over the LTA may be worth it if you have substantial pension savings. If you are willing to pay the additional tax charge, it’s an option. The higher retirement income might be appealing, but there are better alternatives.

It’s important to note that the LTA is a complex area. The tax treatment of pension savings can depend on a range of factors.

This includes your age, income, and retirement plans. It’s always a good idea to seek professional financial advice, as making the wrong choice could impact your pension income.

How to avoid pension Tax Charges?

There are several ways to avoid or minimize the impact of the lifetime allowance:

  • If you have reached the lifetime allowance or are likely to do so, consider using other investments.
  • Starting to save Early. Starting earlier can give your investments more time to grow. The effect can reduce the impact of the lifetime allowance.
  • If you are in a defined contribution pension scheme, reduce the level of risk. Taking a lower level of risk will likely reduce the annual return.
  • Consider taking pension benefits earlier than planned, such as a tax-free lump sum. This might not be the best option for everyone and should be carefully considered.

Possible reform to Pensions

There have been calls for the government to reform the lifetime allowance. The aim is to make it fairer and more accessible for savers.

This would ensure that the lifetime allowance does not act as a deterrent for savers.

One idea is to introduce a tapered lifetime allowance, gradually reducing the limit for higher earners. A sliding scale could be used for ultra-high earners.

Help with the Lifetime Allowance

The rules and regulations regarding lifetime allowances can be complex and confusing. Decisions about applying for protection need to be carefully considered. A professionally qualified financial adviser should provide any advice.

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