Private personal pensions

To afford the lifestyle you want when you retire, you need to do something about it today

It may be tempting to say, “But retirement is a long way off”, yet it’s never too early to start investing in order to protect your future. To afford the lifestyle you want when you retire, you need to do something about it today. You now have a much greater choice when it comes to how and when to take retirement benefits from pensions since the pension simplification rules were introduced.

UK’s pension tax regime radical overhaul
On April 6, 2006 major changes were introduced to the structure of UK Pension schemes. These changes heralded probably the most radical overhaul of the UK’s Pension tax regime. The new simplified regime was largely a replacement of the past pension framework as opposed to the addition of another layer of legislation.

The most important thing is to plan your retirement funding strategy in advance. Anyone investing in a pension should remember that whilst pensions are extremely tax-efficient, it’s important to regularly review where your money is invested. This becomes more important as you begin to approach retirement when your investment aims may gradually change from growing the value of your pension fund to protecting it.

A private personal or stakeholder pension scheme could be right for you if:
• you want to save money for retirement in addition to your occupational workplace pension
• you’re self-employed, so don’t have access to an occupational workplace pension scheme
• you aren’t working but can afford to pay into a pension
• your employer offers it as an occupational
workplace pension

Personal and stakeholder pensions are ‘defined contribution’ private pensions that you arrange yourself. You contribute money into a pension fund which you use to buy a regular income when you retire. Sometimes employers set up group personal or stakeholder pensions for their employees.

Tax-efficient environment
Personal private pensions grow in a tax-efficient environment. You pay no capital gains tax on any growth and no further UK tax on any income the investments produce, and income from fixed-interest investments and deposits are received gross.

UK investors under age 75 can benefit from up to 50 per cent pension tax relief (2012/13 tax year) and 45 per cent (2013/14 tax year).

The higher your rate of tax, the more tax relief you could receive. Even non earners, including children, and those with an income under £3,600 can benefit, but can only contribute up to £3,600 this tax year.

Basic-rate tax relief of 20 per cent is added automatically. For instance, you contribute £8,000 to your pension and the government adds £2,000, to make a total investment of £10,000.

Higher-rate taxpayers can claim back up to a further 20 per cent through their tax return – another £2,000 in this example. So the cost of a £10,000 contribution is as little as £6,000.

Top-rate taxpayers can claim back up to a further 30 per cent (2012/13 tax year) through their tax return – another £3,000 in this example – so the cost of a £10,000 contribution is as little as £5,000, and 25 per cent (2013/14 tax year).

Annual allowance
The annual allowance (£50,000 in the 2012/13 to 2013/14 tax years) caps the maximum contributions that can be made by anyone (yourself or your employer, for instance) into all your pensions in a tax year. This limit does not apply to consolidating pensions, but includes the value of benefits built up in final salary schemes.
The table shows you the annual allowance for the tax years 2012/13 to 2013/14. Lifetime allowance
The lifetime allowance is the maximum amount of pension benefit you can build up over your life that is available for tax relief. If, when you take your pension benefits, these are worth more than the lifetime allowance there is a tax charge (the lifetime allowance charge) on the excess.

The lifetime allowance charge is a tax charge paid on any excess in the value of your pension benefits over the lifetime allowance limit. The rate depends on how this excess is paid to you. If the amount over the lifetime allowance is paid as:

• lump sum – the rate is 55 per cent
• taxable pension – the rate is 25 per cent

The table shows you the lifetime allowance for the tax years 2012/13 to 2013/14.

Input periods
When you contribute to a private personal pension, your contributions count towards the annual allowance of the tax year in which they are made. For instance, a contribution you make in March 2013 counts towards the 2012/13 tax year. This is not necessarily the case for other pensions. If you have contributed more than £50,000 across the last two tax years, a contribution you make could unknowingly take you over
the annual allowance.

Carry forward
If your total pension contributions for the tax year are more than the annual allowance you may still be able to claim tax relief as you can carry forward any unused allowance from the previous three years to the current tax year. You will only have to pay tax on any amount of pension contributions in excess of the total of the annual allowance for the tax year plus any unused annual allowance you carry forward. These carry forward rules are not being changed. The effect of this is
that for 2014/15 you will be able to carry forward up to
£50,000 unused allowances from each of the tax years
2011/12 through to 2013/14.

When you can receive your pension
The earliest age you can receive a private personal or stakeholder pension is usually 55, depending on your arrangements with the pension provider or pension trust. You don’t have to be retired from work.

The 3 basic steps when arranging your retirement income are:
• decide when you want to retire
• decide how you want to be paid
• shop around for the best deal on a regular payment (buying an ‘annuity’)

Deciding when to retire
Generally, the older you are when you take your pension the higher the payments because your life expectancy is shorter.

Deciding how you want to be paid
When you’re close to retirement you have to decide how you want your pension to be paid. This will depend on the arrangements you have with your pension provider but usually you’ll have the option to take up to 25 per cent of your pension fund money as a tax-free lump sum and the rest as regular payments. These could be monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annually.

If all your pension funds total £18,000 or less, you can usually take the whole amount as a lump sum. You have to be at least 60 to do this. If your private personal pension or stakeholder pension is less than £2,000 you can usually take it as a cash payment, no matter how much you get from other pensions.

In some cases, when you’re under 75 and are expected to live less than a year, you can take your whole fund as a lump sum. You won’t have to pay tax on it unless your pension funds are worth more than the lifetime allowance.


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