Why many UK pension holders may end up paying more tax than necessary and how to find out if you are one of them.
What is the Lifetime Allowance?
The Lifetime Allowance (LTA) is a limit on the amount of pension benefit that can be drawn from UK pension schemes without triggering an extra tax charge. It concerns both lump sums and retirement income. All UK pensions are included with the exception of a UK State Pension & QNUPS.
In the recent UK Budget Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the Lifetime Allowance will be frozen at its current level of £1,073,100 until April 2026.
Many people are going to break this threshold and lots of them are unaware of it. You could be one of them. Read on to see if the Lifetime Allowance will affect you and how you can take action to avoid paying more tax than is absolutely necessary.
Common dangerous assumptions about the Lifetime Allowance
There are two common assumptions about the LTA which catch people unawares and land them with a tax bill bigger than necessary.
1. My pension pot is not big enough to worry about the Lifetime Allowance
You may think that a pension of £1,073,100 sounds like a huge amount and that you will never acquire that amount before you retire but you might be surprised at how what might seem like a modest pension now could exceed the LTA by the time you come to draw any benefits. Have you checked the value of your pension recently? If not, that’s something you should do right away. If you have already taken benefits, assess how much of your LTA you have used. If you have more than one pension, make sure you check against each of them.
Secondly, your defined benefit (DB) pension, if you have one, might have a value much higher than you think. DB pensions are valued at twenty times the annual pension received when applied to the LTA limit. That means that if your annual pension is £55,000, its value is £1,100,000.
If you transfer pension savings from a defined benefit scheme to a defined contribution scheme, the transfer value can be up to forty times your annual pension and this could easily take you over the LTA limit.
2. I’m not earning enough to worry about the Lifetime Allowance
It is easy to underestimate the growth in both your pension fund and your salary. If you already have a pension pot of a few hundred thousand pounds, you will continue to contribute at a rate of 5% for, say, another two decades with matching contributions from your employer and you receive regular pay rises, it’s easier than you think to breach the LTA threshold. Take a look at this example:
Let’s take the example of Jenny, aged 46, who has a pension fund of £450,000 and a salary of £70,000. She saves 8% of her salary into her pension, which rises by 3% each year. She also receives employer contributions of 8%. Based on these figures, Jenny’s pension fund would reach £1,124,168 by the time she retires at 65. With the LTA at its current level, she would end up exceeding the allowance by retirement.
How to reduce the impact of the Lifetime Allowance
For some people, they can protect their lifetime allowance by applying the protections available to them from HMRC. The current standard lifetime allowance is £1,073,100 but you can apply for individual protection if your pension was over £1 million at 5th April 2016. It is worthwhile checking.
Other things you can do to reduce the impact of the LTA is to use alternative savings vehicles. The good news for expats is that there are plenty to choose from. This is not a decision to take lightly as you need to select your investments within the context of a global financial plan and be aware of all the potential implications. For this reason I highly recommend that you take advice from a qualified financial adviser with experience in cross-border tax planning.
Of course, another alternative is to possibly take early retirement. If you are financially stable and can afford to do it, you could retire and stop contributing into a pension fund. Again, take advice to ensure that you eliminate any risk of running out of money.
I have a wealth of experience in providing tax-reducing solutions for expats affected by the Lifetime Allowance and many other issues that affect UK nationals living around the world. If you’re looking for financial advice I can help you understand all your options available to you before you make any life-changing decisions. Why not contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for an informal chat and see what I could do to reduce your tax bill and guarantee a secure retirement?
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