HMRC’s Annual Allowance Limit (‘AA Limit’) is a limit to the total amount that your pension savings can grow in a defined benefit pension scheme each year, for tax relief purposes.
If you do not reach your AA Limit in a particular tax year, the unused allowance can be carried forward to later tax years.
If you exceed your AA Limit in a particular tax year, and have no unused annual allowance to carry forward from the previous three tax years, you will be subject to an Annual Allowance Tax Charge (‘AA Tax Charge’).
You can pay the AA Tax Charge from your own personal finances. However, pension schemes must provide a scheme pays facility, known as a Mandatory Scheme Pays (‘MSP’) arrangement, where qualifying conditions are met.
If you do not meet the conditions for MSP to apply, you may be able to apply to use a Voluntary Scheme Pays (‘VSP’) arrangement instead.
A scheme pays facility works by having the pension fund pay the AA Tax Charge initially. The tax charge is repaid by the member once their pension comes into payment, by way of a reduction in their pension benefits.
For more information on the operation of MSP and VSP, and the eligibility criteria, please refer to the following guidance and election form.
- HMRC’s Annual Allowance Limit (‘AA Limit’) is a limit to the total amount that a member’s pension savings can grow in a defined benefit pension scheme each year, for tax relief purposes. The AA Limit is currently set at £40,000.
- If the AA Limit is not reached in a particular tax year, the unused allowance can be carried forward to subsequent tax years.
- Individuals whose annual growth in pension savings exceeds the AA Limit, and who have no unused annual allowance to carry forward from the previous three tax years, will be subject to an Annual Allowance Tax Charge (‘AA Tax Charge’).
Mandatory Scheme Pays
- A member will be eligible to make an MSP election where all of the following qualifying conditions are met:
- The AA Limit has been exceeded in the pension scheme in which the MSP election is made; and
- An AA Tax Charge exceeding £2,000 has been triggered; and
- The member is within the relevant time limit to make an MSP election.
- HFRS will pay the AA Tax Charge to HMRC on behalf of the member; and
- The AA Tax Charge will be repaid by way of a debit which is added to the member’s pension once it comes into payment.
Voluntary Scheme Pays
- Where a member does not meet the conditions for MSP to apply, or they do not make their election in time, then a member may apply to pay the AA Tax Charge under a Voluntary Scheme Pays (‘VSP’) arrangement.
- Scheme members with income in excess of £150,000 per annum are subject to a Tapered Annual Allowance (‘Tapered AA’) which reduces from £40,000 to £10,000 incrementally for those earning between £150,000 and £210,000. Members who are subject to a Tapered AA will incur an AA Tax Charge where their pension growth exceeds their Tapered AA. These members cannot use MSP to pay the AA Tax Charge.
- Members of the 1992 Scheme and 2006 Scheme who have transferred into the 2015 Scheme on or after 1 April 2015 (‘Transitional Members’) will effectively be members of two pension schemes, and will see pension savings growth in both schemes until retirement.
- By virtue of accruing their pension growth across two pension schemes, rather than one, there is an increased likelihood that although the member’s total annual pension growth across both schemes may exceed the AA Limit, the pension growth in any one of the schemes may fall short of the AA Limit. As such, they will not be eligible to use MSP to pay the AA Tax Charge.
Operating Voluntary Scheme Pays
- A member will be eligible to make a VSP election, where all of the following qualifying conditions are met:
- The AA Limit across one or more of The Firefighters’ Schemes has been exceeded, and the qualifying conditions for MSP have not been met; and
- One or more AA Tax Charges, individually or collectively exceeding £2,000, have been triggered; and
- The member is within the relevant time limit for making a VSP election.
- o HFRS will pay the AA Tax Charge(s) to HMRC on behalf of the member; and
- The AA Tax Charge(s) will be repaid by way of a debit which is added to the member’s pension once it comes into payment.
Annual allowance: tax charge: scheme pays: member notice requirements
The Registered Pension Schemes (Notice of Joint Liability for the Annual Allowance Charge) Regulations 2011 - SI 2011/1793
The member must elect to require the scheme administrator of their pension scheme if they want the scheme to pay an amount of their annual allowance charge liability in return for an appropriate reduction in their pension savings or accrued benefits. This notice must be in writing and must be signed and dated. If the notice is submitted electronically then the member must confirm that they have personally submitted the notice.
Once a member has given their scheme administrator a notice and this has been received by the scheme this cannot be revoked or withdrawn but it can be amended at a later date if the amount of the member’s annual allowance charge changes. (See PTM056440).
PTM056430 has details about the deadlines for giving a notice.
The information required on the notice
The notice given by the member must contain the following information: the member’s:
- full name
- address (including postcode, if applicable)
- national insurance number (or, if they do not have one, the reasons why they do not qualify for a national insurance number).
Also the member must state:
- the tax year to which the annual allowance charge liability relates
- the amount of their annual allowance charge liability that the member wants the scheme to pay on their behalf for that year, and
- confirmation that the amount of the liability they want the scheme to pay has been calculated at the proper rate.
They must also confirm in the notice that they understand that:
- they cannot withdraw the notice, and
- their benefit rights in the pension scheme will have to be adjusted to take account of the tax that will be paid on their behalf by the scheme.
As well as the information listed above, the member’s notice might need to include confirmation that their total annual allowance charge liability for the tax year exceeds £2,000. This information is necessary only when the member requires their scheme to pay an amount of £2,000 or less.
The member must give this information as one of the conditions for allowing them to require their scheme to pay an amount of their annual allowance charge liability for a tax year, is that their total liability for the year exceeds £2,000.
If their total liability is less than £2,000 they cannot require the scheme to pay although the scheme may do so on a voluntary basis.
Further information needed for the notice if it is given in the year that all benefits are taken (or BCE 5, 5A or 5B occurs)
Where a member will be taking all their benefits from a scheme in a year that they want their scheme to pay their annual allowance charge they will need to give some additional information.
This will be needed only if they give their notification in the same tax year to which their annual allowance charge liability relates. For example, the member gives their notice in the tax year 2012- 13 in respect of a liability for that same tax year.
The additional information is that:
- before the end of the tax year, the member intends to take all of their benefits from the pension scheme that they have given the notice to (for example they are approaching their pension scheme retirement age but they have not yet told the scheme that they intend to retire at that time)
- at age 75 there will be no change in relation to the following arrangements they have in the scheme that they have given the notice to:
- defined benefit rights not yet in payment will remain undrawn
- funds in a money purchase arrangement or cash balance arrangement that they have not yet drawn (‘uncrystallised funds’) will remain as uncrystallised funds
- drawdown pension funds that started after 5 April 2006 will still be in place.
This particular information is necessary only if the member will reach age 75 in the tax year.
The reason for giving this information is to forewarn the scheme administrator that the member may, for example, take their benefits from the scheme before the scheme may have paid the tax that they have required it to pay. A pension scheme might decide that in order to reduce the member’s benefits to take account of the tax that been paid on their behalf before their benefits are paid that it will not allow the member to take their benefits until the tax liability has been settled.
This would mean that no reduction would need to be made once the member’s benefits have come into payment.
Loss of Lifetime Allowance Protection
If you hold a form of fixed or enhanced protection from lifetime allowance charges, you must take action before 1 April 2022 if you want to avoid losing your protection.
Please see HMRC's guidance in their "Pension schemes newsletter 137" for full details.
You may wish to seek independent financial advice to help you to understand the impacts and decide the best course of action regarding protections from lifetime allowance charges.