‘Catastrophic’ lifetime allowance bills could result from GMP equalisation

More than 100,000 pension savers could face six-figure tax bills if guaranteed minimum pension requirements were equalised, a Freedom of Information Act request from HM Revenue and Customs shows.

The request from Royal London shows that people with fixed protection against any past cuts in the lifetime allowance for tax-relief purposes could be invalidated if they see an increase in their pension rights.

Following the December 2018 court case brought by Lloyds Bank employees, the High Court rules pension funds need to make changes to eliminate inequalities between men and women as a result of rules around GMPs.

While it could result in modest changes to the amount of pension people will receive, even this could end up invalidating someone’s protection against cuts, landing them with a huge bill from HMRC.

State pension court showdown set for summer

The LTA has been cut from £1.8m in 2010 down to £1m now, and savers who already had high levels in their pension pots were allowed to lock in their higher limits by schemes – known as individual protection or fixed protection.

One condition for fixed protection, however, is that the tax payer does not accrue any further benefits in future.

Royal London believes there is a risk that the process of GMP equalisation would count as an accrual, which would invalidate the protection.

The group’s director of policy Steve Webb says: “This issue combines two of the more complex areas of pensions – GMPs and pension tax relief limits. But that combination could result in a catastrophic tax bill for someone who had acted entirely in good faith.

“It is not good enough for HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions to be discussing this issue and thinking about issuing guidance. Taxpayers need to know where they stand as a matter of urgency.”

Auto-enrolment hits 10m savers milestone

If someone’s tax relief limit suddenly fell from £1.8m to the current £1.03m, they could fae a 55 per cent tax charge on the difference, amounting to a bill for £423,500.

Royal London adds: “There is evidence that the government is aware of this problem but has not yet taken action.”

HMRC said: “While we are considering any potential implications of GMP equalisation including on the LTA, it would not be appropriate at this point to confirm whether this is a potential issue. We will publish further information as soon as possible.”

My key observation on GMPs is that although the Lloyds judgment clarified one pretty fundamental question – ‘do schemes have to equalise for the effects of GMPs?’ – it left dozens unanswered.

For example, there are different ways of equalising and it is still not clear yet what DWP will say about the different methods.  And how retrospective are the changes likely to be?  If I transferred out a few years ago, can I go back and complain that I should have got more?  Or did I sign away my rights when I agreed I was getting a full and final settlement?  A further issue is that different consultants are currently giving different advice to schemes on what to do, which is creating inconsistencies.

There is an industry working group looking at all of this, but whilst that will help to generate greater consistency, it seems to me that the onus is on the government and regulators to set out what schemes should do and what this judgment means. This needs to involved DWP and HMRC as well as The Pensions Regulator and the FCA.

Without regulators and government providing clarity, schemes, advisers and clients will remain in the dark and will have to make it up as they go along.

Steve Webb is director of policy at Royal London

Recommended

7

Paul Armson: Why you should never charge for managing money

Why create a service proposition that depends on what you can’t control – the performance of money? There has been a recurring theme in my conversations with advisers over the past few months. When I ask the simple question, “what’s your most worrying challenge right now?” I am getting the same answer: that fee discussions […]

Platform costs
1

Compliance tops business challenges for advisers

Compliance is the main business challenge for advisers who struggle to foot the bill for expensive ways to keep ahead of regulatory change, Fidelity figures show. Research from NextWealth and Fidelity Funds Network found 80 per cent of advisers place compliance ahead of increasing business efficiency, improving technology and recruiting staff on their list of […]

Artemis Global Income: Making sense of global markets

The rally in cyclical ‘value’ stocks paused for breath in February, as investors took a more cautious tone and switched their attention back to defensive areas. In this article, Jacob de Tusch-Lec, manager of the Artemis Global Income Fund, explains how he has positioned the portfolio, given the many economic, geopolitical and policy risks that […]

Newsletter

News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up

Comments

There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Honestly, how difficult is it for HMRC/the government to simply say. GMP equalisation will never be counted as a “contribution”.

    The only reason for them not to say this, is because they are thinking they might have a chance to cream vast sums more off people’s pensions.

    It shows you the mentality at work “what’s your’s is the governments if we think we can get away with taking it”

Leave a comment

Close

Why register with Money Marketing ?

Providing trusted insight for professional advisers.  Since 1985 Money Marketing has helped promote and analyse the financial adviser community in the UK and continues to be the trusted industry brand for independent insight and advice.

News & analysis delivered directly to your inbox
Register today to receive our range of news alerts including daily and weekly briefings

Money Marketing Events
Be the first to hear about our industry leading conferences, awards, roundtables and more.

Research and insight
Take part in and see the results of Money Marketing's flagship investigations into industry trends.

Have your say
Only registered users can post comments. As the voice of the adviser community, our content generates robust debate. Sign up today and make your voice heard.

Register now

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3712

Lines are open Monday to Friday 9:00am -5.00pm

Email: customerservices@moneymarketing.com