The Government has come under fire for its monitoring of potential pension scams.
Money Marketing submitted a Freedom of Information request to HM Revenue & Customs asking for the number and value of unauthorised payment notices made in relation to pension liberation.
Unauthorised payment charges are made when a saver withdraws their pension before the age of 55. Pots are subject to at least a 55 per cent charge.
The tax office confirmed it held the information but rejected the request on the grounds it would breach the cost limit of one person working for three-and-a-half days.
It said it would normally suggest ways to bring costs down but in this case it “cannot see any scope for doing this”.
HMRC said: “The only way we could retrieve and collate the information you have requested would be to carry out a manual search for all individual files.”
But providers and advisers say HMRC’s lack of transparency is hindering the fight against scammers. Aegon head of pensions Kate Smith says: “This is of public interest, we want to know how many people are being charged and how much is being levied. We need people to know that if they break the law they will be penalised.
“If we don’t go after them the number of scams will multiply. We need HMRC to back up what we say, we all need to work together. They really need to get more resource and nip this in the bud.”
Rowley Turton director Scott Gallacher says: “This is not an unreasonable request. If the number was high it would be a big red flag for the regulator and help providers and advisers deal with this. Equally, if it’s a low number, that tells us a lot.
“I am amazed that it cannot be completed in three-and-a-half days, it’s worrying they do not have the data on this. I can’t believe this isn’t monitored properly.”
In February the High Court overturned a Pensions Ombudsman decision that backed Royal London over a customer who argued they were unfairly blocked from transferring.
Lawyers warn the decision could give the green flag to hundreds of similar suspect scam cases.