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Standard complains over loophole that it revealed

Standard Life is accusing Axa of abusing a loophole in small self-administered scheme rules that is set to be closed and has lodged an official complaint with the Revenue.

It claims Axa is using the loophole to market its SSAS. It enables small businesses to pass on pension assets tax-free and could, in theory, be used by family members to bypass inheritance tax.

Standard also accuses Axa of telling customers that the Revenue has given the go-ahead for this.

Ironically, it was Standard Life head of pensions policy John Lawson who first spotted the loophole in May.

The Revenue vowed to clamp down on any abuses, possibly retrospectively, but Lawson says this is not made clear in Axa’s marketing material.

He says: “I feel pretty strongly that what Axa is marketing does amount to abuse. Saying the Revenue has approved the product is technically misleading too, as the Revenue has no power to do this. I want IFAs to know that there is a high probability of this loophole being closed retrospectively.”

Axa denies using the loophole to promote its Ssas. Pensions development manager Tony Moore says: “We have never presented any potential for an IHT loophole. We have always intended to provide a scheme pension facility within the strict interpretation of the rules. In terms of a health warning, I think those providing Asps should be more worried.”

AJ Bell managing director Andy Bell says: “I find John Lawson’s indignation ironic since he was the one to have highlighted this loophole in the first place.”

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