Carry forward while you can - it’s the last chance to utilise the bumper pension allowances of three-years ago

Retired Couple 105053264
Published: 23 Feb 2017 Updated: 27 Feb 2017

After successive cuts to pension allowances, including the introduction this tax year of a complicated new ‘tapering’ regime for higher earners which has cut annual pensions allowances for some to just £10,000, many will be anxious to see what the Budget on the 8 March might bring. Previous Chancellor, George Osborne, had a penchant for meddling with pensions and commissioned a report into the future of their generous tax reliefs, so many will be anxious to see what approach Chancellor, Philip Hammond, takes in his first Budget.

Whatever the outcome of the Budget for pensions, what we do know is that this tax year is the very last chance for investors to make use of the much more generous £50,000 annual pension allowance that was available in the 2013/14 tax year, following which it was reduced to £40,000. Those that did not fully utilise this hefty allowance at the time, but are now in a position to bulk up their pension, have the capacity to do so under ‘carry forward’ rules.

Andy James, Head of Retirement Planning at Tilney, looks at the benefits of carrying forward:

“Under the current rules, savers can ‘carry forward’ unused pension allowance from the previous three tax years once they have first fully used the current year allowance. Allowances from the oldest year are used up first and at the end of every tax year, the ‘oldest year’ falls away. Therefore, any allowances not used from the oldest year – now 2013/14 - will be lost for good if they are not carried forward.

“There are a couple of extra things to note when thinking about carrying forward. Firstly, you must have earnings in the current tax year to at least the value of the pension contribution for tax relief purposes on personal contributions. An employer is not restricted by an individual’s earnings so they are able to pay in higher sums on occasion.

“The ability to carry forward can be extremely useful for those looking to catch up on pension contributions because they are underfunded or because their financial position has improved and they are now in a position to do so. It is particularly useful for those whose current year pension contributions are now restricted by the tapered allowance because they earn over £150,000. For anyone in this position, which can see their current year allowance drop to as low as £10,000 if they earn £210,00 or more then the opportunity to mop up a £50,000 allowance is one they should give very serious consideration to.

“Carry forward has further benefits beyond retirement planning as maximising a pension can potentially remove funds from your estate and gives options to leave it to your heirs in a very tax efficient way.

“However there are also potential pitfalls. With the pension lifetime allowance now set at £1 million, care needs to be taken to ensure that contributions and growth in your investments won’t take you over this limit, as you will be liable for a tax charge on the excess when benefits are taken.

“In this current environment, when planning for retirement has never been more important and figures from Tilney’s Cost of Tomorrow report show that the average individual underestimate their retirement needs by £100,000, the ability to carry forward your pension allowances provides a great opportunity to reduce your tax bill and save for retirement. But do hurry, and talk to a financial adviser, as the clock really is ticking.”

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This release was previously published on Tilney Smith & Williamson prior to the launch of Evelyn Partners.