How to avoid breaching the Lifetime Allowance

How to avoid breaching the Lifetime Allowance

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Julia Grimes
Published: 16 Jun 2015 Updated: 03 May 2016

David Smith, Financial Planning Director at Tilney Bestinvest looks at the ways pensions savers can avoid breaching the reduced £1m LTA

From 6th April 2016, the value an individual can accumulate in their pension pots over and above which a 55% tax charge will apply when benefits are taken – known as the Lifetime Allowance (LTA) - will reduce to £1m from the current £1.25m. Although a £1m pension pot may seem an unattainable figure, research from Tilney Bestinvest shows that even without investing a further penny, many savers who are in the middle of their working lives could in fact be on track to breach the LTA without realising it.

Based on the lifetime allowance increasing annually by 2% from April 2018 (the Chancellor has announced that the LTA will be inflation-adjusted from this date, so we have used the Bank of England's target rate) and an annual investment return net of costs attained of 5% compound, a 30 year old could breach the Lifetime Allowance by the time they are age 65 if they currently have a pension pot of £360,000 (further examples below).*

David Smith, Financial Planning Director at Tilney Bestinvest commented: “Unless you have previously secured and retained Enhanced Protection there is no guarantee that a lifetime allowance tax charge can be avoided. However, there are some actions that those with defined benefit pensions can take to try to avoid and/or reduce the potential for their pension benefits to exceed the lifetime allowance:

1. Do nothing – “The first course of action available is to do nothing and incur the lifetime allowance tax charge on the excess above the lifetime allowance. However, some members of final salary pension schemes might be reluctant to continue to fund the costs associated with accruing additional benefits, given that they would effectively be paying the full cost for accruing additional pension benefits only to receive 45% of the entitlement.”

2. Opt out of your defined benefit pension arrangement – “Under this option the individual would have to opt out of the defined benefit arrangement and cease future benefit accrual.”

3. Retire early – “Many defined benefit arrangements will apply early reduction factors to an individual’s pension entitlement if they take retirement benefits ahead of the scheme’s normal retirement age. It is the pension that you actually receive, and not the pension you could have received, that will be tested against the lifetime allowance. Therefore, by incurring the early retirement factor you could potentially reduce the value of your pension benefits below the lifetime allowance.”

4. Take the maximum tax-free cash entitlement – “Some defined benefit pension arrangements will pay a tax-free lump sum in addition to the normal pension entitlement. However, many people are not aware that they can actually receive more tax-free cash by commuting part of their pension entitlement, subject to an overall maximum. The commutation factor will differ between pension schemes, but as long as the commutation factor is below 20 you will be able to reduce the overall value of your pension benefits, for lifetime allowance purposes, by taking the maximum tax-free cash lump sum available.”

What should those with defined contribution schemes do?

Smith continued: “If we assume that someone has a pension fund of £1.25m (the current LTA) and they are aged over 55, then they could release their full tax-free cash entitlement of £312,500 and retain the remaining £937,500 in drawdown, which would use 100% of their lifetime allowance with no tax charge.”

“The remaining fund of £937,500 remains invested and would only be subject to a further lifetime allowance check if the individual were to die, purchase an annuity or be in drawdown on their 75th birthday, and the amount tested will be the growth in the fund value from going into drawdown. So if the fund value had grown to £1m at the date of death, £62,500 would be subject to the 55% tax charge. However, income withdrawn from the pension is not subject to a lifetime allowance check, so an individual could simply opt to withdraw the growth in the pension fund as an income (albeit subject to Income tax) and as long as the fund value is below £937,500 at the time of the next Benefit Crystallisation Event no lifetime allowance tax charge should be incurred.”

“If we assume that a modest 3% (net of charges) annual growth rate is attained (compound), a fund value of £937,500 would increase in value by £28,125, and this amount could be withdrawn as income with an income tax rate of 20%, 40% or even 45%, which is better than the 55% tax charge.”

Smith concluded: “We would like to see the highly punitive Lifetime allowance scrapped, as it penalises decent investment performance and is a deterrent to making retirement provision. However, as the rules currently stand, we would urge those who believe they may breach the Lifetime Allowance to seek professional financial planning advice, especially given the complexity involved.”

- ENDS -

* The following pension pots for investors of different ages could breach the LTA:

Current Pension Assets held which might breach adjusted Lifetime Allowance

Current Age

By age 55

By age 60

By age 65

























Important information:

The value of investments, and the income derived from them, can go down as well as up and you can get back less than you originally invested. This press release does not constitute personal advice. If you are in doubt as to the suitability of an investment please contact one of our advisers.

Prevailing tax rates and reliefs are dependent on your individual circumstances and are subject to change.

Press contacts:

Roisin Hynes
0207 189 2403
07966 843 699

Matthew Gray
0207 189 2492

About Tilney Bestinvest

Tilney Bestinvest is a leading investment and financial planning firm that builds on a heritage of more than 150 years. We look after more than £9 billion of assets on our clients’ behalf and pride ourselves on offering the very highest levels of professional client service with transparent, competitive pricing across our entire range of solutions.

We offer a range of services for clients whether they would like to have their investments managed by us, require the support of a highly qualified adviser, prefer to make their own investment decisions or want to take more than one approach. We also have a nationwide team of expert financial planners to help clients with all aspects of financial planning, including retirement planning.

We have won numerous awards including UK Wealth Manager of the Year, Low-cost SIPP Provider of the Year and Self-select ISA Provider of the Year 2013, as voted by readers of the Financial Times and Investors Chronicle. We are pleased that our greatest source of new business is personal referrals from existing clients.

Headquartered in Mayfair, London, Tilney Bestinvest employs almost 400 staff across our network of offices, giving us full UK coverage, and we combine our award-winning research and expertise to provide a personalised service to clients whatever their investment needs.

The Tilney Bestinvest Group of Companies comprises the firms Bestinvest (Brokers) Ltd (Reg. No. 2830297), Tilney Investment Management (Reg. No. 02010520), Bestinvest (Consultants) Ltd (Reg. No. 1550116) and HW Financial Services Ltd (Reg. No. 02030706) all of which are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 6 Chesterfield Gardens, Mayfair, W1J 5BQ.

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