What is the lifetime allowance?

The lifetime allowance is the total value of all pension benefits you can have without triggering an excess benefits tax charge. This is measured at the time you draw your benefits and if the total value is more than the lifetime allowance, or more than any protections you may have, you will have to pay tax on the excess benefits. This calculation excludes any state retirement pension, state pension credit or any partner's or dependant's pension you may be entitled to. The lifetime allowance is set by HM Treasury and is currently £1,073,100; it covers any pension benefits you may have in all tax-registered pension arrangements – not just the LGPS.

For pensions that start to be drawn on or after 6 April 2006, the value of those pension benefits, for the purposes of the lifetime allowance, is calculated by multiplying your annual pension by 20 and adding any lump sum you draw from the pension scheme (including any lump sum drawn from an in-house AVC fund).

The lifetime allowance quick check tool

You can use the quick check tool to:

  • estimate the total value of your LGPS benefits (including an in-house AVC fund)
  • estimate how much of the current lifetime allowance your LGPS benefits would use
  • check if an excess tax charge is likely to be payable in respect of your LGPS benefits

The check tool does not take into account:

  • any pension benefits that are already being paid to you (these are valued differently)
  • any pension benefits that you hold with other pension schemes
  • any lifetime allowance protection that you may hold

Lifetime Allowance Quick Check tool

What is your Annual Allowance (AA)?

When you pay into the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) you get tax relief on your contributions; that means your pension contributions are taken from your pay before it's assessed to see how much tax you will pay. This means if you pay into the scheme you pay less tax, but there is a limit to how much your pension can grow in a year before HMRC puts a stop to this tax relief. This limit is called the annual allowance and is currently set at £40,000 for most members. This is the maximum amount your pension benefits can increase by over a year in all of your pension schemes (including AVCs and any personal pension plans you might have).

It's a common misconception that the £40,000 limit is connected to either your salary or your pension contributions paid into the LGPS. The £40,000 limit is arrived at using a Government Actuary's Department formula (see below).

This short video will help you understand AA and any associated tax implications:

How is it calculated in the LGPS?

The amount of your AA you have used in a given year is called your Pension Input Amount (PIA). ERPF calculate this each year after we send out your Annual Benefit Statement (ABS), and if you have exceeded the standard AA of £40,000 we will send you a Pension Savings Statement.

The calculation works out the change in the value of your ERPF pension benefits over the year. This is done by:

  1. Multiplying the growth in the value of your pension by 16 (a factor determined by the Government Actuary’s Department)
  2. Adding on the growth of any automatic lump sum you might be entitled to with your pension
  3. Adding on any AVCs that you or your employer have paid in during the year

The calculation is carried out for the beginning of the financial year (6 April), and this is increased to account for the cost of living. The calculation is then carried out for the end of the financial year (5 April), and the difference between the end of the year and the beginning is your Pension Input Amount.

The example below demonstrates how a moderate increase in pension benefits can easily cause you to exceed the standard AA of £40,000. The main reason this happens is if you have had a promotion with a pay rise and have a significant amount of pre- April 2014 scheme membership, as the benefits for this are connected to your salary. 

Example 1:

Benefits at the start of the year

Pension - £10,000 + 1% CPI (cost of living increase) = £10,100

Lump Sum - £4000 + 1% CPI (cost of living increase) = £4040

Benefits at the end of the year

Pension - £14,000

Lump Sum - £5500

AVCs paid - £1200

Differences

Pension - £14,000 - £10,100 = £3900

Lump Sum - £5500 - £4040    = £1460

Pension Input Amount (PIA)

(£3900 x 16) + £1460 + £1200 = £65,060

The amount of the standard AA used up = £65,060 (+ any private pension contributions).

Why can my Pension Input Amount fluctuate?

Why can my Pension Input Amount fluctuate?

There are many reasons why the PIA can fluctuate. The main reasons are as follows:

  • If your pay increases then your pension and lump sum increase, meaning the growth is greater. When a member’s pay remains consistent the PIA will fluctuate less

  • Inflation forms part of the calculation and this is usually different year on year. When inflation is high your growth is less and when inflation is low your growth will be more

  • If you decide to pay Additional Voluntary Contributions or amend the AVC payments. AVCs are added into the calculations so the more you pay, the greater your PIA.

ERPF will always work out your PIA after the financial year end and whenever you exceed your AA limit, will write to you and let you know. You will be responsible for adding on any growth in the value of other pension savings you might have. It is worth noting that you will be unaware of the infringement until it has already happened.

What if you exceed your annual allowance?

If you exceed your annual allowance limit that means your pension savings have grown by more than £40,000 over the course of the year, which is a nice problem to have, but it also means you may have to pay an Annual Allowance Charge (AAC). This is worked out in the same way as your income tax, so anything over the limit is taxed at the same rate as your salary.

Fortunately, you can carry forward and apply any unused allowances from the previous three years to offset the excess, so if you have a big jump one year, it may be possible to avoid a charge completely (or at least reduce it).

Important Information

It is important to note that your calculated excess must include the effect of tapering (if this applies to you, see below), and any other pension benefits that you are accruing outside the ERPF.  If you do exceed the AA (after carry forwards are applied), it is your responsibility to calculate the tax payable, notify HMRC via your self-assessment and ensure that tax charge is paid.

Paying your Annual Allowance Charge (AAC)

Paying your Annual Allowance Charge (AAC)

Whilst having to pay tax on your pension isn’t ideal, if you have received an AAC it’s because the value of your LGPS benefits has significantly increased, which leaves you financially better off overall. The following information will help you understand how to deal with the charge.

If you owe less than £2000:

If your annual allowance charge is less than £2000, you must pay it directly to HMRC as part of a self-assessment tax return. The deadline for this is 31 January (the following year).

If you owe more than £2000:

If your annual allowance charge is more than £2000 you can pay it directly to HMRC as part of a self-assessment tax return, or ask ERPF to pay it on your behalf through our Scheme Pays facility.

What is Scheme Pays?

Scheme Pays is a way of paying some or all of your annual allowance charges out of your pension savings. Rather than asking you to pay HMRC directly, we make the payment on your behalf and reduce your pension to cover the cost.

If you use the Scheme Pays facility both you and the ERPF are jointly liable for meeting HMRC's payment deadline of 31 January (the year after the tax charge).

If you want to use Scheme Pays, you will need to complete the form supplied along with your Pension Savings Statement.

What is a tapered annual allowance?

For most people the annual allowance is £40,000, but for high earners the limit is reduced (tapered) according to how much they earn. If your ‘threshold income’ is over £200,000 or your ‘adjusted income’ is more than £240,000, your annual allowance will be less than £40,000.

‘Threshold income’ = Total Income – pension contributions – death benefits from other pension schemes.

‘Adjusted income’ = Total income + pension growth/PIA not pension contributions – any death benefits.

The higher your earnings the lower your annual allowance. For every £2 over £240,000 that you earn, your annual allowance is reduced by £1 (to a minimum of £4000).

Tapered annual allowance

 Total adjustable incomeAnnual allowance
 £240,000  £40,000
 £260,000  £30,000
 £280,000 £20,000
 £300,000  £10,000
 £312,000  £4,000

Unfortunately, as your pension administrators, we are not regulated to offer tax advice, which means we are limited in the support we can provide. The ERPF can only provide information regarding your ERPF benefits. If you require any other information you should seek specialist independent tax advice from a qualified tax adviser (ideally with experience in public sector pension schemes) and they can assess the correct level of any tax charge.

Does ill-health retirement affect your annual allowance?

If you're forced to retire early on ill health grounds, you may be able to claim a full pension without any reductions (known as a tier 1 or tier 2 pension). These enhanced benefits can sometimes lead to annual allowance charges in your final year of employment – but there are exemptions if you meet HMRC's severe ill health criteria. For more information, visit the GOV.UK website.

Does transferring your pension impact your annual allowance?

When you transfer in to the LGPS it can have an impact on your annual allowance, particularly if you have had a salary increase when moving jobs. In that first year in the LGPS your PIA calculation:

  • Will not include the value of any transferred pension benefits
  • Will not include any actuarial adjustments
  • Will include the effect of a salary increase
  • Will include any increase in final salary benefits.

Transferring from other LGPS funds or linking LGPS membership

If you transfer service from another LGPS fund this will be treated as the same pension arrangement and your unused allowance and salary links will be carried forward.

Your pension savings statement

If you receive a letter from us which includes your Pensions Savings statement, it’s because you’re over your limit or very close. Please read the contents carefully, as it will outline exactly where you’re up to and what, if anything, you need to pay.

What to do next?

We understand that these types of letters can seem complex. Unfortunately, as your pension administrators, we are not regulated to offer tax advice, which means we are limited in the support we can provide.

We can answer questions about the figures on your statement or the Scheme Pays facility. We can also check your records if you think you have exceeded your annual allowance and haven't received a letter. But if you do need advice on your personal tax situation, you must speak to a professional adviser.

Where to get tax advice?

If you don’t have a financial adviser or a professional tax adviser, websites such as  www.unbiased.co.uk may be able to help you find a suitable candidate. Personal recommendations are also worth considering. Alternatively, the links below include up-to-date information that you might find useful.

Local Government Association (LGA)

HM Revenue & Customs website

The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS)

Link to quick check tool: https://www.lgpsmember.org/more/aa-quick-check-tool.php

Where can I get more information?

View the Lifetime Allowance Factsheet from the LGPS member website.

Still want more information?

Please watch the Your lifetime allowance video courtesy of the LGPSMember.org team below:

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