The Chancellor has announced a range of significant measures to bring greater flexibility to individuals who want to access funds in defined contribution pension schemes. Some changes to the current restrictive rules will come into effect from 27 March 2014 whilst further measures will follow in April 2015 after a period of consultation.
Pensions – immediate measures
The immediate measures come into effect from 27 March and cover four broad areas.
Capped drawdown. An individual aged 55 or over can opt for a drawdown pension which allows them to extract amounts from the pension fund
which is treated as income for the relevant year. The maximum amount of drawdown is fixed to ensure that the fund is not cleared too quickly. The cap is based on 120% of a notional annuity rate set by the Government Actuary. The cap will be increased to 150%.
Flexible drawdown. Where an individual aged 55 or over can demonstrate that they have pension income (including the state pension) of £20,000 per annum or more they can ignore the drawdown cap and can take whatever amount they wish. Tax will be payable at their marginal rate. The income limit is to be reduced to £12,000 per annum.
Trivial commutation. At present an individual aged 60 or over who has total pensions savings of £18,000 or below can withdraw this as a lump sum. The limit will be increased to £30,000.
Small pots. The Government will increase the amount for small individual pension pots that can be taken as a lump sum regardless of total pension wealth from £2,000 to £10,000. They will also increase the number of small pension pots that can be taken as lump sums from two to three.
Pensions – changes to come
The Government plans to bring even greater flexibility into the pension system from April 2015. In effect an individual will be able to choose what they want to do with their defined contribution pension fund.
- If they want to draw out all of the fund on retirement they will be able to do so. The tax free element will be 25% of the sum and the balance will be taxed as income in that year.
- If they wish to buy an annuity they will be able to do so.
- If they wish to opt for a drawdown arrangement they will be able to do this without any restriction either in the form of a cap or a minimum income limit.
These changes will be subject to a consultation.
Two other important changes will also be made:
- pension providers and pension trustees will be required to provide free and impartial advice to all individuals approaching retirement so that they can make an informed choice of the options available to them
- the minimum retirement age for pension schemes will rise to 57 years in 2028 when the state pension age rises to 67 years.
The Government is concerned about schemes which are intended to encourage people to access their pension funds before they reach retirement and use the funds for other purposes. A range of measures are being introduced to combat these schemes. The measures, generally take effect from 20 March 2014.
With effect from 1 September 2014 a further measure will allow HMRC to refuse to register pension schemes where they believe that the scheme administrator is not fit and proper and the scheme has been established for purposes other than providing pension benefits.
The Government has indicated that individuals approaching retirement should be trusted to make their own decisions as to what to do with their pension funds and not be restricted by legal requirements. The greater range of options will mean that getting the right advice at the point of retirement will be even more important.
For more details on pension changes announced in the budget contact our advisers at Chapel Court Wealth Planning via your local Burgis & Bullock office on 0845 177 5500.