Saving for retirement can be stressful, but pensions can be exciting and offer many benefits, and your pension allowances is just one aspect to consider when building your pension pot.

This article does not consider Defined Benefit (DB) or Final Salary Schemes, as the rules are complex. If you have a DB or final salary scheme, please refer to your financial adviser for additional information if you wish to make additional pension contributions.

Important - Tax rules can change and their impact on you will depend on your circumstances.

What is pension annual allowance

The pension annual allowance is a maximum pension contribution limit, on how much you can save into your pension pot in a tax year (6 April to 5 April). Exceeding the limit can trigger income tax costs, known as the annual allowance charge. This pension allowance covers contributions made to all of your pension schemes by you, your employer/company or a third party.

The standard annual allowance for 2023/24 is £60,000. For the tax years 2020/21 to 2022/23 inclusive the standard annual allowance was £40,000. 

How much can I contribute to my pension?

If the annual allowance in a particular tax year isn't fully used, it's not necessarily lost. That unused allowance can be carried forward to a later tax year. This may make it possible to pay more than the current year's allowance without incurring an annual allowance tax charge. So, someone who didn't have the available funds or the earnings in earlier years can carry forward the unused amount to a year when their circumstances are different.

You can carry forward unused allowance from up to three tax years. The brought forward allowance can cover (or reduce) the excess in the current year and mitigate the pension savings tax charges. There are specific conditions around carry forward that your adviser will need to ensure you meet.

For personal pension contributions and third party contributions, there is another limit to consider. These contributions are limited by your earnings, as well as the pension annual allowance. Personal contributions matched by earnings benefit from basic rate tax relief.

If you are a higher rate or additional rate taxpayer you are able to claim additional tax relief by filing a tax return or by application to HMRC.

The net relevant earnings limit does not impact pension contributions paid by your employer/company which are limited by just the available annual allowance.

When might my annual allowance be lower?

There are some circumstances where your pension annual allowance is reduced from the standard amount, please see below:-

Tapered allowance

For high earners the standard annual allowance can be reduced. This means looking at two income figures. Firstly, your threshold income (taxable income reduced by any personal pension contributions paid) if this is over £200,000 then a review of your adjusted income (which is your taxable income plus any employer pension contributions) is needed. If this is over £260,000, you will have a tapered pension allowance. For every £2 of income over the £260,000 adjusted income limit this will mean a reduction of £1 to your annual allowance. The maximum amount by which the standard £60,000 annual allowance can be tapered is £50,000 to £10,000.

If you are using carry forward and you are a high earner, you would need to consider these limits for all years in question. The limits above for this tax year, earlier years can have different threshold and adjusted income limits. 

Money purchase annual allowance

When you start flexibly accessing income from your pension pot(s), this will trigger the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA) rules and your annual allowance limit may be reduced. The MPAA limit is £10,000 in the 2023/24 tax year, which has increased from £4,000 for earlier years. Triggering the MPAA also removes the ability to use carry forward pension allowance.

Lifetime Allowance (LTA)?

The lifetime allowance (LTA) has limited the amount of pension benefits which could be taken without triggering an extra tax charge. 

From the 2023/24 tax year the limit remains at £1,073,100 but the charge has been reduced to 0%, so effectively no tax will be payable, even if your lifetime pension pot exceeds the lifetime allowance. 

From 6 April 2024 the lifetime allowance limit will be removed, and replaced by new limits.

  1. A ‘Lump Sum Allowance’ set at £268,275, a quarter of the current lifetime allowance of £1,073,100.

This is the overall limit for taking tax free lump sums from your pension.

Sums taken from your pension that exceed this will be subject to income tax at your marginal rates of income tax.

  1. A ‘Lump Sum Death Benefit Allowance’ set at £1,073,100.

This will limit the amount of tax free lump sums available, both during lifetime and on death and will match the current LTA. Sums paid above this level will be taxed at your own or the beneficiaries' marginal rate of income tax.

You may have an entitlement to a higher level of tax free lump sum by having pension protections in place and these will remain

This article does not cover pension protection in detail, but if this is something you would like to discuss further, please contact your financial adviser.

Why work with Ascot Lloyd when managing your pension?

At Ascot Lloyd, our expert, independent financial advisers offer comprehensive pension advice as part of our financial planning service designed to help you achieve your short and long-term goals. Your adviser can help you navigate complex pension matters while also providing expertise in mortgages, investments, protection, and more. As we are independent, our only incentive is your financial well-being. Non-independent advisers are often financially incentivised to recommend particular products.

Access our independent pension advice today.

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