Jeff Prestridge  

Awaiting pension reforms

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

But such schemes remain few and far between, restricted primarily to larger employers. Of course, wider access to financial advice would be a better solution, but that is not going to happen while we have the Financial Conduct Authority overseeing the nation’s financial services industry.

So what should happen to pensions? As part of a Save Our Pensions campaign launched by The Mail on Sunday, I recently drew up a blueprint for a better retirement. The abolition of allowances was very much at its core.

I called for the end of the lifetime allowance, a scrapping of the overly complicated tapered allowance, and the axing of the money purchase annual allowance.

Alongside this, I urged for a universal maximum annual allowance to be introduced, set at maybe £30,000 or £35,000.

I also called for a freshening up of the auto-enrolment rules so that more goes into employees’ pension pots – a spicing up that the government has conveniently pushed off into the long grass (the mid-2020s).

The blueprint was not drawn up on a whim. Nor is it influenced by politics. It was compiled on the basis of common sense. Constant government meddling in pensions has created a system that is not fit for purpose.

So we now have in place a pensions regime that (reasonably) sets limits on how much money we can pile into a pension, but then crazily penalises us (via the lifetime allowance) if our pension plan is well managed and enjoys investment success.

Equally, we have something called the tapered annual allowance that was introduced by chancellor George Osborne in 2016 to curtail the amount high earners can put into their pensions.

Yet its implementation has left nearly everyone – experts included – scratching their heads. Few people understand it.

No wonder Steve Webb, former pensions minister, describes the allowance as “irredeemable” and “should go”.

Since being appointed chancellor, Mr Javid has talked about the need to simplify of the county’s taxation system.

He could make a good start in the pensions arena – and that is without even tackling the biggest necessary pension reform of all: tax relief on contributions. Go on Mr Javid.

Jeff Prestridge is personal finance editor of the Mail on Sunday