Jeff Prestridge  

Will Javid fix pension woes?

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

Maybe I am showing my grand old age, but time seems to be flying by at a rapid rate of knots.

It does not seem a moment since I was reeling from a spot of food poisoning over the festive period, courtesy of some dodgy oysters consumed on Christmas Eve.

Now, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching on the horizon (please send all cards to Bracken House, EC4M 9BT) and it will not be long before the financial treat of the year is upon us – namely, the chancellor of the exchequer’s Budget on March 11.

All the more exciting this year for the fact that we have a new chancellor in place – Sajid Javid – who has a bit of charisma about him.

Let us be honest, you could not quite say that about his predecessor Philip Hammond, who was rightly nicknamed Eeyore – Winnie-the-Pooh’s donkey friend – as a result of his gloomy persona.

Unlike Mr ‘Eeyore’ Hammond, Mr Javid has a huge Conservative majority to embolden him, so it will surely be more smiles than pouts this time around.

And while everyone will be watching to see what he does to re-energise the economy and support the country’s creaking infrastructure (will he pull the plug on the HS2 project or carry on with it?), it will be interesting to see what he does in the areas that matter most to wealth managers and their clients.

By which I mean pensions and inheritance tax – two areas ripe for a root-and-branch overhaul, rather than the tinkering (or sitting on hands) that marked the chancellorships of Mr Hammond and George Osborne.

As our country’s magnificent doctors have recently discovered to their financial cost, the rules governing pensions are currently an almighty mess.

As a result of the never-ending introduction of yet more rules (restrictions), pensions no longer encourage long-term saving, especially among the ‘wealthy’.

Indeed, they discourage it and often penalise people with sudden tax bills they cannot pay.

I know of lots of people who have stopped saving into a pension for fear of falling foul of the taxman’s thickening rulebook. That does not feel right.

This panoply of perplexing rules is primarily a result of Conservative chancellors (Mr Osborne, the guiltiest of them all) and it is only right then that a smiling Mr Javid now takes an axe to all of this.

Out should go the pernicious tapered annual pension allowance – and while he is at it, he should scrap the lifetime allowance and the money purchase annual allowance.

Sadly, it seems the triumphant Conservatives have yet to wise up to the pensions mess they have created.

Yes, in response to the angry doctors, it seems they are now looking to increase the annual salary at which the taper starts biting like a rattlesnake, from £110,000 to £150,000.