AJ Bell  

Fears government will axe pension incentives

Fears government will axe pension incentives

UK consumers are worried the government will cut some of the current pension benefits, with a reduction of the Isa allowance being a concern for a quarter of savers.

AJ Bell surveyed 702 DIY investors during November and December, concluding that consumers also fear a removal of pension death benefits, the end of the higher rate of pensions tax relief and a reduction in the annual allowance.

Are you worried about any tax changes that might affect your savings products?

Yes, reduction in the Isa annual allowance

24.2%

Yes, removal of pension death benefits

15.5%

Yes, removal of higher rate tax relief on pensions

15.0%

Yes, reduction in the pension annual allowance

14.7%

No

50.3%

According to Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, it is probably "no surprise to see most savers want the government to give them more incentives to save, although whether this is realistic at a time when Brexit uncertainty continues to grip Westminster is another matter".

He said: "The fact almost a third of savers are worried the government will cut pension tax relief and 24 per cent fear a reduction in the Isa allowance perhaps suggests expectations of hand-outs are in short supply."

Nevertheless, there are some simple steps both policymakers and the industry can take to help struggling savers, he argued.

Half of the respondents (53.4 per cent) argued that greater incentives from government would encourage them to save more, followed by simple investment solutions for certain needs (29.6 per cent).

What would encourage you to save more?

Greater incentives from government

53.4%

Simple investment solutions to meet certain needs

29.6%

Fewer changes to the rules from government

28.8%

A simplification of the pension rules

16.2%

Less complicated communications from providers

9.8%

Mr Selby said: "There is clearly plenty of demand for simplicity, both in the products consumers receive and the rules that govern them, and regulators and ministers should take note of the fact 29 per cent of customers say fewer changes to the rules would encourage them to save more.

"The world of investments remains a black box of complexity for most people, perhaps unsurprising given the bewildering selection of funds available.

"For those struggling to decide what to do, low-cost, ready-made solutions could well provide a suitable solution, although careful monitoring remains essential."

The majority of savers (60.7 per cent) said that making choices is the most difficult aspect about their investments, while dealing with tax implications is an issue for 17.1 per cent of the respondents.

What do you find most complicated about managing your investments?

Choosing investments

60.7%

Tax implications

17.1%

Understanding the pension rules

10.8%

Understanding the Isa rules

1.6%

Alistair Cunningham, chartered financial planner at Wingate Financial Planning, said: "You would like to think that advised clients mitigate some of the perceived concerns raised in this research, but I expect advised clients also tend to have more complex circumstances.

"I certainly see far more uncertainty around tax complexities and pension rules than investment selection, which is highly structured, resourced and researched within this firm."

maria.espadinha@ft.com