Defined BenefitJun 6 2019

Doctors' pension tax issue could hit lower earners

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Doctors' pension tax issue could hit lower earners
ByAmy Austin

The pension tax issue affecting doctors could hit more than just the highest earners, industry experts have warned.

Due to complex rules surrounding the annual allowance doctors earning less than £150,000 might assume they will not be affected by tax issues, but this may not be true, according to some. 

The tapered annual allowance has become a problem for high earning doctors as it means that for every £2 of income above £150,000 a year, £1 of annual allowance will be lost.

This means they are more likely to suffer an annual tax charge on contributions and a lifetime allowance tax charge on their benefits.

However, as the tapered allowance takes into account projected pension contributions, this can push lower earners over the £150,000 threshold and land them with an unexpected tax bill.

Parminder Gill, advice policy consultant at Wesleyan, said: "Anyone whose gross income, minus any tax-relievable contributions such as pension payments, is £110,000 or more could be subject to a reduced annual allowance, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be subject to an annual allowance charge. 

"The charge is dependent on the overall growth in your pension benefits in the tax year and there are many factors that can impact the calculation used to work out the growth such as the rate of CPI, increases in your salary, and your overall pensionable service."

For doctors to find out whether or not they are affected by the tapered allowance, they need to work out their threshold income by adding together gross income, for example salary or income from investments, and then deduct any pension contributions, Mr Gill explained.

He said: "If the figure is below £110,000 [they] are unlikely to be impacted by tapering, which means [they] will have the standard annual allowance of £40,000."

Doctors can also request a pension saving statement from the NHS Pension Scheme which will show the increase in pension benefits for the previous three tax years.

Mr Gill said: "This is complicated stuff and any doctor concerned about breaching the annual allowance limit should seek financial advice."

Concern about doctors' pensions has increased significantly since the introduction of the tapered annual allowance in 2016.

It emerged in December that the number of members leaving the NHS Pension Scheme was five times higher than that seen at other public pension funds.

Phil Bowler, business development manager at Chase de Vere Medical, said: "Many doctors are unaware of how the tapered annual allowance works and have assumed that they have no tax to pay or have paid tax on a standard annual allowance of £40,000 even though [they could] be subject to a reduced annual allowance.