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HMRC delays pension tax relief report again

HMRC delays pension tax relief report again

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has once again delayed publishing the estimated cost of pension tax relief for 2018/19 in order to make sure there are no errors in the data.

According to the tax authority, the 2018/19 pension tax relief estimates will be released alongside the 2019/20 statistics in September 2021.

This is so HMRC can “work to ensure the data provided by pension schemes is correct and of the highest standard”.

Normally, HMRC issues its assessment of the tax relief cost of registered pension schemes annually, known as “PEN 6”, alongside other personal pension data.

The last release was in September 2019 with the PEN 6 figures covering relief for 2017/18.

The 2018/19 figures should have been released in September 2020.

Meanwhile there have been rumours the government is thinking to change pension tax policy.

But consultancy LCP questioned how it could consider making changes to tax relief without knowing the cost of this relief.

A report from The Telegraph earlier this week said measures being considered by the Treasury included lowering the lifetime allowance, introducing a flat rate of tax relief or taxing employer contributions.

An LCP spokesperson said: “Collecting meaningful information for Table 6 has always been a challenge, particularly regarding occupational pension schemes, where there is no direct data (eg, DC contributions are deducted from pay before any returns to HMRC, and there are a lot of arguments disputing the approach taken to value the relief given for DB accrual). 

“And the notes to the table have always said ‘The figures are based on HMRC administrative data and information compiled from a variety of sources by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Costs are subject to large revisions and have a particularly wide margin of error’.

“It is not clear what the data errors might comprise. But it is worrying that there may be data errors in personal pension statistics – an area where one might have expected clear information sources.”

An HMRC spokesperson said: “Unfortunately HMRC will not publish the full set of the Personal Pensions Statistics today as previously announced. This is so we can work to ensure the data provided by pension schemes is correct and of a high standard.

“We apologise for the delay and the full statistics will be published in September.”

Earlier this week (June 21), Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, warned that any proposals to reduce the higher rate tax relief on pensions, while also keeping the state pension triple lock, would hurt the younger generations the most

According to Cameron, retaining the state pension triple lock without adjustment was likely to grant state pensioners a windfall increase next April, paid for by the working age population.

And any plans to cut the generosity of pensions tax relief - including imposing a tax on employer contributions - would harm many working-age pension savers, creating "an intergenerational double whammy".

amy.austin@ft.com

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