Budget changes to pensions

The chancellor George Osborne has threatened bold pension reforms, in his upcoming budget due in March 2016. He has been reviewing tax reliefs provided to those investing in pensions, with pension tax reliefs and concessions currently costing the government an estimated £21 billion a year.

It is thought that the chancellor will incentivise low earners to save for their retirement, while somehow still leaving higher earners in a position where they have good reason to invest for their later years. But the concept of a flat rate tax relief for savers is said to have been rejected, having met opposition from a substantial number of Conservative MPs.

It has been hinted that current tax breaks for higher earners may be reduced or phased out. Also up for discussion has been the lifetime limits on saving into pension schemes. Currently, people earning more than £42,000 a year, who are higher rate taxpayers, have full tax relief on funds they put into their pension savings pot – and this is, commentators believe, likely to be a benefit that gets eroded.

Some suggest that tax relief will be rephrased as a “savers bonus”, in much the same way that the recent introduction of homebuyers savings accounts provide a bonus for regular saving.

So, what should you do, faced with no clarity on the position until after the next Budget? The answer must be to plan ahead. Speak with a professional advisor, about what your options are under the present regime, and how they might change when the chancellor has spoken. Careful planning can take advantage, early, of any current tax efficient savings opportunities, that may be closed down in the future; and prepare for the likely changes in the future.

So while there is no opportunity to stare effectively into the crystal ball, at least if you have planned ahead, you can minimise any impacts on your pension savings already in the bank. And you can prepare to point your future regular pension savings into some new, more tax efficient directions in the future, depending on the outcome of George Osborne’s next budget speech.