Trivial lump sums

In certain circumstances it is possible for a member of a defined benefits pension scheme to take all of their benefits as a one off lump sum using the trivial lump sum rules.
Key facts
  • A number of conditions must be met before a payment is made, including the total value of all benefits being no more than £30,000.
  • Member can nominate a date at which all of their benefits are valued
  • Assuming it's an uncrystallised amount that is being commuted, 25% of the trivial lump sum is tax-free, with the balance being taxed through the member's PAYE.
  • Since 6 April 2015 the triviality rules no longer apply to defined contribution schemes.  The triviality option has been replaced with the Uncrystallised Pension Fund Lump Sum option for defined contribution schemes.

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When a member reaches the age of 55, if the combined value of all of their registered pension scheme benefits is not more than £30,000, they can take all of their defined benefits as a lump sum. This must include the value of any pensions in payment. Before the benefits can be taken on the grounds of triviality all of the following must apply:

  • No previous trivial lump sum can have been paid more than 12 months ago, but trivial payments made before 6 April 2006 can be ignored.
  • All of the benefits under the defined benefits scheme have to be taken at the same time.
  • The member must have some lifetime allowance (LA) available.
  • The total value of all the member's benefits (not just the defined benefits) can't be more than £30,000.
  • The member has to be at least aged 55, but there is no maximum age. 
  • After the payment the member has no rights left in the scheme.

Nomination date and 12 month commutation period

When a member decides they would like to take some or all of their benefits as a trivial lump sum they can nominate a date at which all of their benefits are valued. This is called the 'nomination date'.

The combined value of all of the member's benefits at the nomination date is used to ensure that the total benefits value is no more than £30,000. The member then has up to 3 months from the nomination date to start taking their benefits.

If the first lump sum is not paid within the 3 month period, a new date must be selected and a new check carried out to ensure that the benefits value is no more than £30,000. The nomination date cannot be earlier than 3 months before the member's 55th birthday.

A default nomination date will be used if the member does not nominate a specific date, this will be the date of the first payment.

The member is not obliged to take all of their benefits as a trivial lump sum, but once the first lump sum is paid the member only has 12 months in which to take any other trivial lump sum benefits. This period is called the 'commutation period' and starts when the first payment is made. Once this commutation period has ended no further trivial benefits can be taken.

Trivial commutation lump sum payments may be paid in respect of different defined benefits schemes, but all payments must be made within a single 12 month period.

Valuing the benefits at the nomination date

It is only possible for benefits to be taken using triviality if the combined value of all of the member's pension benefits, including pensions in payment, is no more than £30,000.

In certain circumstances it will not be obvious if a member's benefits value exceeds £30,000. The following table sets out how the benefits should be valued:

Type of benefitCalculation of benefits value
Defined benefit scheme (scheme pensions)

Multiply the member's annual pension before commutation by 20. Where lump sums are provided otherwise than by commutation they are valued using a factor of 1:1 and are added to the above value.

Money purchase scheme

The total market value of the funds/assets held, unless a scheme pension is paid, in which case a factor of 20:1 is used.

Cash balance plan The value of the benefits as calculated in line with the scheme rules.
Annuity in payment before 6 April 2006 Multiply the member's annual annuity at 5 April 2006 by 25.
Income drawdown in payment before 6 April 2006 Multiply the relevant GAD maximum withdrawal at 5 April 2006 by 25.
Annuities/scheme pensions/ income drawdown in payment after 6 April 2006 The value of benefits at crystallisation.

Trivial commutation lump sums where a lifetime annuity is continuing

This is possible where the payment would fall under the normal trivial commutation rules were it not for a continuing lifetime annuity provided by the scheme.

If the member is also a member of another registered pension scheme, the benefits in the other registered pension scheme must also be taken as triviality. In addition, all benefits being taken on triviality grounds must be taken before the end of the commutation period triggered by the first triviality payment.

If they aren't a member of another registered pension scheme, the requirements are that:

  • they haven't previously received a trivial commutation payment; and
  • the value of the member's rights before the payment (i.e. including the value of the lifetime annuity) doesn't exceed £30,000.

How is it taxed?

The member can receive up to 25% of the lump sum tax-free. The rest is payable at the member's marginal rate of income tax. This means that if they currently pay tax at the 20% basic rate tax then 75% of the lump sum will be subject to this tax. It is important to be aware that taking lump sums from the pension in this way could push the member into a higher income tax bracket, which could mean that they need to pay more tax than they originally thought.

The scheme trustee is required to apply tax at the basic rate regardless of the amount of tax the member is actually liable for. This means that the amount of tax the scheme trustee deducts may be greater or less than the amount which should apply to the member. If the member thinks that they have paid too much or not enough tax then they will need to discuss this with HMRC.

If the member would have been entitled to more than 25% of their benefits value as tax-free cash at retirement, the amount that they can take tax-free on payment of a trivial lump sum will still only be 25%. The enhanced entitlement to tax-free cash will be lost.

If a pension in payment is commuted and taken as a trivial lump sum then none of the trivial lump sum will be tax-free.


PTM063500: Member benefits: lump sums: trivial commutation lump sum

All references to taxation are based on our understanding of current taxation law and practice and may be affected by future changes in legislation and the individual circumstances of the investor.

Published 17 August 2006

Last updated: 04 Apr 2016

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