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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:
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.
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 benefit||Calculation 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.|
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:
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.
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