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Individual protection

Published  10 January 2022
   8 min read

Individual protection maintains the lifetime allowance at a certain level depending on what type the individual has. There are two different versions.

Key facts

  • Individual protection 2014 gives individuals a protected lifetime allowance equal to the value of their pension savings on 5 April 2014, subject to an overall maximum of £1.5 million.
  • Individual protection 2016 gives individuals a protected lifetime allowance equal to the value of their pension savings on 5 April 2016, subject to an overall maximum of £1.25 million.
  • Pension contributions can continue to be paid. The value of any pension savings above the protected lifetime allowance will be liable to the lifetime allowance charge.
  • There is no deadline for applying for individual protection 2016.

What is individual protection?

Individual protection maintains the lifetime allowance at a certain level depending on what type the individual has. There are two different versions: 

Type  Maintains the lifetime allowance at You had to apply by
Individual protection 2014  the lower of £1.5 million OR the value of benefits at 5 April 2014 5 April 2017
Individual protection 2016 the lower of £1.25 million OR the value of benefits at 5 April 2016 No end date

Individual protection gives individuals who think that the value of their benefits will be over the lifetime allowance when they come to take their benefits, a personalised lifetime allowance based on the value of their pension savings.

Individual protection 2014 allows someone whose pension rights are valued over £1.25 million (the lifetime allowance between 6 April 2014 and 5 April 2016) to protect those rights, subject to an overall maximum of £1.5 million.

Individual protection 2016 allows someone whose pension rights are valued over £1 million (the lifetime allowance between 6 April 2016 and 5 April 2018) to protect those rights, subject to an overall maximum of £1.25 million.

For example, someone with pension rights worth £1.2 million at 5 April 2016 will be able to have £1.2 million as their personal lifetime allowance through individual protection 2016. Someone with pension rights worth £1.3 million will be able to have £1.25 million as their personal lifetime allowance, helping them to reduce their lifetime allowance charge.

This personalised lifetime allowance will not increase unless the lifetime allowance increases to a level greater than the individual's personalised lifetime allowance. In these circumstances the individual's personalised lifetime allowance would revert to the new standard lifetime allowance.

A crucial difference from fixed protection is that an individual can still be an active member of a pension scheme.

Individual protection will be useful for an individual who intends to continue contributing to a pension scheme as it allows them to keep a lifetime allowance greater than the standard lifetime allowance that applies.

Individual protection may also be beneficial to an individual whose employer normally contributes towards their pension scheme as it allows them to continue receiving the value of the employer's contribution, even though a tax charge will apply to the benefits it provides. This will be particularly useful where the individual isn't able to renegotiate their employment package, for example receive their employer contribution in a more tax efficient format.

It is possible to apply for individual protection if an individual already has fixed protection. Individuals can apply for both fixed protection and individual protection and where this is the case, fixed protection will take precedence. If fixed protection is lost, the individual will revert to individual protection.

How do you apply for individual protection? 

Any individual who wishes to apply for lifetime allowance protection including individual protection 2016, has to do so online. There is no deadline for applying for fixed protection 2016 and individual protection 2016.

The individual will need an HMRC Online Services Account - if they do not already have one they will have to create an account. Details of their lifetime allowance protections will be held on their online account.

Individuals will no longer receive paper certificates with their lifetime allowance protection details.

There is no deadline for applying for FP16 and IP16.

Guidance to help individuals who wish to apply for lifetime allowance protection has been published by HMRC on GOV.UK. 

What if an individual has a temporary reference number?

Individuals that have used the interim paper process (before 31 July 2016) but have not followed this up with an online application will continue to have their savings protected and there will be no tax consequences, provided they have not lost their protection.

However, if the individual has further benefits to crystallise they must apply online to get a permanent reference number. Scheme administrators can use HMRC’s ‘look up service’ to check the level of protection and only permanent reference numbers will be recognised. This means that until the individual has a permanent reference number the payment of benefits will be a delayed or the lifetime allowance charge will be applied.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, in many cases applying for both fixed protection 2016 and individual protection 2016 could be the best option.


Fixed protection 2016 provides protection of £1.25 million whereas individual protection 2016 provides protection of between £1 million and £1.25 million.


If fixed protection 2016 is lost because one of the conditions is broken, the individual could fall back on individual protection 2016.

If possible, it may be advisable to delay taking benefits until individual protection 2016 is granted or only take benefits up to the lifetime allowance of £1.25 million. If that isn't possible, the scheme administrator will have to assume either that the individual:

  • Will receive the protection and then apply a lifetime allowance charge later if the protection isn’t granted

OR

  • Won’t receive the protection, apply a lifetime allowance charge and then adjust the benefits after the charge is refunded if protection is given

Disclaimer

The information provided is based on our current understanding of the relevant legislation and regulations and may be subject to alteration as a result of changes in legislation or practice. Also it may not reflect the options available under a specific product which may not be as wide as legislations and regulations allow.

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.