Trivial lump sums
In certain circumstances it is possible for a member of a defined benefit or collective money purchase pension scheme to take all of their benefits as a one-off lump sum using the trivial commutation lump sum (triviality) rules.
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 and small lump sums options for defined contribution schemes.
When a member reaches the age of 55, or earlier if they meet the ill health condition or have a protected pension age, 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 and any in-payment money purchase in-house scheme pension 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 and any in-payment money purchase in-house scheme pension 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, or earlier if they meet the ill health condition or have a protected pension age, 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 or protected pension age.
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 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.|
|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.|
How is it taxed?
The member can receive up to 25% of the lump sum tax-free. The rest is eventually payable at the member's marginal rate of income tax. But depending on the individual circumstances the tax that will be deducted from the payment is as follows:
- Where the lump sum payment is in respect of a pension already in payment the PAYE code already in operation will be used.
- Where the pension being commuted was not already in payment the basic rate (BR) tax code will be used.
- Where the recipient is not UK tax resident the emergency tax code will be used.
If the member thinks they have paid too much or not enough tax then they will need to discuss this with HMRC.
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 they need to pay more tax than they originally thought.
If the member would have been entitled to more than 25% of their benefits value as tax-free cash at retirement, the amount 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.
Where the recipient is not UK tax resident the emergency tax code will be used.
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.