Contributions, annual allowance and tax relief

This section covers various aspects of contributions paid to UK Registered pension schemes.

These can be summarised in four short points:

  • Contributions are unlimited.
  • But there are restrictions on the amount of tax relief that will be given.
  • And there are further restrictions which could potentially lead to a tax charge.
  • Fortunately there are ways to try and avoid such a charge.  


This analysis focuses on pension contributions, who can pay them and if there are any restrictions.

Contributions and tax relief 

The tax relief on contributions is arguably the major selling point of pensions.

An employer can pay any amount of contribution for one of their staff but it's up to their local tax office to decide whether the whole contribution receives tax relief. A member can pay as much as they like into a pension but there's a limit on the amount of tax relief they will be given.

For higher earners, further tax relief may be given. In some scenarios, up to 60% tax relief is available.

The bands and rates of Scottish income tax differ from the rest of the UK.

Anyone can become or remain a member of a UK pension scheme, regardless of nationality and UK tax treatment. However, tax relief on member contributions will only be available to those who are 'relevant UK individuals'. 

In specie transactions can involve pension schemes in two different ways - in specie transfers and in specie contributions. This article explains the difference.

Annual allowance

The annual allowance is a limit on the amount of contributions that can be made without incurring a tax charge.

This article explains how pension tax relief for individuals with high incomes will be restricted by a tapered reduction in the amount of the annual allowance.

This article explains how scheme pays works and the conditions that apply.

These articles explain the transitional pension input period rules for DC and DB arrangements.

This article explains how pension input amounts operated since the 8 July 2015 budget announcements. 

This article explains how pension input periods operated prior to the 8 July 2015 budget announcements. Since then pension input periods are aligned with tax years for all registered pension schemes.

This policy paper sets out Royal London’s thoughts on how advisers can set about giving sound advice to clients in this space. In addition to providing a brief reminder on how the annual and lifetime allowances work, we examine the options for paying the charges, set out suggested processes for working out whether an individual is better off financially by being in or out of their scheme and explain the other relevant considerations and regulatory issues.

The reduction in annual allowance and tapered annual allowance has seen a rise in individuals facing an annual allowance tax charge. When this happens, the natural instinct is to avoid the charge – even if this means leaving the scheme. But is this the right thing to do?


Tax relief and annual allowance masterclass - Here we dig deeper into the technicalities of tax relief and the annual allowance in our webinar master-class. Recorded on 16 December 2020. Pensions Tax planning - Here we discuss the tax planning opportunities which exist with pension contributions. Annual allowance, who's afraid of the big bad tax charge - Here we explore the annual allowance charge and making the right decision. Recorded in January 2021. Pension hot topics - carry forward calculations - We investigate three of the hottest technical pension topics including where mistakes are made when working through carry forward calculations.

Other ways to avoid (or mitigate) tax charges

As well as carry forward, there are some other ways that tax charges can be avoided.

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The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The firm is on the Financial Services Register, registration number 117672. It provides life assurance and pensions. Registered in England and Wales number 99064. Registered office: 55 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0RL.