An annual allowance for pension savings applies each year, which is based on a pension input period. This limits the amount of tax privileges available on pension savings each year.
- Annual allowance is based on pension input periods.
- Pension input periods are aligned with tax years.
- Annual allowance is currently £60,000.
- Any contributions over the annual allowance available attract a tax charge.
- A reduced annual allowance could apply if the money purchase annual allowance or tapered annual allowance has been triggered.
- From 6 April 2023 the annual allowance increased from £40,000 to £60,000 and the money purchase annual allowance and taper increased from £4,000 to £10,000.
What is the annual allowance?
The annual allowance is the maximum amount of pension savings an individual can make each year without an annual allowance charge applying. This includes pension contributions made by the individual, their employer or a 3rd party.
Within this allowance, tax relief on an individual’s gross contributions is restricted to the higher of £3,600 or 100% of relevant UK earnings; that is the earnings that attract tax relief (opens in a new window).
Individuals are subject to a tax charge on the amount of any contribution paid (personally, by their employer or a 3rd party) in excess of the annual allowance each year. The tax charge will be at the individual's marginal rate of tax. This also applies to the value of any benefit increase under a defined benefit or cash balance scheme over the annual allowance. If an annual allowance charge is due this will usually be dealt with through the individual's tax return.
The annual allowance has changed several times since it was introduced in 2006 and is £60,000 currently. Historic levels of the annual allowance can be found on our rates and factors page.
The following details how these benefits are valued when testing against the annual allowance:
Money purchase benefits
Cash balance plans
Defined benefits schemes
Find more information on pension input periods and pension input amounts.
2015/16 transitional year
Tax year 2015/16 was split into two periods.
The pre-alignment period ran from 6 April 2015 to 8 July 2015 and covered pension input periods which ended between the 2 dates. There could have been more than one pension input period ending in the pre-alignment period.
The post-alignment period ran from 9 July 2015 to 5 April 2016. The annual allowance for the pre-alignment period was £80,000.
For more information see our articles:
Transitional rules for DC schemes
Transitional rules for DB schemes
Annual allowance charge
The objective of the annual allowance charge is to remove the tax relief given to any pension contributions over the annual allowance.
The steps for calculating the annual allowance charge and how to pay the annual allowance charge can be found in HMRC's Pensions Tax Manual (opens in a new window).
It may be possible to reduce or completely avoid the annual allowance charge using carry forward. Carry forward allows unused annual allowance from pension input periods ending in the previous three tax years to be carried forward and added to the annual allowance for the current pension input period.
More details can be found in our carry forward article.
Money purchase annual allowance
Since 6 April 2015 there has been an additional annual allowance called the money purchase annual allowance. This is normally triggered by taking income from a flexi-access drawdown plan or taking an uncrystallised funds pension lump sum. However, other actions can trigger it.
If the money purchase annual allowance has been triggered, only £10,000 can be paid to all defined contribution plans in any pension input period before the annual allowance tax charge is applied. The money purchase annual allowance does not apply to contributions to cash balance plans or defined benefit schemes.
If it is triggered part-way through a pension input period only the contributions made after the trigger are tested against the money purchase annual allowance. However, the total contributions/accrual in that tax year are also tested against the £60,000 annual allowance.
HMRC has issued a guidance note: Money purchase annual allowance: split pension input periods which provides more detail (opens in a new window).
Tapered annual allowance
From 6 April 2023 - Individuals who have taxable income for a tax year of greater than £260,000 will have their annual allowance for that tax year restricted. It will be reduced, so that for every £2 of income they have over £260,000, their annual allowance is reduced by £1. Any resulting reduced annual allowance is rounded down to the nearest whole pound.
The maximum reduction is £50,000, so anyone with income of £360,000 or more will have an annual allowance of £10,000. Individuals with high income caught by the restriction may therefore have to reduce the contributions paid by them and/or their employers or suffer an annual allowance charge.
Individuals with high income caught by the restriction may therefore have to reduce the contributions paid by them and/or their employers or suffer an annual allowance charge.
From 6 April 2020 to 5 April 2023 - Individuals who had taxable income greater than £240,000 had their annual allowance restricted. The maximum reduction was £36,000, so anyone with income of £312,000 or more had an annual allowance of £4,000.
From 6 April 2016 to 5 April 2020 - Individuals who had taxable income greater than £150,000 had their annual allowance restricted. The maximum reduction was £30,000, so anyone with income of £210,000 or more had an annual allowance of £10,000.
Our article, tapering of annual allowance for high incomes, provides more detail.
- HMRC Pensions Tax Manual - PTM051000 - Annual allowance: essential principles: contents (opens in a new window)
- HMRC Pensions Tax Manual - PTM056500: Money purchase annual allowance (opens in a new window)
- HMRC Pensions Tax Manual - PTM057100: Annual allowance: tapered annual allowance (opens in a new window)
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.