A new report by an influential think tank has suggested that the tax-free lump sum for pensions should be capped at just £40,000. Giles Warren Financial, and many other independent financial advisors, think this would be a mistake. Here, we explain why.
What is the tax-free lump sum?
Currently, pensioners are usually able to take as much as 25 per cent of their pension savings as a tax-free lump sum. The maximum this could be, with a lifetime allowance standing at £1m, is £250,000.
Now, the Resolution Foundation has published a report calling for this tax-free lump sum to be capped at just £40,000. It argues that this would generate massive revenues for HMRC while only impacting a quarter of pensioners.
The report states: “The current ability to take over £250,000 tax free is worth up to £119,000 to an additional rate taxpayer, £105,000 to a higher rate payer, £53,000 to a basic rate payer and nothing to lower income pensioners who’d be below the personal allowance each year anyway.”
Why are IFAs hitting back?
IFAs around the country have been hitting back against these claims, pointing out the fact that a move to cap the tax-free lump sum would be damaging in several ways. Most importantly, we think that capping the amount you can withdraw as a pensioner without paying tax would discourage people from saving for their retirement in the first place.
“People are already feeling discouraged from saving for their retirement and a cap on the tax-free lump sum would simply disincentivise pension saving even further,” stated Giles Warren. He added: “We have seen cuts to the lifetime and annual allowances in recent times and a further cap would make pension saving less appealing to younger workers who need to be putting money aside for their future.”
As well as the pension cap idea, the Resolution Foundation’s report also called for the inheritance tax tax-free threshold to remain at £1m. This would mean that it would not increase alongside inflation.
Here at Giles Warren Financial we believe this would amount to a stealth tax increase. It is another idea that will work to disincentivise saving – as the real rate of tax will increase over the years. Failing to adjust the tax-free threshold in line with inflation means a greater proportion of people’s inheritance will be taxed.
Other ‘tweaks’ proposed by the Resolution Foundation in their report included scrapping savings schemes such as the Help To Buy ISA and the Lifetime ISA, both of which are aimed at trying to encourage responsible attitudes to money. They are open to everyone and help people to save tax-free for their future or for a home of their own.
Giles Warren argues: “Scrapping these products will leave a great number of people with very few avenues for saving without heavy taxation.
“Saving is already unattractive to many younger people, but at least tax-free ISAs give them a means through which to grow their cash. Taking these away would be damaging.”