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Taking care with the taper

Are you caught by the tapered annual allowance on your pension saving? For dentists with higher levels of taxable income, the answer may well be yes, potentially exposing the unwary to additional tax charges, so it’s important to understand how the rules work.

For most dentists, the standard annual allowance is £40,000 and pension funding above this level is subject to a tax charge. For defined benefit schemes such as the NHS Pension Scheme, it isn’t contributions to the scheme that are tested against the annual allowance – but a multiple based on the amount by which your scheme benefits increase in value during the tax year. The annual allowance also includes any money purchase pension scheme contributions you may make, such as money purchase AVCs or contributions to a personal pension plan.

The NHS Pension Scheme* sends an annual allowance statement to members who exceed the standard annual allowance, usually by 6th October following the end of the tax year in which the breach occurred..

For some dentists, however, the annual allowance may be lower than £40,000. In April 2016, the Government introduced the tapered annual allowance, targeted at savers with higher taxable incomes. The taper potentially applies to any dentist with taxable income from any source of more than £150,000 during the tax year. It is important to note that this figure includes your employer’s share of any pension growth, which we will explain later. This income figure is referred to as adjusted income.

The taper reduces the £40,000 annual allowance by £1 for every £2 of income you receive above the £150,000 threshold. So a dentist with adjusted income of £180,000, say, would be entitled to a tapered annual allowance of £25,000. Once adjusted income reaches £210,000 or more, the minimum annual allowance of £10,000 applies.

Dentists who think they might be vulnerable to these adjustments need to check their position carefully, because the rules are applied according to some very specific definitions of income as stated above. Firstly, you need to check whether your “threshold income” is more than £110,000 – your threshold income is broadly your taxable income from all sources minus any gross private pension contributions via relief at source. For NHS Pension Scheme members, taxable income equates to gross income less any pension contributions deducted at source via a net pay arrangement. 

If your threshold income is indeed above £110,000, you will need to calculate your adjusted income. Broadly, this is your threshold income plus any growth in your NHS Pension or any other defined benefit pension scheme that you are an active member of. On top of this you also need to add any contributions made into money purchase pension arrangements. So to be clear, for any defined benefit scheme like the NHS Pension it is the growth in your pension benefits, not your own personal contribution nor that of your employer that you need to include. If your adjusted income exceeds £150,000, the tapered annual allowance will apply.

Importantly, it is the individual dentist’s responsibility to check their own threshold and adjusted income levels – and therefore to work out what tapered annual allowance they are subject to. You’ll only receive an annual allowance statement from the NHS Pension Scheme if your pension growth is above the standard annual allowance of £40,000.

Bear in mind too that the information with which the NHS Pension Scheme calculates your annual allowance growth or input will only take into account your NHS pensionable income. So if you have non-pensionable NHS income or any other non NHS income – from private practice, property rentals or savings interest to name but a few, the NHS Pensions Agency will not be aware of this. Nor will the scheme have any information on additional pension contributions you make into other arrangements.

The bottom line here is that you could still be subject to the tapered annual allowance even if it isn’t immediately obvious from the NHS Pension Scheme’s annual allowance statement. It is crucial to remember you will only get a statement automatically if your input or growth exceeds £40,000 in respect of your NHS Pension.

Certainly, if you feel there is any possibility of you being affected by tapering – especially if you have income from any other sources including private dental practice incomeor you are making contributions into any other type of pension arrangement – you should request an on-demand annual allowance statement from the NHS Pension Scheme in order to confirm your current position.

In addition, think seriously about taking independent financial advice – both to be sure you can calculate your exact position in the right way and to consider ways to mitigate any potential problems you have with the tapered annual allowance.

For advice tailored to your profession, call Chase de Vere Dental on 0345 300 4514 or visit www.chasedeveredental.co.uk.

By Phil Bowler of Chase de Vere Dental, the independent financial advice partner of Simplyhealth Professionals.

About the author

Phil Bowler is an authorised independent financial adviser and Business Development Manager for Chase de Vere Dental.

*Any reference to the NHS Pension Scheme also relates to the SPPA in Scotland and the HSC in Northern Ireland. In terms of the change to scheme pays we are still awaiting clarification regarding any updates to the HSC scheme in Northern Ireland.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate tax advice.

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