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Press comment: New pension proposals might alleviate the NHS crisis, but won't fix wider taper troubles


If you are covering the new consultation by the Department of Health which explores how to bring more flexibility to the NHS Pension Scheme to help senior clinicians and avoid tax charges from doing additional hours, please see the following comment from Ian Browne, pensions expert at Quilter:

Ian Browne“It is laudable that the government has taken notice of the cacophony of unhappiness erupting from the medical profession after they proposed the 50:50 rule to try and fix the NHS pension debacle. However, the fact that we now have a second set of proposals for consultation in the space of just a few months shows that the Department of Health is chasing its tail trying to remedy the disastrous fallout from the Treasury’s annual allowance taper. These proposals are still likely to leave many doctors dissatisfied, and they will continue to face complex choices to mitigate the effects of the poorly conceived tax policy implemented in 2016.

“And to make matters worse, government have not yet acknowledged that the same challenges are facing other sectors in just the same way. Even if their new proposals have merit they fail to address the fact that the taper is wreaking havoc across the whole public sector. Once again these proposals represent a sticking plaster that will only serve to fix the problem the NHS is facing. As our figures show judges and the military are both suffering with the exact same problem with 1 in 4 judges now breaching the annual allowance and just fewer than 4000 armed forces personnel also getting hit by the tax charge.

“The government’s own Ministers have rightly highlighted that there cannot be special tax arrangement for schemes in particular public sector vocations. The chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, has already acknowledged in parliament that creating different rules in the tax system for certain sectors is not a practical option as it risks discrepancies and tax arbitrage. And yet today’s proposals show that NHS scheme rules have been tweaked so that it offers scheme pays on any tax charge, whereas other schemes are only obliged to step in when the charge exceeds £2,000.

“Rather than fiddle around trying to find workarounds for this growing problem the Government should be looking to scrap the taper altogether as this is quite clearly the root cause of the problem. In one fail swoop you could alleviate this pension problem threatening the public sector.”

How does the policy work?

Introduced from April 2016, the policy reduces the annual allowance for pension savers with higher earnings, breaking the principal that all pension savers are entitled to relief at their marginal rate of income tax up to the same threshold allowance.

Instead, it penalises higher earners by curbing their entitlement to tax relief on contributions. Individuals with an ‘adjusted income’ of over £150,000 and a ‘threshold income’ over £110,000 are affected.

For every £1 of ‘adjusted income’ over £150,000 an individual loses 50p of their annual allowance. This tapering effect means someone with income of £210,000 is left with an annual allowance of just £10,000, a 75% reduction on the standard £40,000 annual allowance.

The controversial policy has resulted in dire unintended consequences for key frontline workers in public services, especially the NHS. The taper is particularly damaging for workers in public sector DB schemes because of the way their pension accruals are calculated.

A recent survey showed that nearly half of GPs had cut their hours to avoid triggering a punitive tax charge, while NHS trusts have reported delays to procedures because of staff shortages as a result of clinicians rejecting overtime.

Quilter has repeatedly campaigned against the policy, introducing a calculator to help savers navigate the tapered allowance, and calling on the newly appointed chancellor, Sajid Javid, to make reversing the policy one of his key priorities.

For more information on other public sector schemes breaching the annual allowance please see below:

For more information contact

Alex Berry023 8072 626007741
Michael Glenister020 7778 963807469

Notes to Editors:

About Quilter plc:

Quilter plc is a leading wealth management business in the UK and internationally, helping to create prosperity for the generations of today and tomorrow.

Quilter plc oversees £109.8 billion in customer investments (as at 30 September 2019, excluding Heritage life assurance).

It has an adviser and customer offering spanning: financial advice; investment platforms; multi-asset investment solutions; and discretionary fund management.

The business is comprised of two segments: Advice and Wealth Management and Wealth Platforms.

Advice and Wealth Management encompasses the financial advice business, Quilter Financial Planning; the discretionary fund management business, Quilter Cheviot; and Quilter Investors, the Multi-asset investment solutions business.

Wealth Platforms includes Old Mutual Wealth UK platform and Old Mutual International, including AAM Advisory in Singapore.

The Old Mutual Wealth Heritage life assurance business was acquired by ReAssure Group Plc on 2 January 2020.

Since its IPO in June 2018, Quilter plc’s businesses have progressively rebranded to Quilter, as follows: 

  • Quilter Financial Planning (previously Intrinsic)
  • Quilter Private Client Advisers (previously Old Mutual Wealth Private Client Advisers)
  • Charles Derby Group (becoming Quilter Financial Advisers)
  • Quilter Financial Adviser School
  • Quilter Cheviot
  • Quilter Investors
  • Old Mutual Wealth (becoming Quilter Wealth Solutions in 2020)
  • Old Mutual International (becoming Quilter International in 2020)

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This communication is issued by Quilter plc.  Registered office: Millennium Bridge House, 2 Lambeth Hill, London EC4V 4AJ, United Kingdom. Registered number: 6404270.  Registered in England.