Operator: Good day and welcome to the Scottish Widows Defined Benefits Transfers MasterClass Conference Call. Today’s conference is being recorded. At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Mr Simon Harris. Please go ahead, sir.
Simon Harris: Thank you very much and good morning everybody. And welcome to the latest Scottish Widows TechTalk MasterClass. In a couple of minutes, Chris Jones and Tom Coughlan from the Financial Planning Team will be taking us through a presentation on defined benefits focusing in on some of the factors over and above the critical yield that could influence the outcome for the member.
Since the introduction of the Pension Freedoms in April 2015, we’ve witnessed a steady increase in demand from members of defined benefit schemes keen to understand how they can access the flexibilities enjoyed by members of defined contribution arrangements. This demand for advice shows no signs of slowing down and has only been further increased by the high transfer of values being quoted by many schemes.
I’m sure many of you over the last 12 months whether you offer advice in this space or not will have fielded increased volumes of inquiries from clients wanting to know how their defined benefits can best work for them. The regulator anticipated that demand from members on transferring away from their defined benefit scheme to access the flexibilities would increase significantly and so they have proved to be correct. Even though there is an increased demand for advice, there are no shortcuts and rules enforced prior to the freedoms still prevail and we still need to start by assuming a transfer conversion or opt out, will not be suitable unless it can be demonstrated to be in the client’s best interest.
Defined Benefit advice is a highly regulated area requiring specialist permissions and the FCA have been busy consulting on aspects and approaches to advice since the freedoms were announced. In January, the FCA issued further guidance on their expectations in this space reminding all, that when advising on defined benefits in addition to acknowledging the critical yield and the likely expected investment returns the client’s fund will be invested in, advisers also need to consider the personal circumstances of the client before making any recommendation taking into account other specific factors as they apply to the client.
To assist in reviewing some of the other factors, it is important to have a good understanding of the differences that exist in benefit structures of defined benefit and defined contribution. So for example, benefits in the event of a client’s death or a significant factor, what advantage or disadvantages would the member see in remaining within the defined benefit scheme compared with a move to a defined contribution scheme?
So the aim of today’s presentation is to help you understand some of the main considerations in advising a client and highlight the key benefit differences that currently exist between the two regimes. Scottish Widows offers a great deal of support in this area including a TVAS service using selected pension. They’re also shortly to go live with a campaign focused on this area supported by additional resource, guides and information. Look out for details of this campaign within the next week or so.
Today’s presentation is scheduled to last for about 35 to 40 minutes following which there’ll be time for any questions that you may have. A recording will also be placed onto the Scottish Widows Adviser Extranet should you wish to review the content again. CPD certificates will also be issued.
I’d like to now hand you over to Chris to start today’s presentation.
Chris Jones: Thank you, Simon. Good morning everyone. As Simon mentioned, earlier in the year, FCA issued an alert relating to advice on DB-to-DC transfers. However, this is simply a reminder of the current rules rather than anything new and this presentation aims to help with the second point here. The firm should consider the personal circumstances of the client before making any personal recommendations taking into account specific other factors that apply to that client.
A full understanding of the technical difference between the two types of scheme will help to apply that to individual circumstances. So, we’ll start by looking at flexibility, one of the key reasons clients may consider a transfer and then take a look at death benefits, again another motivation for transfer. Tom will then take you through two of the more technical aspects the annual allowance and tax-free cash. We’ll then take a look at the lifetime allowance before rounding that all off with a brief look at the tax planning opportunities available within the DC regime.
Flexibility. Flexibility is one of the key reasons clients may want to transfer but any transfer from DB to DC will involve some loss of certainty in exchange for that flexibility. So what are the options available under the two types of scheme?
Defined Benefit. You can of course have a scheme pension, usually tax-free cash but that’s often by commutation outside of the public sector. Early retirement may be an option but that usually involves a reduction in benefits and you can transfer to the DC regime. Drawdown is not available. Maximum tax-free cash may not be available either and Tom will look at that in a lot more detail later.
In Defined Contributions, you can have an annuity, enhanced annuity, flexible access drawdown, sorry – UFPLS, partial pension encashment, tax-free cash, phased retirement – and retirement is available without penalty anytime from the normal minimum retirement age which is 55 currently. So there are few limitations to flexibility since April 2015 with the Freedom and Choice regime changes. There’s full flexibility available within that DC regime and that’s very attractive to many clients.
Let’s have a look at an example. Client is 58. She has a DB entitlement to 20,000 a year. The scheme retirement age though is 65 and she wants to access benefits now. So she is thinking of a transfer. If she stays within the DB scheme. She can have a guaranteed income via the pension scheme for life. However, that would be subject to an early retirement reduction per the scheme rules. A typical example might be a 5% reduction for each year you retire early, though the scheme pension will be indexed. But that’s very limited flexibility.
The alternative is to transfer to the DC scheme. Her benefit is at 20,000 a year so that’s clearly going to have a value of more than £30,000 – the point where advice is required. She’s able to receive benefits immediately via flexi-access drawdown or UFPLS. She could take tax-free cash with no income or she can phase her retirement taking bits of tax-free cash, bits of income as and when in the most tax efficient way. And importantly, as she is 58, she can access from 55 so she can access it immediately without penalty.
There are few limitations in terms of access and there are many reasons why clients may value this flexibility. They may want to retire gradually, work part time and top up their income with drawdown income. They may want to take tax-free cash to start up a new business or pay off debt. They may want a higher income in the earlier years of retirement before the state pension is paid. Each client’s reasons and circumstances will be different and it’s applying these flexible options to them that will be the key to weighing up whether a transfer will be of benefit to them.
The Death Benefits. The two key changes made as part of the Freedom and Choice reforms – one was a reduction in the taxation of benefits and two was the introduction of beneficiary’s drawdown. Let’s look at what’s available.
The changes also made a clear distinction between death pre-75 and death post-75. So pre-75 within a DB scheme, you could have a dependent scheme pension. You could have a – a defined benefit lump sum. Within the DC scheme, this is the new introduction of beneficiary drawdown, a lump sum death benefit or beneficiary’s annuity and the tax position is, a dependent scheme pension; it’s taxed at the marginal rate of, the recipient. Lump sums will be tax-free and then on the right hand side all under the defined contribution regime, everything is tax-free.
It is this beneficiary drawdown which is particularly attractive making pensions a useful estate-paying vehicle allowing you to pass funds down to the generations keeping them outside of your estate and remaining within the tax-efficient pension regime and if you die under 75, all benefits will be tax-free. So that flexibility, in a DB scheme is not available. The DB schemes were largely unaffected by those April 15 changes.
Post-75, slightly different, but the same options are available. For DB, the taxation is the same, a dependent scheme pension, taxed at marginal rate tax. A lump sum benefit again at marginal rate tax but that’s very unlikely once you get post-75 because it’s nearly always a death-in-service lump sum rather than a death-post-service lump sum. The same flexibility is still available within the DC scheme. The difference here is though instead of being tax-free, you’re taxed at a marginal rate of tax.
However, if one of the key reasons a client is considering a transfer are the Death Benefits, advisers should consider the advantages and disadvantages of using a whole of life policy and using a flexible trust instead. This might enable clients to take advantage of the fixed income stream from the DB scheme while providing a lump sum equivalent to the TV to the family following their death.
Potential disadvantages of this option include the long-term affordability of the premiums and the discretionary trust regimes for IHT, income tax and capital gains that would apply to the funds. The second potential thing to watch out for is transfers whilst in ill health. You need to be aware that if the client transfers in ill health and dies within two years, HMRC may try to apply IHT to the pension fund. Exactly how and when and why is unclear. There’s a few cases going through at the moment and we’ve seen very different treatments but you just need to be aware that, there is that potential.
I’ll pass you over to Tom who’s going to have a look at the annual allowance.
Tom Coughlan: Thank you, Chris. Good morning everyone. So any decision to transfer from DB to DC should take the annual allowance into account where further funding is expected. There may be some complexities in terms of the pension input made in the year of transfer so you could have in relation to that transfer some DB accrual as well as DC contributions. After that, it’s a matter of understanding the Annual Allowance in relation to the scheme that you have been transferred to.
Okay, so the standard rule applies. There’s the pension input amount that is tested against the Annual Allowance and that’s the same treatment for both. For defined benefit, then the standard or the Tapered Annual Allowance applies. And it’s the total accrual for the year, which is tested against the Annual Allowance.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the calculation, which is to look at the closing value so the value of the pension at the end of the year in the DB scheme and from that, you deduct the opening value so the value of the pension at the start of the year which has to be adjusted for CPI inflation and that resulting figure is then multiplied by 16. That will include both employer and the employee components so you don’t need to worry about the actual member contributions to the DB scheme because it’s all rolled up into the overall accrual.
However, if you have Money Purchase AVC contributions, then they are separate contributions. They’re then not included in the accruals. They will have to be added in separately. Carry forward will be available to cover any excess in the pension input amount over the Annual Allowance for the year and should there be an annual allowance excess, then that is just added to income in the usual way and taxed depending on what tax band it falls within.
In terms of transfer from DB to DC, to access the pension freedoms, then the Money Purchase Annual Allowance has to be taken into account because that will apply as soon as you access those pension freedoms. However, if you stayed within the DB environment and the Money Purchase Annual Allowance also applied, then that doesn’t cover the DB accrual. So the DB accrual can continue either within the full standard annual allowance or the alternative Annual Allowance, which is the rest of the Annual Allowance once you deducted the Money Purchase Annual Allowance and to that carry forward can be added. So that would allow significant benefits to accrue within a DB environment perhaps after flexible access within a separate DC scheme. So that is certainly a factor to consider.
Under the Defined Contribution regime it’s the usual rules. For the Annual Allowance, contributions from all sources are tested against the Annual Allowance. It is the monetary amount paid in a tax year with carry forward available if you are looking at the standard – or the Tapered - Annual Allowance and then any excess over the annual allowance plus carry forward is dealt with in the usual way.
Should the member be within a DC arrangement, the Money Purchase Annual Allowance applies and currently, that is £10,000 per year but that is due to go down to £4,000 from 6th April. So it does severely limit the ability to contribute to a DC scheme once you have accessed those pension freedoms and crucially carry forward cannot be added to that so you are limited to £4,000 from April.
So that’s the more technical aspects of the Annual Allowance. Some other aspects, which are, useful to compare: within the DB environment, it’s very difficult to control the pension input amount. That is just the function of your years of service, your salary and the accrual rate within the scheme. That can give you an Annual Allowance excess which then you may have to pay a tax charge on. That can be even worse if you have the minimum £10,000 Tapered Annual Allowance. That can result in a significant Annual Allowance tax charge and you may not be able to pay that under scheme pays. So a significant accrual for a higher earner within a DB scheme can result in regular Annual Allowance tax charges, which could give you a cash flow issue as you can’t ask the scheme in all cases to deduct that from your benefits.
Some members in that position may consider leaving that scheme to avoid those regular tax charges. As well as losing the accrual of benefits under that scheme, you may also lose the peripheral benefits that often come with membership of a DB scheme.
Defined Contribution schemes on the other hand, it’s much easier to control the pension input amount, very easy to just take it up to the Annual Allowance plus carry forward. Members who are affected by the Tapered Annual Allowance are much more likely under a DC scheme to be able to negotiate alternative benefits. So perhaps ask for a cash amount once the Annual Allowance has been reached. Now that is not to say you can’t do it under a DB arrangement but it’s much more likely under a DC scheme which offers a much greater degree of control.
But for a member who does go over the £10,000 Tapered Annual Allowance under a DC scheme, then the same scheme pay issues apply as well as you may have to meet the Annual Allowance charge via Self-Assessment rather than have it deducted from the scheme.
There isn’t a huge amount in the Annual Allowance to base a decision to transfer on but there are a few aspects just to be aware of. Tax-free cash on the other hand can give you a significant incentive to transfer. And the reason for this is very low gilt yields are increasing transfer values and in some cases low commutation factors under DB schemes can restrict the amount of tax-free cash that is available.
Okay then, so in terms of tax-free cash, then the standard rules apply whether it’s DB or DC. So it is 25% of your benefits are available to fund that lump sum providing that is within the available Lifetime Allowance. Under DB schemes, then it will be 25% of your LTA value of benefits provided you have Lifetime Allowance available to cover that. Unfortunately, the scheme often restricts the maximum tax-free cash, often referring back to pre-A-day rules. The effect of that is that the maximum lump sum within the Lifetime Allowance isn’t always available. Another factor, which contributes, is commutation of benefits. If that is at a low factor, then that can limit the amount of tax-free cash that is available.
When you come to DC schemes however, as we have just a fund value, then 25% of that amount should be available to provide tax-free cash within the available Lifetime Allowance for the client. There are, however, occasional restrictions - guaranteed minimum pension or guaranteed annuity rates – so they may not have access to the full maximum tax-free cash because they would rather receive that guarantee rather than take the lump sum that is available to them.
Some caution is required because a member who does take guaranteed minimum pensions or guaranteed annuity rates, they do forego the tax-free cash on that amount because the missed tax-free cash amount cannot be made up at a later date because your maximum tax-free cash is just 25% of the available lifetime allowance rather than a total 25% of the Lifetime Allowance.
Otherwise, there are a few limitations regarding DC tax-free cash but very generous DB transfer values can result in more tax-free cash being available following transfer to a DC scheme. It won’t always be the case for every client but based on current market conditions, there can be an increase. So we’ll just look at a quick example regarding that.
A member in a DB scheme with a £20,000 pension available: 20 times P, so 20 times the pension is used to calculate the Lifetime Allowance value. So, that is £400,000 in this example, but this scheme provides tax-free cash by commutation at a rate of 15 to 1 which is a fairly typical commutation factor that we see at the moment.
In this example, the client has the full l ifetime allowance available. So, the way the calculation would work in terms of the lifetime allowance, if they took the maximum pension, then their LTA value of benefits would be £400,000 so 20 times the maximum pension without any commutation. However, the maximum tax-free cash is not £100,000 as the commutation factor does reduce the amount of tax-free cash available in relation to their total LTA value of benefits. It brings it down to £92,308 and the following slide will explain just how that calculation works.
So the amount of Lifetime Allowance used up is tax-free cash of £92,308 and their scheme pension is reduced accordingly by that tax-free cash. So, from that starting point of £20,000 of pension income, you deduct £1 for every £15 of that lump sum and then multiply the resulting figure by 20 which in this example gives you a scheme pension of £276,923. So in total, staying in the DB scheme taking max tax-free cash, the total crystallisation is 36.9% of the Lifetime Allowance.
Looking at the transfer to DC, we’ll just look at how that maximum tax-free cash figure was calculated, so as it’s a commutation factor other than 20 to 1, every time you take tax-free cash, then that will change the Lifetime Allowance value of benefit. So that max figure of 25% is of an unknown amount and there’s a formula in HMRC’s Pensions Tax Manual, which is on the right hand side there. The F and the G in that formula: F is the commutation factor of 15 in this case; G is the gross pension of £20,000. So just by putting those figures into that formula, then that gives you the maximum tax-free cash under the legislation of £92,308. If the commutation factor is lower, then obviously that amount will reduce and that’s quite a useful tool for checking whether the DB scheme are offering you the maximum tax-free cash under the legislation or whether it’s otherwise restricted.
So following transfer to the DC scheme, the cash equivalent transfer value in this case is £500,000. That’s using a fairly conservative multiple of 25 times the pension. At the moment, we’re seeing multiples of over 30 so 25 times is reasonably conservative and in this example, 100% of the Lifetime Allowance is available and the member wants full crystallisation and their maximum tax-free cash.
So from there, it’s fairly straightforward. The Lifetime Allowance crystallisation value would be £500,000 and their tax-free cash is a quarter of that so £125,000. So in this example, their tax-free cash has gone from just over £92,000 up to £125,000 and then adding in the designation to flexi-access drawdown that takes the total amount of Lifetime Allowance used up to 50%. Obviously, that wouldn’t be the case for every client but that is based on some realistic assumptions in the market at the moment that is the kind of increase that you can be looking at.
Okay, Chris is now going to take you through the Lifetime Allowance aspects.
Chris Jones: Thank you, Tom. Now there are significant differences in how DB and DC benefits are valued for Lifetime Allowance purposes. It’s best to look at an example to explain that.
The Lifetime Allowance test, you have a tax free cash benefit crystallisation and a scheme pension. However with the DB, a commutation factor may apply. So an example, someone with a £50,000 a year pension. So you use 20 times that pension to calculate the lifetime allowance. So in this situation, 20 times £50,000 would give you £1 million. However, that varies depending on whether you take any tax-free cash and this scheme commutes at 15 to 1. So therefore, the BCE value will vary depending on how much cash you take.
We’ll look at an example where they take the maximum and as Tom has just explained, calculate the maximum tax-free cash under this scheme. It will be £230,000. If you took all that, that would reduce the pension down to £34,615 and then the total value is 20 times that pension plus the tax-free cash amount. So it gives you slightly less. Without the tax-free cash, it would have been a million. If you’d take the tax-free cash, you’re down to £923,000 so there’s no LTA excess in either case.
So if they were to consider transferring to a DC scheme. Again, you’d have the tax-free cash crystallisation event. You’d have a crystallisation moving into drawdown if that’s what they wanted to do. The tax-free cash is always tested first and that usually benefits the policyholder. In this example, we’d used the conservative estimate again of just 25 times the pension on transfer so that £50,000 pension has been turned into a £1.25 million transfer. This client has the full LTA. There’s a choice. There’s an excess there, they can take that excess as a lump sum or as income. Take it as income, it’s 25% charge; take it as a lump sum, it’s 55% charge.
So, we’ll look at an example where they take it as drawdown income so any kind of income is 25%. So the value is £1.25 million. Deduct the remaining Lifetime Allowance; you pay 25% on that, £250,000. You get your tax-free cash so 25% of £1 million. And then £937,500 is put into drawdown. So that’s it again in diagram form.
The key point is that the DB method favours the taxpayer by applying a fixed rate of 20 to the benefits, which is usually lower than the current transfer values. However, the DC regime allows you to manage that and control the point at which you pay that LTA charge. With a DB scheme, you usually have to take all your benefits at once. Within the DC regime, you can take benefits up to the LTA and avoid paying a charge until you reach age 75. There’s no avoiding it once you get to 75 but you can control when and how much you pay before age 75 and no Lifetime Allowance charge is triggered until you go over that £1 million line or whatever line you have if you have a protected lifetime allowance.
Tom’s going to have a brief look at the tax planning.
Tom Coughlan: Thank you, Chris. So this hopefully just summarizes some of the points from the rest of this presentation. So under the Defined Benefit arrangement very limited tax planning opportunities, whilst under the Defined Contributions regime highly flexible, but is that flexibility enough to justify giving up that certainty of benefits in the Defined Benefits scheme. Should a client transfer, then some of the options for flexibility under the DC regime are as follows. They could take the maximum tax-free cash annual income on the flexi-access drawdown. That has the advantage of not triggering the Money Purchase Annual Allowance. So that’s quite advantageous should they want to continue funding. Another option is taking a UFPLS or partial pension encashment as we refer to it and that allows quick partial access to funds and also enables some or all of the tax-free cash to be taken as well.
Another option is phased crystallisation. That doesn’t need a phased crystallisation facility within the policy; it’s just a matter of taking as much or as little as you like from the pension. You can take tax-free cash in stages on a regular annual basis or perhaps ad hoc – control under the DC regime makes that option available.
Another option of course is to receive drawdown until the most favourable time to purchase the annuity so you can be exposed to the investment risk whilst accessing your policy, whilst deciding when is the most favourable time to lock yourself into that income for life.
All of this based on that trade off between certainty in terms of DB benefits and high flexibility and whether there is enough to justify transferring. We have lots of resources to help you with that decision which Sandra is going to take you through now.
Sandra Hogg: Thank you, Tom. I hope that was a useful analysis of some of the key considerations in a transfer from DB to DC.
Our next edition of TechTalk will also be focusing on the topic of Defined Benefit transfers. It will cover a back-to-basics introduction to Defined Benefits schemes, a case study highlighting the main considerations with a DB transfer. Two articles looking at tax-free cash differences and death benefit differences often cited as key reasons for decisions to transfer. Defined Benefit transfers and the Lifetime Allowance covering the points made in this MasterClass about the potential impact of a high transfer value on the Lifetime Allowance position and looking at the planning points. How the pension protection fund supports distressed DB schemes, a highly topical issue in the current market. Transfer value analysis system reports, a summary from our in-house expert of the information needed to get a good quality report and the DB pension green paper, an analysis of this important review of how DB schemes are managed and regulated and requirements to improve client understanding.
You’ll be able to find this TechTalk edition over the next week or so on the financial planning area of the Scottish Widows Adviser website at www.scottishwidows.co.uk or just look under financial planning and then go to TechTalk. You can also access our TechTalk index from the TechTalk page. This lists previous articles in alphabetical and subject order to help you to find what you need with ease.
And of course, you can find a wide range of additional support material under the financial planning area of the Scottish Widows Adviser website including articles on the Lifetime Allowance, the Tapered Annual Allowance and the Money Purchase Annual Allowance. Just look under pension planning and retirement planning and we have a range of tools including a carry forward calculator, including the Tapered Annual Allowance; a salary, dividends and pensions calculator; a Lifetime Allowance calculator and a Tapered Annual Allowance income calculator. You can find all of these under planning tools then tools and calculators.
Please speak to your usual Scottish Widows contact if you would like any further information or help with these tools. And you can view all of our previous MasterClasses under building business, adviser hub, TechTalk MasterClass series or go to the new MasterClass link on our TechTalk page.
CPD certificates we’ll be sent out to everyone who attended this live event over the next couple of weeks. I hope you found that all useful and I’ll now hand back to Chris and Tom to answer any questions that you’ve raised over the web.
Chris Jones: Yeah, if anyone does have any questions, please do so now. We’ve got just one here. Can you take taxable income from an uncrystallised fund but no tax-free cash? No, the only way you can take money from an uncrystallised fund is an uncrystallised pension fund lump sum and whenever you do that, it has to be 25% tax-free cash and the rest will be taxed as income. The only other way would be to crystallise the whole amount, take your tax-free cash, move it into drawdown within the DC scheme or buy an annuity. So I’m afraid that is not possible.
Someone is asking for the information in paper form. I think basically all of this will be covered in the TechTalk special that Sandra mentioned which will be out shortly and that perhaps is the best place to go for that if you’d like to see it in a written form.
Tom Coughlan: Yeah, I think that’s all the questions that we have. Should any more come in, then we will deal with them separately via email. So I want to hand back to Simon for closing comments.
Simon Harris: Okay. Thank you to Tom and Chris for guiding us through today’s presentation and Sandra for highlighting where further information and support is available from the financial planning team.
According to the latest DWP green paper that was issued in February, around 11 million people in the UK are either current or future pensioners in defined benefit schemes. These benefits carry great value and indeed are often a client’s most valuable pension asset forming the cornerstone of their retirement planning. The demand for DB advice is likely to remain strong and indeed Scottish Widows have been spending a lot of time on the road presenting on this topic to packed audiences.
As mentioned earlier, I am sure you too are seeing strong demand from your clients. As highlighted earlier, there are no shortcuts and your advice process needs to remain robust and the client needs to value the advice and outcome whether this be to transfer or to maintain the benefits within the defined benefit scheme.
Scottish Widows offer a great deal of support and resource in this area to help with the advice process and client understanding. This includes the TVAS service using the selected pension system, the Techtalk materials Sandra has mentioned just now and look out for the campaign, which is about to go live with additional support and guidance. Please speak to your Scottish Widows contact for more information and how we can support you.
As with our previous Masterclasses, a recording of today’s session will be placed on the Adviser Extranet for further review and as Sandra was mentioning, previous recordings of the Masterclasses are also available on the extranet.
My thanks again to Chris and Tom for taking us through the slides today and thank you for bearing with us through our technical issues. Thank you for joining and that concludes today’s presentation.
Operator: That will conclude today’s presentation. Thank you for your participation. Ladies and gentlemen, you may now disconnect.