Pension changes – who benefits?
Since my last article we’ve enjoyed absorbing the somewhat spectacular aftermath of the UK budget. Spectacular that is if you’re into pensions and all that stuff. I am, and I’m absolutely fascinated by what is going on at the moment in the world of pensions. Daphne is the technical expert on all of this of course , with many qualifications and huge experience in the field, and she gave us all the technical low down in her last article. I’d just like to add my thoughts on why this might be happening.
I do find it somewhat odd that George Osborne seems to have sent a clear message to HMR&C to prepare full a full blown retreat and reversal of the policies that they have pursued avidly over the past eight years. In case you are not aware, April 2006 was ‘A’ Day, when the whole pension industry was overhauled, and QROPS, already born, was really launched on the UK expatriate market. Saving for your retirement was of paramount importance, and woe betide any financial adviser who dared to try to help a client access their pension funds contrary to the terms approved by HMR&C.
I need to say here that I am completely anti pension busting. My strong view is that the UK State Pension is pitifully ill equipped to provide us with anything like a comfortable retirement. Those of you who are lucky enough, or who have been diligent enough to create a decent pension fund are to be congratulated and encouraged to continue in a similar vein. Pension busting advisers are not acting in the clients’ best interests. They are in fact acting completely in their own interest; looking to create income and commission where it is not due.
We are (mostly) living longer, and will need to fund longer periods of retirement. Accelerating the pace at which we spend our retirement savings is going to end in tears. It’s a bit like telling a child who is allowed to buy one bag of sweets a week that he or she can eat them all on day one. And now we have a new pension buster on the block, Mr George Osborne himself. The proposals outlined in the budget remind me very much of the government’s war on drugs and drug related crime. A drug ‘Tzar’ was appointed a few years ago who after a couple of years of beating his head against a brick wall decided that the best thing to do would be to legalise all class A drugs and make them freely available. I’m not sure if he suggested an suitable tax rate at the same time, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if he did. Fortunately public outcry defeated that move, but I’m not sure that the same will happen this time round. This is all about money in your pockets, and that is a powerful lobby.
What worries me most about these proposals is the reason behind them Please don’t think for one minute that kind Mr Osborne is looking to make life easier for us by removing restrictions on when and how we access our pensions. What he is actually looking to do is raise his tax yield. 55 years old? A couple of hundred grand in a pension pot? Why don’t you take it all out and splash it about a bit? Treat yourself to that holiday; that car; that boat. Help your children progress up the housing ladder, or help your grandchildren get on the ladder. Tax?, sure, you’ll have to pay high rate tax when you take it, but doesn’t nearly everyone pay high rate tax these days?
Surely there’s a problem here? Why would the government want to stoke up problems for themselves in the future? Surely they don’t want droves of hard up pensioners clamouring for state aid in their final decades because they’ve spent all their money. I’m afraid the answer might be that the government doesn’t really care. One thing we’ve missed in all of this is the other pension proposals that have been going through. A raise in the general level of state pension yes, but the complete erosion of many other benefits that have always come to the aid of pensioners who can’t cope. The message now is ‘Here is your £7,000 a year. Don’t come back asking for more, because there isn’t any.’
So if the benefits system is largely to be dismantled, surely it makes sense to the government to try to get its hands on as much of the pension savings that currently exist as they can? They wouldn’t do that, would they? I think the bottom line here is that we are seeing just how interested the government is becoming in our pension savings. QROPS allows you to move your pension fund out of UK jurisdiction; have more control, and eradicate all sorts of risks. I think we should be looking very carefully at protecting our futures.