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Pension top-ups for lower-paid employees

  • 10th August 2022

Employees who contribute to an occupational pension scheme under a net pay arrangement do not currently benefit from any tax relief if their earnings are below the personal allowance. This anomaly will be rectified from 6 April 2024 when HMRC will start making top-up payments.

A net pay arrangement is where pension contributions are deducted from pay before tax is calculated. The anomaly arises because someone in a similar situation, but making contributions with relief given at source, benefits from 20% relief. The change will mean low earners benefiting from the same tax relief regardless of earnings.

Top-up payments

HMRC’s top-up payments will be introduced from tax year 2024/25 onwards, with the top up not paid until after the end of the tax year. The implementation delay is due to the significant HMRC system changes required.

  • The intention is that HMRC will notify those who are eligible and invite them to provide the necessary details for the top-up to be paid direct to their bank account. The requirement to claim the top-up, however, runs the risk of non-take up.
  • As an example, someone qualifying with savings of £500 into an occupational pension scheme for a tax year should receive a subsequent top-up from HMRC of £500 at 20% = £100. The same rate will apply for Scottish taxpayers.
  • If part of a person’s pension savings already benefits from tax relief due to earnings exceeding the personal allowance, a top-up payment can still be given for the proportion not benefiting.
  • Top-ups will be taxable, although this will not mean any additional income tax for many recipients given their level of earnings.

Although top-ups are only estimated to be an average of just over £50 a year, more than a million employees should benefit – the vast majority of them women.

The government’s policy paper explaining the change can be found here.

Any news or resources within this section should not be relied upon with regards to figures or data referred to as legislative and policy changes may have occurred.