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I understand I can contribute up to 40k (or 100% of salary) in one financial year, and I will receive tax relief on these payments.

I was working on this assumption:

employer pension contributions + personal pension contributions + HMRC basic tax relief cannot exceed £40,000 across the tax year.

And this seems to be in aline with the Gov website: enter image description here

But on the Hargreaves lansdown website, they have a pdf file which says:

enter image description here

I am confused - are employer contributions counted in the total or not?

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These two questions/statements are addressing different aspects of the pension tax system.

The general principle is that you should be able to have pension contributions be tax-free up to the £40k limit (or less for very high earners).

If your employer makes the contribution, they do so before you are even charged income tax, so the contributions are automatically tax-free.

If you make the contribution, tax relief needs to be claimed to ensure that the end result is that the contributions are tax-free. The pension scheme claims the basic-rate relief and adds it to the amount you send them. If you pay higher-rate tax then you use self-assessment to get the higher-rate part of the relief which goes back in your pocket.

So you need to add up all contributions that go into the pension scheme - yours including the basic rate tax relief, and the employers' - to figure out the £40k limit. But only your contributions go into self-assessment for the purpose of getting higher-rate relief.

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    Absolutely. The HL PDF is telling you what to do for self assessment only, rather than describing the annual allowance. – marktristan Dec 9 '20 at 15:57
  • So this statement is correct? employer pension contributions + personal pension contributions + HMRC basic tax relief cannot exceed £40,000 across the tax year Or is it employer pension contributions + personal pension contributions cannot exceed £40,000 across the tax year – Dan Dec 10 '20 at 15:20
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    @Dan it's the former - because the actual amount that goes into your pension scheme when you make a personal contribution is the amount you send them + basic rate tax relief. – GS - Apologise to Monica Dec 10 '20 at 15:23

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