How will the Lifetime allowance affect my UK pension if I live overseas?

Feb 10, 2021 | Pensions, Regulations, Tax

What is the lifetime allowance?

Pension simplification came into effect from 6th April 2006 to rationalise the British tax system in regards to pension schemes. One of the policies introduced was the lifetime allowance for all UK pensions. The lifetime allowance is the limit on the amount of pension benefits that can be taken without incurring a tax charge. As you can see in the chart below, the lifetime allowance, better known as LTA, was introduced in 2006/07 with a limit of £1.5m. The limit increased to £1.8m between 2006/07 – 2010/11 before decreasing between 2012/13 – 2019/20. Since 2018/19, the LTA has increased annually.

The LTA is currently set at £1,073,100 for the 2020/2021 tax year and increases by inflation each year.

Tax year Lifetime Allowance
2006/07 1,500,000
2007/08 1,600,000
2008/09 1,650,000
2009/10 1,750,000
2010/11 1,800,000
2011/12 1,800,000
2012/13 1,500,000
2013/14 1,500,000
2014/15 1,250,000
2015/16 1,250,000
2016/17 1,000,000
2017/18 1,000,000
2018/19 1,030,000
2019/20 1,055,000
2020/21 1,073,100

Does the lifetime allowance affect me?

Whenever benefits are taken from a personal or workplace pension, you use up a percentage of the Lifetime Allowance. This is known as a Benefit Crystallisation Event (BCE). A BCE arises in the following circumstances:

  • Entering drawdown (BCE1)
  • Entering scheme pension (BCE2)
  • Scheme pension in payment increasing beyond a permitted margin (BCE3)
  • Buying a lifetime annuity (BCE4)
  • Reaching age 75 before taking all benefits from a defined benefit pension (BCE5)
  • Reaching age 75 with a drawdown fund (BCE5A)
  • Reaching age 75 before taking all benefits from a defined contribution pension (BCE5B)
  • Funds on death under age 75 being used to provide drawdown for dependant/nominee (BCE5C)
  • Funds on death under age 75 being used to buy an annuity for dependant/nominee (BCE5D)
  • Taking relevant lump sums (including Pension Commencement Lump Sums (PCLS) and
  • Uncrystallised Funds Pension Lump Sums (UFPLS)) (BCE6)
  • Fund on death under age 75 being paid as a lump sum (BCE7)
  • Transferring to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) (BCE8)
  • Various one-off payments as prescribed in regulations (BCE9)

BCEs can be useful forms of financial and tax planning for pension members that have an LTA liability. Understanding what each BCE means and how it applies to you is important to make a rational decision which take into account the knowns and unknowns which could affect the amount of tax you are due to pay. Our advisers are experienced in this area and can help you plan effectively to minimise the tax liability as much as possible. CLICK HERE to contact an adviser.

What tax will I pay above the LTA?

The amount of tax you pay on pension savings above the LTA depends on how the money is paid to you. The two tax charges are as follows:

  1. 55% if you tax a lump sum
  2. 25% if you withdraw the money any other way e.g. pension payment

Based on the two applicable tax rates, it is common sense that you would want to avoid 55% tax at all costs. This is only possible in certain arrangements such as a SIPP that allows you to access “flexi-access” when withdrawing your pension but would not be possible should you have a defined benefit scheme or should you purchase in annuity or access drawdown through a DC scheme.

Example: Your SIPP is valued at £1.45m and you do not have protection. The current LTA is £1,073,100 so you have an LTA liability of £376,900. The prudent approach would be to only “crystallise” £1,073,100 of your SIPP and leave the remaining £376,900 “uncrystallised”. This would enable you to take the 25% PCLS on the crystalised pot and begin accessing drawdown without incurring any LTA tax charges. Upon accessing the “uncrystallised pot” (assuming we are doing this the same date for illustration purposes), you would then “waive your right to your 25% PCLS” which means you would not get 25% of the pot size tax free. Instead, you would be able to withdraw the pension as income only and would only have to pay 25% LTA tax charge, instead of 55%. This tax liability would be GBP 94,225.

Can I protect myself against the LTA?

There are a number of protectors that you could have applied for that protects you against any drop in the LTA such as enhanced and primary protection, which is no longer available or fixed protection and individual protection. You can still apply for individual protection 2016 and fixed protection 2016 if you meet certain requirements. To find out more info, please visit the HMRC website link below:

There are also technical ways to reduce this LTA charge over your lifetime that require a serious amount of planning.

What are other ways I could protect against the LTA?

A QROPS (Qualified recognised overseas pension scheme) provides many benefits to someone residing or looking to reside overseas. One of the benefits is that it has no lifetime allowance and is only tested prior to transfer. The LTA tax charge upon transfer to a QROPS is a flat 25% regardless of how you access your benefits. This approach is much simpler but of course, only available for Europe residents as transfers to a QROPS outside of Europe would incur an “overseas transfer charge” of 25%. This charge would also apply if you move outside of Europe within 5 years of the transfer.

Inflation-Linked LTA

There have been changes that have come into effect that now increases the lifetime allowance by the UK inflation rate each year. The lifetime allowance has increased from £1,055,000 in 2019 to £1,073,100 in 2020 and will continue to increase by inflation each year.

To find out any information regarding the above article or if you would like to receive a NO cost NO obligation review of your options, please contact us today!


This communication is for informational purposes only based on our understanding of current legislation and practices which are subject to change and are not intended to constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice, investment recommendations or investment research. You should seek advice from a professional adviser before embarking on any financial planning activity. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in this communication is correct, we are not responsible for any errors or omissions.

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