Response to BMA ‘perfect pensions storm’ letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer

The Association wrote to the Treasury in 2016 to highlight the significant issues surrounding the recruitment and retention of senior health professionals within the NHS, driven in part by the changes to the taxation of pension savings introduced in the 2015 Summer Budget.

Since then, AISMA has written a series of letters to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Chancellor of the Exchequer reiterating these concerns.

AISMA’s latest letter to the Chancellor, sent last week, asked the government to urgently review the pensions savings regime with reference to the Annual Allowance, and set out three suggestions:

1 – Changes could take the form of raising the Annual Allowance threshold to a position where it removes the majority of key NHS workers from this charge. This can be justified on the basis that pension growth for higher earners is now effectively capped by the reduced Lifetime Allowance. The Lifetime Allowance rules lead to a tax charge where benefits exceed the maximum allowed. This allowance has reduced over the years and therefore automatically caps tax relief on larger pensions. At the very least the tapering rules need an overhaul as they are causing “cliff edges” where additional tax is higher than earnings

2 – The Government could consider further changes to the NHS pension scheme to allow qualified GPs and hospital consultants to cap their pensionable earnings to give them back control over the pension growth they have in any one year. This is more difficult to achieve without a significant overhaul of the pension scheme. Simply allowing the option to say reduce contributions and benefits to 50% as proposed in the latest GP contract will in our view not have the desired impact. Changes need to be more radical than this.

3 – Allow the measurement of the Annual Allowance to be linked directly to combined employee and employer contributions, rather than on the benefit accrual method that HMRC adopt, on the basis that Public Sector schemes now have to be self-funding. This would reduce the burden of administration on the NHS pension scheme and allow tax payers to complete tax returns more accurately. This is the simplest option which would achieve quick results and allows professionals to better control their growth.