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There has been a lot of speculation that the Chancellor may announce further major changes to tax relief on pension contributions in his March Budget, based on consultations with the pensions industry.
Under the current rules an individual’s contributions can save them tax at their highest marginal rate and also help them avoid losing their personal allowance (see above). So a £8,000 pension contribution by a higher rate taxpayer results in £2,000 (20%) being added to their fund by HMRC = £10,000 gross. The £10,000 gross contribution would then save a further £2,000 in tax, so the net cost would be just £6,000 if they are a higher rate tax payer.
It is understood that the Government is considering introducing a flat rate of pension tax relief of between 25% and 33%, which would be good news for basic rate taxpayers, but higher rate taxpayers would lose out. If say a 30% rate of relief was to be introduced, a £7,000 contribution would be topped up to £10,000 with no further relief. It has also been suggested that it may not be possible in future to agree with your employer to sacrifice part of your salary in exchange for an additional tax free employer pension contribution. The starting date of these possible changes is uncertain but they may be effective from Budget Day!