The annual allowance is the maximum amount of tax free growth an individual’s pension can grow by in one year.
- covers all contributions to pension schemes but not the State Pension
- is set by HMRC
If an individual exceeds this limit they may need to pay an annual allowance charge to HMRC
The majority of members should not be affected by the annual allowance but there are a number of circumstances where members could see significant growth in their NHS Pension Scheme benefits that takes them over the annual allowance.
Watch our annual allowance video to understand:
Download the video transcript (PDF: 107KB).
The circumstances are listed in annual allowance - does it affect me? (PDF: 96.5KB).
You should consider whether you are affected by one of these circumstances before contacting NHS Pensions about Annual Allowance.
If you are a new member to the 2015 Scheme or a transition member, you should read the annual allowance transition members factsheet (PDF: 282KB).
You should consider whether you are affected by one of these circumstances before contacting NHS Pensions about annual allowance.
From 6 April 2011 the annual allowance was reduced and the method of calculation was changed, the information confirms how this affects pension growth in the NHS Pension Scheme.
The table below shows the annual allowance limits from 6 April 2011:
|Tax year||Annual allowance|
The Finance (No 2) Act 2015 introduced two important changes to annual allowance:
- To adjust the pension input period during the 2015/16 tax year so that it becomes aligned with the tax year from 6 April 2016. Transitional rules have been brought in for the 2015/16 tax year to make sure that pension savings up to £80,000 made before 9 July 2015 are protected from an annual allowance charge.
- To taper the annual allowance for members who have a ‘threshold income’ of over £110,000 and an ‘adjusted income’ of £150,000 from 6 April 2016.
The tapered annual allowance
Factsheets are available that have important information about the changes:
HMRC has published guidance on how to calculate your tapered annual allowance, including a calculator, on their website.
From the 2017/18 tax year, we've extended our voluntary scheme pays facility to include members with an annual allowance charge as a result of having a tapered annual allowance.
More information can be found in the Scheme Pays Election guide (PDF: 840KB).
If the annual allowance affects you:
How the annual allowance is calculated
This section provides you with information on how the annual allowance is calculated and calculation examples.
This page contains various pieces of information about how the annual allowance is calculated.
Annual Allowance examples:
For Practitioners members about the annual allowance examples
Practitioners earn pensions based on their earnings throughout their career. These are re-valued to maintain a current value and are known as Career Average Re-valued Earnings (CARE) pensions.
Practitioners who have also worked as NHS Staff or as a GP registrar may also have pension earned on the final salary method as well as on the CARE method.
Members who have this type of mixed employment will have additional calculations applied to their pension records to ensure that the most favourable pension is paid to them. Once the pension has been calculated steps 2, 3 and 4 for the opening value and steps 2 and 3 for the closing value can be followed.
Exceeding the annual allowance
This section provides you with information about exceeding the annual allowance.
NHS Pensions will only provide you (the member) with the pension input amount for the relevant tax year and the three previous tax years if available. It is your responsibility for establishing and calculating any annual allowance charge.
A calculator to aid with this is available on HMRCs website.
If you exceed the annual allowance there may be an annual charge to pay. This is not at a fixed rate but depends on how much taxable income you have and the amount of pension saving in excess of the annual allowance.
To calculate this you need to work out the rate of tax that would be charged if your excess pension savings were added to your taxable income and taxed based on your marginal income tax rate.
If you have any unused annual allowance from the previous three tax years this may be used to offset against an annual allowance charge in the relevant tax year.
You can ‘look back’ up to three previous tax years to see if you have any unused allowance from these years and if so, you may be able to ‘carry forward’ the unused allowance and add it to your annual allowance limit in the current tax year.
This may prevent an annual allowance charge being payable.
If you had exceeded the annual allowance by £15,000 in 2011/12 but had unused annual allowance from the 3 previous tax years of £25,000 then you would not be liable for an annual allowance Charge.
It's the your responsibility to check whether you have any used allowance from the preceding 3 tax years to carry forward to the relevant tax year being assessed. The pension saving statement provided by NHS Pensions will include the pension input amounts for the previous 3 tax years assuming the information is available from the NHS employer.
Informing you about annual allowance
This section tells you when NHS Pensions will inform members if their NHS pension growth in the 1995/2008 Scheme or the 2015 Scheme is more than the standard annual allowance.
We will send you a pension savings statement if:
- growth in your 1995/2008 Scheme or 2015 Scheme benefits is more than the standard annual allowance
- you are a transition member, with pension entitlement in both NHS Pension Schemes, and the total growth in your NHS benefits across both the 1995/2008 Pension Scheme and the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme exceeds the standard annual allowance. You'll receive a statement from each NHS Scheme
Provided we receive the necessary membership information from your NHS employer or a third party to calculate your NHS pension growth by 6 July we will write to you by 6 October if you have exceeded the standard annual allowance.
If we receive the membership information after 6 July we have three months of us receiving this information to send you a statement.
We are unable to calculate growth in NHS benefits for medical practitioners until the completion of your Annual Certificate of Pensionable Profit and NHS Pensions receiving confirmation of your certified year end earnings.
If we receive membership information with uncertified earnings when you have not left the NHS Scheme this may result in you receiving a statement based on these ‘estimated’ earnings.
If this has been the case you should write to NHS Pensions requesting a revised pension savings statement when you have completed your annual certificate and know that your certified year end earnings have been sent to us.
If you are a member of the NHS Money Purchase AVC Scheme we will send you a pension savings statement if, either:
- contributions paid to the NHS Money Purchase AVC Scheme exceed the standard Annual Allowance
- you have flexibly accessed your money purchase arrangement and contributions to the NHS Money Purchase AVC Scheme exceed the money purchase annual allowance
You can request an on demand pension savings statement if you do not expect the growth of your NHS benefits to exceed the standard annual allowance or you have pension savings with another registered pension scheme.
The Pension Savings Statement is not an Annual Benefit Statement and does not include an estimate of NHS Pension Scheme benefits. More information about Total Reward Statements and Annual Benefit Statements can be found on the Total Reward Statements website.
If you have an annual allowance charge you can either pay the charge directly to HMRC yourself or share the responsibility for the payment with NHS Pensions using the scheme pays facility.
NHS Pensions offers both mandatory and voluntary scheme pays facilities.
Mandatory scheme pays
This is available if the pension input amount in either the 1995/2008 NHS Pension Scheme or the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme is more than the standard annual allowance.
Voluntary scheme pays for tax years 2015/2016 and 2016/2017
This is available if you are a member of both NHS schemes, the pension input amount in one or both schemes is under the standard annual allowance and the total pension input amount across both schemes is more than the standard annual allowance.
Voluntary scheme pays for tax year 2017/2018 onwards
In addition to the above mandatory and voluntary scheme pays facilities we have extended our voluntary scheme pays facility to include an annual allowance charge, occurring in 2017/18 onwards, because you have a tapered annual allowance or alternative annual allowance lower than £40,000.
Voluntary scheme pays is now available for the annual allowance charge calculated from the part of the pension input amount:
- in the 1995/2008 NHS Pension Scheme or the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme - that is under £40,000 but over your tapered or alternative annual allowance; or
- across both schemes when added together – that is more than your tapered or alternative annual allowance.
In addition, it is no longer a requirement for scheme pays to have an annual allowance charge of more than £2,000.
From 2017/18 we can now pay 100% of your annual allowance charge in respect of your NHS benefits to HMRC, if you ask us to, either using our mandatory scheme pays facility, or a mixture of mandatory and our extended voluntary scheme pays facilities.
Making a scheme pays election
If you want to ask for voluntary and/or mandatory scheme pays, you'll need to complete a Scheme Pays Election (SPE2) and return it to us within HMRC’s deadline of 31 July, in the year following the tax year of the annual allowance charge.
If you're a member of both the 1995/2008 NHS Pension Scheme and the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme and want both NHS scheme to pay some or all of your annual allowance charge these are counted as separate elections on the SPE2 and you need to tell us how much of the annual allowance charge you want each scheme to pay.
The Scheme Pays Election Guide explains how you can share your annual allowance charge between the two NHS schemes.
Because we treat them as separate elections, you need to complete both parts on the SPE2 before the deadline date. It's not possible to elect for one NHS scheme to pay 100% of your charge.
If you have not received a pension savings statement you can estimate your liability to an annual allowance charge in order to meet HMRC’s deadline. You should not delay your election to wait for a statement.
Scheme Pays Election Guide (PDF: 840KB)
More information about the scheme pays facility we offer can be found in the following factsheets.
The following factsheets are available if you have an annual allowance charge in a tax year before 2017/18.
This section contains Annual Allowance factsheets providing information about particular circumstances. These include the alternative Annual Allowance as a result of flexibly accessing money purchase benefits and exemptions to the Annual Allowance.
Read the following factsheets for more information:
Annual Allowance general FAQs (PDF: 165KB)There are a range of different terms and phrases used to explain or describe the Annual Allowance and we provide explanations in the Annual Allowance glossary factsheet (PDF: 189KB).