Tax-Free Cash Lump Sum – this is an amount of cash which you can take from your pension fund free of income and capital gains tax.
The pensions simplification legislation introduced a level playing field for tax-free cash. Under the new rules, all pension policyholders are able to take 25% of their fund as tax-free cash. This was always the case for personal pensions, but this is a new requirement for all the other schemes such as additional voluntary contribution (AVC) schemes and protected rights schemes.
For occupational schemes, the new rules mean some employees are entitled to more tax-free cash and others less. Entitlement was based on a calculation involving the number of years' service and the employee's final salary. This meant that some employees could build up entitlements as high as 50% of their benefits, while others were entitled to significantly less than 25%.
Not all schemes, however, will offer the full entitlement to tax-free cash. There is no obligation on the trustees of occupational schemes to amend their rules to give employees an automatic right to the full 25% tax free cash.
The maximum tax free cash sum that you can usually take is therefore limited to a maximum of 25% of the underlying fund value. The remainder of your pension fund, after deduction of the tax free cash, will either remain invested until you need to take a pension income, or will be used to buy a pension annuity.
Once you have taken your tax-free cash entitlement, this tax free cash is no longer considered to be ‘pension money’, and you may do with it as you wish. Whilst you do not have to take tax-free cash, it may suit your circumstances. Once you have taken this tax free cash lump sum, you can't take any more tax free cash from your pension.
As mentioned above, if you take the Tax Free Cash from your pension you can leave the remaining fund invested until you chose to retire or take income from your pension. Currently you have to be over age 50 to do this. In the year 2010 the age at which you can take tax free cash increases to 55.
If you want to take your Tax Free Cash and your current pension plan is not able to release your benefits directly to you, it maybe necessary to transfer the pension fund to a new plan in order to take your tax free cash early.
However if you are considering taking your tax free cash early, you must be aware that this may significantly reduce the value of the pension you receive in retirement. Whilst taking a large tax free cash lump sum can be very tempting, it is vital that you consider how taking 25% of your pension fund out as tax free cash will affect you in the longer term.
You may also wish to consider using all or part of your tax free cash to provide a supplementary income, and we can give you some options on this.
Open Market Option is your right to shop around for the best deal.
Because you don’t have to take your pension income from your existing pension provider, an Open Market Option allows you to buy a pension with another pension provider. You can take your tax-free cash and then the balance of the fund in your pension will be sent to another pension provider who will set up your pension.
In short, the open market option refers to the right of anyone approaching retirement to choose to turn their pension fund into an income with a company which is different to the one which has administered their funds during their employment.
The Open Market Option was introduced in the Finance Act 1978. The open market option allows you to transfer your pension fund from one provider to another to achieve a higher annuity rate. You must exercise an open market option before any benefits are drawn from the existing pension provider in the form of an income (pension annuity) or tax free cash lump sum.
Although everyone with a private pension scheme has the right to exercise their open market option and source a pension annuity from another provider, over two thirds of people do not. They could receive extra income of up to 30%, worth thousands of pounds every year for the rest of their lives, simply by taking their open market option.
If you decide to take your tax free cash lump sum you can use the money to buy a purchase life annuity. The open market option can also apply to this tax free cash lump sum enabling you to secure the best annuity income.
When you approach your expected retirement age, you will receive information from your existing pension provider about what pension annuity they can offer, after taking your tax free cash. The provider's annuity may not be competitive and an open market option could add up to 30% more pension income each year for the rest of the your life.
An open market option means you are free to buy a pension annuity from any provider in the market. Although every one of the approximate 300,000 people retiring in the UK in 2008 could consider an open market option, but over two-thirds still did not shop around to find the best annuities.
Pension providers have different views on the type of pension annuity business they want to attract. So the pension annuity rates they offer can vary widely from one company to another.
A pension annuity is the technical term for what most people think of as their “pension”. A pension annuity turns your pension fund (which you have built up during your working life) into a regular pension income, which will be paid to you for as long as you live.
A pension annuity is simply a series of payments made usually on a monthly basis. You use your pension fund to buy a pension annuity. The pension annuity rate will depend on many factors, including your age, your health, general economic factors at that time such as interest rates, any annuity guaranteed period, any regular increase to apply each year (escalation) and how many times and when in each year the pension will be paid.
The pension income you receive from the pension annuity can be set to be level or indexed, and you will receive a guaranteed income for life. There are no additional charges taken from the pension annuity contract once it has been set up, as the charges are reflected in the pension annuity rate.
You need to ensure you are happy with the pension annuity contract as you can not change it once it has been set up.
You can buy a pension annuity as long as you are over 50 and under 75 when the annuity starts. From 6th April 2010 you need to be at least 55 before you can buy an annuity.
By purchasing annuities through an open market option, your existing pension fund provider may make an administrative charge. However, the extra income usually secured by exercising your open market option far outweighs such costs. The other consideration is what costs are there from the new provider of your pension annuity.
Some pension providers will also offer enhanced pension annuity rates, sometimes called impaired pension annuity rates, to individuals who have medical problems and therefore a shorter life expectancy. In addition, some providers will offer enhanced pension annuity rates to smokers who have smoked for more than 10 years.