Funded pension schemes (VAT Notice 700/17)

Find out how to claim input tax on funded pension scheme expenditure for both employers and trustees.


This notice cancels and replaces Notice 700/17 (November 2011). Details of any changes to the previous version can be found in paragraph 1.1 of this notice.

1. Funded Pension schemes – an overview

1.1 Information in this notice

This notice provides guidance about claiming input tax on funded pension scheme expenditure for both employers and trustees.

It replaces the November 2012 edition. Paragraph 2.9 has been amended to include guidance on the recovery of VAT on management costs by professional trustees who are appointed to run a pension scheme.

1.2 Definition of a funded pension scheme

A funded pension scheme is one in which the employer and employees’ contributions are vested in separate trustees who may be individuals or corporate bodies. It is normally separate and distinct from the employer’s business.

1.3 Purpose of the special rules for funded pension schemes

Most employers set up their pension funds under trust deed and the appointed trustees control the funds. Each party (the employer and the trustees) has separate responsibilities, duties and activities, and has to consider their own ability to treat tax incurred as input tax. In running schemes various professional services are required (for example, solicitors, fund managers, actuaries). In practical terms it can be difficult to decide both:

  • to which person these services are supplied
  • for the purposes of which person’s business they are used

This notice explains our view on these issues.

1.4 Other kinds of pension schemes

An employer may provide pensions to his employees by means of either:

  • an insurance based scheme whereby retirement benefits are secured through an insurance policy
  • an ‘unfunded’ scheme where no specific funds are set aside to pay pensions
  • a scheme where the employer makes provision for the payment of pensions by a segregated reserve fund in the balance sheet, represented by specific assets

In these cases the normal VAT rules apply, that is supplies are made to the employer and input tax claimable subject to any necessary partial exemption restriction.

1.5 If you make exempt supplies

Where you make exempt supplies the amount of input tax you can deduct may be restricted. You’re entitled to deduct the input tax incurred on costs that you use or intend to use in making taxable supplies.

You cannot normally deduct input tax incurred on costs that relate to your exempt supplies. If your input tax relates to both taxable and exempt supplies, you can normally deduct only the amount of input tax that relates to your taxable supplies. You can find more information in Notice 706: partial exemption.

2. Guidance for employers about claiming input tax

2.1 Pension scheme activity that forms part of your business activities

The management of your own employee pension scheme is a part of your normal business activities. If you’re a VAT-registered employer, and set up a pension fund for your employees under a trust deed, the VAT incurred in both setting up the fund and on its day-to-day management is your input tax. This applies even where responsibility for the general management of the scheme rests (under the trust deed) with the trustee, or the trustees pay for the services supplied. A clear distinction is, however, made between ‘management’ and ‘investment’ costs.

2.2 Pension scheme activity that does not form part of your business activities

When the trustees make investments, acquire property and collect rents from property holdings, these activities (all termed ‘investment’ activities for the purposes of this notice) are quite separate from your business. It follows that tax incurred in carrying on investment activities is not your input tax even if you pay such expenses on behalf of the trust.

2.3 Types of ‘management’ services that you can claim input tax on

You can claim for:

  • making arrangements for setting up a pension fund
  • management of the scheme, that is collection of contributions and payment of pensions
  • advice on reviewing the scheme and implementing changes to it
  • accountancy and auditing relating to management of the scheme, such as preparation of the annual accounts
  • actuarial valuation of the assets of a fund
  • general actuarial advice connected with administration of the fund
  • providing general statistics in connection with the performance of a fund’s investments or properties
  • legal instructions and general legal advice, including drafting trust deeds, insofar as it relates to the management of the scheme

2.4 Types of ‘investment’ services you cannot claim input tax on

You cannot claim for:

  • advice connected with making investments
  • brokerage charges
  • rent and service charge collection for property holdings
  • producing records and accounts in connection with property purchases, lettings and disposals or investments
  • trustee services, that is services of a professional trustee in managing the assets of the fund
  • legal services paid on behalf of representative beneficiaries in connection with changes in pension fund arrangements
  • custodian charges

2.5 Evidence you need to claim input tax

You should hold tax invoices made out in your name. If the trustees pay for the supplies on your behalf you should arrange for the invoices to be made out in your name by the suppliers.

2.6 If you’re reimbursed by the trustees or charge them for costs you incur in managing the pension scheme

If the management services are of the kind described in paragraph 2.3 then you should not charge output tax. This is because these costs are treated as your own business costs. But where similar arrangements are adopted for services that consist of investment advice, or other services connected with the pension funds own business activities, you must account for output tax.

2.7 If a third party manages the scheme

A fund manager, property manager or professional trustee may be appointed to manage the scheme. Usually their charges will cover both management as well as investment services proper to the trust. You only receive the management services for the purposes of your business. Therefore, you can only treat the tax connected with the management of the scheme as your input tax.

If the supplier issues a single tax inclusive invoice for both kinds of services you will have to split the costs between management and investment services. You may, by way of a simplification agreed with the sector, treat 30% of the costs as for management services when a third party both:

  • provides the pension fund’s management and investment services
  • issues one single tax invoice

If you do not consider that 30% is a fair proportion of the costs attributed to management services you will have to provide evidence to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in support of this view.

The supplier may themselves apportion their supply between investment and management services and issue separate invoices. When this happens you should treat the whole of the tax incurred on management services as input tax.

It may be that to apply 30% of the costs to management services will not give a fair and reasonable result if you claim input tax:

  • on a separate invoice for management services
  • on a single invoice for both management and investment services

When the result of the apportionment is not fair you must use an alternative method. The alternative method should reflect the proportion of the supply attributable to management services. You should provide evidence to HMRC to support the alternative method.

Further information on attributing services between ‘management’ and ‘investment’ is given in section 5.

2.8 Pensions provided for the employees of more than one employer

This paragraph does not apply where employers are members of the same VAT group registration – see section 4.

Some pension funds provide pensions for the employees of several employers who may have a commercial link or be entirely separate from each other. In such cases each employer can only treat as input tax that proportion of the management services proper to their own employees.

Where a person supplying management services to the fund issues a single invoice, either one of the employers, or the trustee in the case of entirely separate employers may act as paymaster and treat all the VAT on management services as input tax provided they recharge each of the other employers with their share of the costs plus VAT.

A person acting as paymaster must issue a VAT invoice to each of the respective employers who, in turn, can treat the tax as their input tax.

2.9 If you cease to be in business

If you cease trading, and therefore cease to be an employer, you no longer have any entitlement to input tax on management of the pension scheme. But where the trustees are themselves VAT-registered on account of business activities carried out by the pension scheme they may treat the tax incurred on services connected with the continuing management of the scheme as their input tax, subject to the normal rules. This means that where the trustees are required to restrict recovery of input tax because they make exempt supplies not all the tax on the management services may be recovered – see paragraph 1.5.

Where a professional trustee is appointed to run a pension scheme, for example where the sponsoring employer ceases to exist. VAT incurred on the management of the pension fund can only be recovered by the trustee insofar as it is a clear cost component of an onward supply of that management of the pension fund.

3. Guidance for trustees about claiming input tax

3.1 Find out if you need to be VAT-registered

A pension fund has no legal status in itself being represented by its trustees. If you are the trustee of a fund and it makes taxable supplies, for example following an election to waive exemption in relation to supplies of property, you must consider whether you need to be VAT-registered).

3.2 Services you can claim input tax on

If you are VAT-registered you can treat as input tax VAT incurred on goods and services used, or to be used, for the purposes of your business. VAT on supplies connected with the management of a pension scheme is normally not your input tax (but see paragraph 2.9 where an employer has ceased business) as these supplies are primarily regarded as being the responsibility of the employer. Where you make exempt supplies your recovery of input tax may be restricted – see paragraph 1.5.

3.3 If a third party manages the scheme

As explained in paragraph 2.7 we will, by way of a simplification agreed with the sector, accept that 70% of these services are investment services supplied for the purposes of the trustee’s activities if a third party both:

  • provides management and investment services
  • issues only one inclusive invoice

Any claim that this is not an accurate apportionment will need to be supported by suitable evidence.

4. Group registrations and pension schemes

4.1 Including a sole trustee of a fund in a VAT group registration

A sole trustee of a fund may be included in a VAT group registration with the employer, provided it is a corporate body (see Notice 700/2: group and divisional registration.

4.2 Effect of a corporate trustee being included in a group registration

This has implications for both your outputs and inputs.

4.2.1 Outputs

When a corporate trustee is included in a VAT group registration any business supplies made by the trustee, including dealing in the assets of the fund, are treated as being made by the representative member.

4.2.2 Inputs

Tax incurred on supplies to the trustee can be treated as received by the representative member.

If the fund provides pensions for employees of companies outside the VAT group any VAT incurred on management of the scheme for those companies is not seen as being for the purposes of the representative member’s business. Tax incurred should be apportioned so that only so much as relates to group members is treated as received by the representative member. Alternatively the representative member may elect to use the paymaster arrangement - see paragraph 2.8.

VAT incurred by group members is recoverable by the representative member to the extent that it is attributable to supplies made to persons outside the group which carry the right to deduct input tax. Any non-business and exempt supplies made by the employer or trustee must be taken into account when considering VAT recovery.

4.3 Corporate trustee liability for meeting VAT debts of the representative member

Normally all group members are jointly and severally liable for tax due from the representative member. In the case of a corporate trustee, however, we are advised that this liability does not extend to the assets of any trust, for example a pension fund of which the corporate trustee is the trustee, except to the extent the group VAT debt is attributable in whole or in part to the administration of the trust.

5. Attribution of services incurred in connection with funded pension schemes

This list sets out our view of how services incurred in connection with funded pension schemes are to be attributed for VAT purposes:

Services Attribution  
  Management Investment
Regular meetings with clients Yes Yes
Regular meetings with consulting actuaries Yes  
Cash management Yes Yes
Investment management - asset allocation and stock selection   Yes
Investment research, including relevant travel - UK and overseas   Yes
Economic research, including relevant travel - UK and overseas   Yes
Dealing in securities in UK and overseas markets on behalf of clients   Yes
Keeping detailed accounts of all investments, receipts, disbursements other transactions   Yes
Review and control of investment portfolios   Yes
Preparation of contract notes   Yes
Preparation of performance statistics Yes Yes
Preparation of schedules of transactions   Yes
Preparation of specialist market commentaries   Yes
Preparation of valuations Yes Yes
Submission of data to independent performances monitoring service Yes  
Safekeeping of property and securities in own name or name of nominee or in bearer form   Yes
Appointment of and responsibility for sub-custodians domestic or foreign   Yes
Provision of nominee service   Yes
Maintenance of securities accounts, stock registration and transfer   Yes
Collection of dividends and interest and obtaining new coupon sheets   Yes
Recovery of tax   Yes
Administration in respect of, capital repayments, and capitalization issues   Yes
Administration in respect of company meetings and, in particular, executive of forms of proxy as appropriate, conversions, exchanges, liquidation, distributions, redemptions, right issues and payment of calls   Yes
Programming and provision of relevant computer support for investment management and investment administration and control   Yes
Programming and provision of relevant computer support for valuations and performance statistics. Yes  

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Published 28 December 2012