Guidance

Apply to register a pension scheme

How pension scheme administrators can apply to register a new pension scheme with HMRC.

A pension scheme must be registered with HMRC to benefit from the tax reliefs available to pensions. Until scheme registration is confirmed by HMRC:

  • contributions received will not qualify for tax relief
  • transfers received from another registered pension scheme will be unauthorised payments

You must register as a scheme administrator before you can apply to register a new pension scheme. Only the scheme administrator can apply to register the pension scheme.

If your pension scheme had tax approval on 5 April 2006, it is treated as a registered pension scheme and does not need to be registered.

Conditions for registering a pension scheme

You can only apply to register a pension scheme that is one of the following:

  • set up with permission under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 to establish a personal pension or stakeholder pension scheme, such as a bank or insurance company
  • an occupational pension scheme set up by an employer for their employees
  • a public sector scheme set up under legislation or Parliamentary approval

Your scheme must be set up entirely or mainly for the purpose of providing authorised pensions and lump sums.

The pension scheme does not have to be set up in the UK, but as the scheme administrator you must meet the required criteria to register.

Apply to register a pension scheme

Apply online to register the pension scheme. If your scheme administrator ID starts with ‘A0’, you’ll need to enrol with the service before you can apply to register a pension scheme.

You’ll need the following:

  • the names, addresses, previous address and National Insurance numbers of any directors, trustees and partners associated with the pension scheme
  • the telephone numbers and email addresses of any directors, trustees and partners associated with the pension scheme
  • the name, contact details and address of the scheme’s establisher
  • PAYE, company registration and VAT registration numbers

You can save your application and return to complete it within 28 days. You can only save one application at a time.

When you’ve completed your application you’ll receive a ‘submission successful’ message. This will include your submission reference number, which is an S followed by 10 digits. You’ll need to use this in all correspondence with HMRC.

Your scheme is not registered at this point. Tax relief on pension contributions can only be given if a scheme is formally registered.

Check the status of your application

Use your submission reference number to monitor the progress of your application. Use the online service for applications:

When you submit your application, the status will show as ‘Pending’.

If HMRC asks for more information the status will be ‘Pending information required’. Once we’ve received it, the status will show as ‘Pending information received’.

The status will show as ‘Open’ if HMRC decides to register your scheme.

If you appeal against HMRC’s decision to reject your application, the status will show as ‘Rejected under appeal’.

Application review

HMRC will review your application to register the pension scheme. We’ll tell you if we have further questions or need additional information.

There’s no time limit on how long HMRC can take to decide whether to register a pension scheme. If we’ve not decided within 6 months of receiving the application, you can appeal to a tribunal as if we’d decided not to register the scheme.

In some cases HMRC may also need to inspect certain documents on your premises. If so, we’ll usually send a written notice at least 7 days before the visit, telling you what we need to inspect.

If your scheme is registered

If HMRC decides to register your pension scheme its application status will be updated and we’ll give you your scheme’s ‘Registration for Tax’ date. This date will be when HMRC made the decision to register your scheme.

A registration certificate will be sent to you by post confirming the date of registration and the scheme’s Pension Scheme Tax Reference..

You must keep the registration certificate as it’s your confirmation that the scheme is a registered pension scheme.

If you lose your registration certificate you’ll need to contact HMRC.

You can see all of your registered schemes using the online service for applications:

HMRC may need to provide details of your scheme to The Pensions Regulator.

If your scheme is not registered

If HMRC decides not to register your pension scheme we’ll post a notification of rejection to you setting out the reason for this decision.

The status of your application will also be updated on the online service.

Penalties

You may be given a penalty if you:

  • provide documents or information in connection with an application to register a scheme that are materially inaccurate
  • make a false declaration

This penalty can be up to £3,000 for each falsehood or inaccuracy.

Appeals

You have the right of appeal if HMRC issues a penalty or rejects your application to register a scheme.

If a tribunal decides that your scheme can be registered, it will determine the date of registration.

Published 16 September 2014
Last updated 15 June 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added explanations of the application statuses shown in the online service.
  2. Changes have been made to take account of the introduction of Manage and Register your Pension Schemes service.
  3. Text amendments to the Scheme registered and Scheme not registered sections
  4. First published.