Guidance

Apply to register a pension scheme

How pension scheme administrators can apply to register a new pension scheme with HMRC and check the progress of submitted applications.

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 to register a pension scheme (sign in using Government Gateway).

To apply to register, you need a Government Gateway user ID and password. If you do not have a user ID, you can create one when you register.

You’ll need:

  • 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

If your scheme administrator ID starts with ‘A0’, you’ll need to complete enrolment details when you first sign in to the service.

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

When you’ve submitted your application you’ll get 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.

If the pension scheme you’re applying to register is a Master Trust, you must also apply to The Pensions Regulator for authorisation at the same time. HMRC will not register a Master Trust until it has been authorised by The Pensions Regulator.

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 had decided not to register the scheme.

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.

Check the status and view the details of submitted applications

Applications made from 4 June 2018

Use the Manage and Register Pension Schemes service to monitor the progress of your applications, if you applied to register a pension scheme from 4 June 2018.

You’ll need:

  • the Government Gateway user ID and password you used when you applied to register
  • your submission reference number

New applications have a status of ‘Pending’.

View the details for each application you have submitted by selecting the scheme name in the list of your schemes.

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’.

If HMRC decides to register your scheme the status will show as ‘Open’.

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

Applications made before 4 June 2018

If you applied to register a pension scheme before 4 June 2018, you must use the Pension Schemes Online service to monitor the progress of your applications.

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.

To view all your registered schemes, use the online service for applications made:

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 which sets 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 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 13 November 2018 + show all updates
  1. The guide has been updated with information about how to check the status and view details of submitted applications.
  2. The section apply to register a pension scheme has been updated.
  3. Added explanations of the application statuses shown in the online service.
  4. Changes have been made to take account of the introduction of Manage and Register your Pension Schemes service.
  5. Text amendments to the Scheme registered and Scheme not registered sections
  6. First published.