The scheme administrator: changing scheme administrators
The person or persons acting as scheme administrator of a registered pension scheme can be replaced or can resign.
Ceasing to act as a scheme administrator
Section 271(1) and (2) Finance Act 2004
When a person ceases to be a scheme administrator, as long as there is already another person acting as scheme administrator, they will cease to be liable as a scheme administrator. The replacement scheme administrator(s) will take on the existing scheme administrator liabilities. However this rule does not apply to a liability to penalties. The exiting scheme administrator keeps liability to penalties; they are not passed onto the new scheme administrator.
There is one exception to this general rule. This is where an independent trustee has been appointed on or after 1 September 2014 by the Pensions Regulator or by a court following an application made by the Pensions Regulator. If the independent trustee takes on the role of scheme administrator or appoints someone else to that role they may not be required to take on existing liabilities and these will remain with the old scheme administrator. PTM156000 explains when this rule applies and what happens in these circumstances.
Associating a successor scheme administrator
Before a person can add themselves as scheme administrator to a scheme and make the required declarations, the scheme administrator already known to HMRC must firstly associate the new or additional scheme administrator to the scheme. This is so that access to the registered pension scheme’s on-line records is only given to those entitled to have access. For a scheme registered on Pension Schemes Online with a PSTR that starts ‘00’, the Guide to using the Online Service for scheme administrators tells you how to associate a successor scheme administrator. For a scheme registered on Manage and Register Pension Schemes with a PSTR starting ‘20’, a scheme administrator can log in to their account and send an invitation to another person to become a scheme administrator of the scheme. The recipient has 30 days to log in and accept the invitation. If they accept they will be added to the scheme.
If the successor has not been able to add themselves as a scheme administrator using Pension Schemes Online (for schemes registered via Pension Schemes Online), or using Manage and Register Pension Schemes (for schemes registered via that system), they will not have been able to make the declaration required to make that person a scheme administrator in line with section 270 Finance Act 2004. This means that they have not been correctly appointed as a scheme administrator and so cannot take on existing scheme administrator liabilities. Unless there is another live scheme administrator on the scheme record the ceasing scheme administrator will remain liable as if they were still the scheme administrator.
Regulation 6 The Registered Pension Schemes (Provision of Information) Regulations 2006 - SI 2006/567
Regulation 4 The Registered Pension Schemes and Overseas Pension Schemes (Electronic Communication of Returns and Information) Regulations 2006 - SI 2006/570
The scheme administrator ceasing to act must tell HMRC that they no longer act in that capacity, and state from what date. This notification must be made using Pension Schemes Online, if the scheme is held on Pension Schemes Online. The Guide to using the Online Service for scheme administrators tells you how to do this.
For schemes registered on the service to Manage and Register Pension Schemes (registration application made on or after 4 June 2018) the scheme administrator will need to write to Pension Schemes Services at:
Pension Schemes Services
HM Revenue and Customs
The notification to HMRC should be made within 30 days of the effective date of ceasing to act as scheme administrator. Penalties under section 98 Taxes Management Act 1970 apply for failing to make the notification on time or providing incorrect information.
Appointing a new scheme administrator
Section 270 Finance Act 2004
A person cannot be appointed as a scheme administrator after 5 April 2006 unless they:
- have been appointed in accordance with the scheme rules,
- are resident in the EU or a European Economic Area (EEA) state which is not a member of the EU, and
- have made the relevant declarations to HMRC.
That person should also be a fit and proper person - see PTM153000.
The relevant declarations are made when the person adds themselves as a scheme administrator for the scheme using Pension Schemes Online (for schemes held on Pension Schemes Online) or when they apply to register a pension scheme using the online service to Manage and Register Pension Schemes from 4 June 2018. It follows that you cannot be a scheme administrator until you have added yourself as a scheme administrator using the Pension Schemes online process.
If a scheme administrator has registered using the service to Manage and Register Pension Schemes they can register a new scheme but they won’t be able to add themselves to another scheme registered on this service until later in 2018. They can apply to be added to a scheme registered on Pension Schemes Online by contacting HMRC at email@example.com .
Once appointed the new scheme administrator takes on the existing scheme administrator liabilities (apart from liability for any penalties which stays with the old scheme administrator).
However if the new scheme administrator:
- is an independent trustee appointed on or after 1 September 2014 by the Pensions Regulator or by a court following an application made by the Pensions Regulator, or
- has been appointed by such an independent trustee
How to add yourself as a scheme administrator using Pension Scheme Online
The Guide to using the Online Service for scheme administrators provides guidance on how to add yourself as a scheme administrator to a pension scheme registered on Pension Schemes Online (PSO).
Before a new person can add themselves as scheme administrator using Pension Schemes Online the outgoing or existing scheme administrator must ‘associate’ the new person to the scheme record. The Guide to using the Online Service for scheme administrators provides guidance on how an existing scheme administrator can associate a new person to be scheme administrator.
What to do if you cannot add yourself as a scheme administrator
If there is no existing scheme administrator, or the outgoing scheme administrator refuses to associate a new person (despite that new person being appointed in accordance with the scheme rules), this association will have to be done by HMRC Pension Schemes Services (PSS).
Contact PSS to do this by writing to:
Pension Schemes Services
HM Revenue and Customs
You should provide
- evidence that you have been appointed to the role of scheme administrator in accordance with the scheme rules and
- the Scheme Administrator ID, starting A0, given to you when you registered as a scheme administrator using Pension Schemes Online.
HMRC will then associate you to the scheme by entering your Scheme Administrator ID. Once HMRC has done this you will be able to add yourself as scheme administrator in accordance with chapter 3 of the Guide to using the Online Service for scheme administrators.
What happens if no new scheme administrator is appointed
Section 271(3) to (13) Finance Act 2004
Retention of scheme administrator liabilities
A scheme administrator cannot simply remove themselves from their duties and tax liabilities by resigning. If after resigning there is no other person acting as scheme administrator the ‘retiring’ scheme administrator remains liable as if they were the scheme administrator until a new scheme administrator is appointed and has added themselves as scheme administrator using Pension Schemes Online. If you are unable to report this using the online services you need to write to Pension Schemes Services.
A person who retains liability as if they were the scheme administrator can apply to HMRC to be released from this liability. The application should be in writing setting out full details of how the situation arose and the reasons for the request to be released from liability - see PTM158000.
HMRC will consider the application and notify the applicant of their decision. If HMRC decides not to release the ex-scheme administrator from ongoing liability the ex-scheme administrator can appeal against HMRC’s decision. Any appeal must be in writing and made within 30 days of HMRC’s notification of the decision.
If there is no scheme administrator because the last person who was scheme administrator died or, in the case of an organisation, ceased to exist see PTM155000.
Reports filed using pension Schemes Online
Pension Schemes Online will reject any returns or reports because there is no person who is the scheme administrator known to HMRC, and therefore no-one responsible for declaring the reports/returns as correct and complete, if:
- it has a scheme administrator linked to a registered pension scheme, and
- that scheme administrator ceases, and
- it has no record of another scheme administrator, and
- the scheme was registered after 5 April 2006.
The returns or reports will be treated as not filed.
HMRC may de-register the scheme as lack of a scheme administrator is one of the circumstances in which HMRC has the power to remove a schemes’ registered status - see PTM033200.