Tax on your private pension contributions

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Tax relief

You can get tax relief on private pension contributions worth up to 100% of your annual earnings.

You get the tax relief automatically if your:

  • employer takes workplace pension contributions out of your pay before deducting Income Tax
  • rate of Income Tax is 20% - your pension provider will claim it as tax relief and add it to your pension pot (‘relief at source’)

If your rate of Income Tax in Scotland is 19% your pension provider will claim tax relief for you at a rate of 20%. You do not need to pay the difference.

UK tax relief is also available on contributions made to certain types of overseas pension schemes.

It’s up to you to make sure you’re not getting tax relief on pension contributions worth more than 100% of your annual earnings. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) can ask you to pay back anything over this limit.

Relief at source

You get relief at source in all personal and stakeholder pensions, and some workplace pensions.

To get relief at source

Before paying into a scheme, you need to agree to certain conditions about your contributions (‘make declarations’). Your pension provider will tell you what these are.

You also need to give your pension provider your:

  • full name and address
  • date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • employment status - or tell them if you’re retired, a full time student, a carer or aged under 16

Your employer may do this for you if you’re automatically enrolled in their pension scheme.

Your pension provider will let you know if this is the case and ask you to confirm your details are correct. You must do this within 30 days.

When you have to claim tax relief

You may be able to claim tax relief on pension contributions if:

  • you pay Income Tax at a rate above 20% and your pension provider claims the first 20% for you (relief at source)
  • your pension scheme is not set up for automatic tax relief
  • someone else pays into your pension

Claim tax relief in England, Wales or Northern Ireland

You can claim additional tax relief on your Self Assessment tax return for money you put into a private pension of:

  • 20% up to the amount of any income you have paid 40% tax on
  • 25% up to the amount of any income you have paid 45% tax on

You can also call or write to HMRC to claim if you pay Income Tax at 40%.

Example

You earn £60,000 in the 2019 to 2020 tax year and pay 40% tax on £10,000. You put £15,000 into a private pension. You automatically get tax relief at source on the full £15,000.

You can claim an extra 20% tax relief on £10,000 (the same amount you paid higher rate tax on) through your Self Assessment tax return.

You do not get additional relief on the remaining £5,000 you put in your pension.

Claim tax relief in Scotland

You can claim additional tax relief on your Self Assessment tax return for money you put into a private pension of:

  • 1% up to the amount of any income you have paid 21% tax on
  • 21% up to the amount of any income you have paid 41% tax on
  • 26% up to the amount of any income you have paid 46% tax on

You can call or write to HMRC to claim if you do not fill in a Self Assessment tax return.

If your pension scheme is not set up for automatic tax relief

Claim tax relief in your Self Assessment tax return if your pension scheme is not set up for automatic tax relief.

Call or write to HMRC if you do not fill in a tax return.

You cannot claim tax relief if your pension scheme is not registered with HMRC.

If someone else pays into your pension

When someone else (for example your partner) pays into your pension, you automatically get tax relief at 20% if your pension provider claims it for you (relief at source).

If you’re in a workplace pension that allows other people to contribute you may need to claim the tax relief on those contributions - call or write to HMRC.

If you do not pay Income Tax

You still automatically get tax relief at 20% on the first £2,880 you pay into a pension each tax year (6 April to 5 April) if both of the following apply to you:

  • you do not pay Income Tax, for example because you’re on a low income
  • your pension provider claims tax relief for you at a rate of 20% (relief at source)

Life insurance policies

You cannot get tax relief if you use your pension contributions to pay a personal term assurance policy, unless it’s a protected policy.

Personal term assurance is a life insurance policy that either:

  • ends when the first insured person dies
  • insures people who are all from the same family