pension top-ups for lower paid employees

Employees who contribute to an occupational pension scheme under a net pay arrangement do not currently benefit from any tax relief if their earnings are below the personal allowance. This anomaly will be rectified from 6 April 2024 when HMRC will start making top-up payments.

A net pay arrangement is where pension contributions are deducted from pay before tax is calculated.

The anomaly arises because someone in a similar situation, but making contributions with relief given at source, benefits from 20% relief. The change will mean low earners benefiting from the same tax relief regardless of earnings.

Top-up payments

HMRC’s top-up payments will be introduced from tax year 2024/25 onwards, with the top up not paid until after the end of the tax year. The implementation delay is due to the significant HMRC system changes required.

  • The intention is that HMRC will notify those who are eligible and invite them to provide the necessary details for the top-up to be paid direct to their bank account. The requirement to claim the top-up, however, runs the risk of non-take up.

  • As an example, someone qualifying with savings of £500 into an occupational pension scheme for a tax year should receive a subsequent top-up from HMRC of £500 at 20% = £100. The same rate will apply for Scottish taxpayers.

  • If part of a person’s pension savings already benefits from tax relief due to earnings exceeding the personal allowance, a top-up payment can still be given for the proportion not benefiting.

  • Top-ups will be taxable, although this will not mean any additional income tax for many recipients given their level of earnings.

Although top-ups are only estimated to be an average of just over £50 a year, more than a million employees should benefit – the vast majority of them women.