Q&As

When can overpaid pension contributions be recovered from a pension scheme?

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Published on LexisPSL on 22/08/2017

The following Pensions Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • When can overpaid pension contributions be recovered from a pension scheme?
  • HMRC treatment of contributions paid in genuine error
  • What is a genuine error?
  • Practical considerations deriving from HMRC’s safe harbour

Once an employer or member has paid contributions into a scheme, they cannot generally get a refund, at least not without triggering the tax penalties associated with unauthorised payments. This is because such refunds will usually be treated as unauthorised payments. There are however a few exceptions:

  1. for member contributions:

    1. where the scheme in question is an occupational pension scheme and the refund qualifies as a short service refund lump sum. For more information, see Practice Note: Refunds of member contributions—Requirements for a short service refund lump sum

    2. where the refund qualifies as a refund of excess contributions lump sum (whatever the type of registered pension scheme making the refund). For more information, see Practice Note: Refunds of member contributions—Refund of excess contribution lump sums

    3. where the refund is made in exercise by the member of a right to a statutory cooling off period in respect of a registered pension scheme (ie where the member changes their mind about joining a pension scheme after paying some contributions into it)

  2. for employer contributions: where the scheme in question is an occupational pension scheme and the refund qualifies as an authorised surplus payment. Note that the conditions for an authorised surplus payment differ depending on whether the scheme is continuing or winding up. For more information, see Practice Notes: Payment of surplus to the employer—ongoing pension

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