IHT relief for pensions

By Tolley

The following Trusts and Inheritance Tax guidance note by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • IHT relief for pensions
  • Introduction to tax relief for pensions
  • Scope of IHT pension reliefs
  • Contributions to pension schemes
  • Status of the pension fund
  • Omission to exercise a right
  • Pension rights on death

Introduction to tax relief for pensions

To encourage people to make provision for retirement, pension schemes benefit from specific tax reliefs. The predominant reliefs relate to income tax, but there are also targeted inheritance tax provisions which form part of the pensions landscape. This guidance note describes the inheritance tax rules and reliefs which affect pension schemes at each stage of the pension lifecycle.

The current income tax regime for pensions follows an ‘Exempt-Exempt-Taxed’ structure:

  • contributions to registered pension schemes are exempt from income tax
  • income and gains arising on the investments within the pension scheme are exempt from income tax and capital gains tax
  • withdrawals from the pension scheme are taxed as income

Each stage in this lifecycle could potentially have inheritance tax consequences. Contributions may involve a transfer of value. Pension investments are held within a trust or comparable vehicle. The residual fund on death could be regarded as part of the deceased’s estate available for distribution to his beneficiaries. Specific rules are required to bestow inheritance exemption to match or complement the income tax position. Note, however, that in certain circumstances pension contributions and investments are chargeable to inheritance tax.

For more information about the income tax rules during the member’s lifetime, see the Pension Planning sub-topic in the Personal Tax module, and in particular the following guidance notes (all subscription sensitive):

  • Tax relief for pension contributions
  • Pension benefits from a defined contribution pension scheme (from 6 April 2015)
  • Pension benefits from a defined benefit pension scheme

Income tax rules relating to death benefits are dealt with in this module

More on IHT reliefs: