People making the most of flexible pension withdrawals have been facing tax overpayments due to miscalculations by HMRC. In Q2 2023 alone, the taxman repaid £56,243,842 to people who had been taxed more that they should on their pension withdrawals. This amounts to an average of £3,551 per person.
The figure is up nearly £8m on the amount overpaid in the first quarter of the year and is nearly double the £33.7m collected in the same period last year. As the cost-of-living crisis continues to wreak havoc on people’s wallets, this is money that would be better being with the people who need it most.
The people affected by the tax overpayment are those who are starting to access their pension, and it is because of an oddity within the PAYE system, according to Jon Greer, head of retirement policy at Quilter.
He added: “This emergency tax situation can be particularly frustrating for people trying to access their funds quickly. It arises due to an oddity within the PAYE system when people start to take money from their pension as they are not taxed using the correct tax code.”
The problem with emergency tax codes is that you will often end up being charged more in tax than you should be, so reclaiming the overpayment is essential. To do this you would need to use form P55 if you have flexibly accessed part of your pension, form P50Z if you have emptied your pension pot, or P53Z if you have received a serious ill-health lump sum or have accessed your pension while you are still working or receiving benefits.
However, you should always check the tax code that is being applied to any income you receive to make sure you are not paying too much tax.
It seems plenty of people are putting in their tax claims to make sure they are getting the money they are due. For example, just in Q2 2023, HMRC said it has processed 11,232 P55 forms, 2,987 P53Z forms, and 1,620 P50Z forms, suggesting people are accessing their pensions more readily to help cope with the cost-of-living crisis.
Even though inflation has dropped slightly in the last month, wage growth means we could see additional base rate rises implemented by the Bank of England before the end of the year, according to some experts.
If you are over 55 and want to access your pension – the minimum age can depend on the scheme rules for your employer or the insurance company that provides your pension plan – then you can begin to make withdrawals.
The first 25% of your pension can be taken tax-free, and this is easy to calculate if you take your pension pot as whole. But if you choose to take your pension out in a flexible way – which means taking a bit at a time – then you will need to pay the relevant amount of tax on that income.
It becomes more complicated if you are still working and have additional income to take into consideration for tax. This is where the tax overpayments are typically happening. One way around this is to work with a tax professional who can help make sure your tax code is correct, and that you are not going to be paying more than you need to the taxman.
This helps to reduce the risk of overpaying your tax in the first place, allowing you to keep the money in your pocket rather than having to wait for the taxman to give it back to you, which can take some time.
If you are considering accessing your pension soon, or you have already accessed it but don’t know whether your tax code is correct, then please get in touch and we will check that you are not overpaying tax or that you have any tax rebates due from HMRC.