Pensions through a crystal ball

crystal ball

The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing. The benefits of a fully functional crystal ball to see the future would be much better. All pensions lawyers (and scheme actuaries) would add it to their gift list!

I will attempt to take a look at the pensions related announcements in Monday’s budget from a future (perhaps optimistic) vantage point.

So here we are, nearing the end of 2023…

1. Dashboards

Five years ago, in October 2018, Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced £5m support for the pensions dashboards (note the plural) project with the statement “The government is taking steps to support the launch of the Pensions Dashboards, innovative tools that will for the first time allow an individual to see their pension pots, including their State Pension, in one place….DWP will work closely with the pensions industry and financial technology firms.”

Many doubted that this would ever get off the ground – but yet I see myself in 2023, asking my smart-watch to show my latest pension figures – whilst my children laugh at the fact that I still find this a novelty. Continue Reading

Keep calm and carry on!

Keep Calm And Carry On Sticky Note With Pin

Some of the questions we have been asked this week in relation to GMP equalisation, include –

Do we have to equalise for GMPs?

How do we do this?

Do we have to make back payments?

What should we tell our members?

How do we deal with outstanding and new cash equivalent transfer value requests?

These are all valid questions.  Unfortunately, not all of them can (or should) be answered immediately!

First of all, a bit of background

Prior to 6 April 2016, pension schemes could be contracted-out of the state second pension. Between the years 1978 and 1997, the contracted-out element of a member’s pension was called the guaranteed minimum pension (GMP). This was broadly equivalent to the amount of state pension being given up by the pension scheme member via contracting-out in return for the payment of lower national insurance contributions. Continue Reading

PPF standard guarantee survives attack in the courts

Pop art comics style superhero fighting - PowIt was inevitable that at some point the Pension Protection Fund standard guarantee would be put to the test in the courts. That’s exactly what happened when a guarantee in favour of the Caribonum Pension Scheme was triggered by sponsor insolvency. Although not a surprising outcome, trustees of pension schemes which have Type A PPF guarantees in place can now sleep easier in the light of the court’s ruling granting summary judgment to the Scheme, notwithstanding the construction and abuse of process arguments put forward by the guarantor. The latest edition of the “Purple Book” says that 452 schemes currently certify Type A guarantees for PPF levy reduction purposes; but there will be many other schemes where such a guarantee is in place but is no longer certified. For further discussion and analysis of the case please see Pensions Disputes partner Garon Anthony’s blog on the case.

#How2DoPensions

How2 Do Pensions

Starting on #Pensions Awareness Day in September, our #How2DoPensions education campaign involves sharing a bank of quick guides with clients, contacts and the wider pensions industry. Each Tuesday, we publish on our website a quick guide on a topical pensions issue and share a link on the main social media channels. The guides are short and informative but, more importantly, demystify some complicated pensions issues. The campaign is proving a hit, with lots of feedback to say how useful the guides are.

This week’s #How2DoPensions guide looks at How to Run a Trustee Meeting and includes some practical tips and best practice pointers for trustees.

Continue Reading

Shouting from the rooftops – a “more vocal” Pensions Regulator

As promised, The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has been raising its voice since publishing its 2018-2021 corporate plan setting out how it will be “more vocal” in its “clearer, quicker and tougher approach” to driving up standards in the pensions sector. Our blog examines TPR’s recent activity. Continue Reading

TPR set to get new powers

The DWP is consulting on new powers for The Pensions Regulator (TPR). The consultation covers:

  • Notifiable events framework
  • Declaration of intent (new)
  • Voluntary clearance
  • Engagement with other regulators
  • Fines
  • Contribution notices and financial support directions

Of particular note are the new civil and criminal sanctions. The DWP is proposing that TPR should be able to issue a civil fine of up to £1 million and that unlimited fines and custodial sentences would be available under criminal sanctions.  Anybody could fall foul of the new fines – employers, directors, connected and associated persons and even pension trustees.

Insolvency professionals will be particularly concerned by one of the proposed new notifiable events, which would be triggered when a sponsoring employer takes independent pre-appointment insolvency or restructuring advice. For further reading, please click here.

 

Back to Basics

Back to basic

“You need to get the basics right, including giving us up-to-date information about the scheme, and we will take action if you fail.”  The Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) move towards being a “clearer, quicker and tougher regulator” is apparent from this statement, taken from its most recently published compliance and enforcement bulletin.

TPR has recently fined the trustees of an unnamed pension plan for failing to comply with s.62 of the Pensions Act 2004, which requires trustees to “take all reasonable steps” to notify it of changes to registrable information “as soon as reasonably practicable”. In this case, the trustees had failed to notify TPR of the appointment of a professional trustee, which came to light after an investigation was opened following a failure to submit the scheme return. Continue Reading

A lot of crossing out

Plan BThe writing may not always be on the wall in terms of validating scheme amendments where historic documentation is scarce and in terms of recovering overpayments to pensions. An interesting case involving the BIC UK Pension Scheme (yes, “BIC” as in the pen that you may be holding) highlights a new way forward for trustees struggling with limitation periods and gives further hope to schemes wanting to rely on employer agreement to changes that took place in times of more informal recording keeping. Continue Reading

Finally some compliance respite for UK pension plans!

Paper Fortune Teller

There’s good news and not so good news about the impact of anti-money laundering (AML) requirements on pension plans.

Okay, so this is a slight exaggeration.  There is definitely good news.  The not so good news is only potentially not so good news and, given the new direction of travel of HMRC, it may even prove to be “fake” news. Whether this is the case remains to be seen but read on for the latest on the further evolution of the newest compliance burden facing pension plan trustees.

Continue Reading

EMI options – the wait is over!

Alarm clockSince 6 April 2018 companies have been unable to grant new EMI options, because the existing EU state aid approval expired without fresh approval having been received.

So there has been much excitement today at the news that the EU Commission has now given state aid approval, and companies can now grant new EMI options. For companies that granted EMI options since 6 April (e.g. as part of a commercial transaction which could not be delayed) the wait continues as the EU Commission’s press release does not state the date from which their approval applies. We expect this will be indicated in the EU Commission’s formal decision, which has not yet been published. For the majority though, it’s good news and a welcome return to “business as usual”.

The state aid approval will apply as long as the UK is an EU member state, and the EU Commission has indicated that long-term approval of the EMI scheme will need to be dealt with in the EU withdrawal agreement.

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