The annual allowance for tax relief on pensions has been fixed at the current level of £40,000 since 6 April 2014. Since April 2016, the annual allowance has been further reduced for high earners. Those with income in excess of £150,000 will usually have their allowance tapered. For every £2 their income exceeds £150,000 the annual allowance is reduced by £1, up to a maximum reduction of £30,000 for individuals whose income is over £210,000.
However, any unused annual allowance can usually be carried forward to the current tax year and added to the current year’s annual allowance. The calculation of the unused annual allowance that can be carried forward can be complicated especially for those subject to the tapered annual allowance. There were also special transitional rules for tax year 2015-16 to align existing and new pension input periods known as the post-alignment and pre-alignment tax year. This meant that from the start of the 2016-17 tax year all pension input periods have been tax year based.
For the tax years 2016-17 to 2018-19, individuals can carry forward any annual allowance that they have not used in the previous four tax years to the current tax year, as follows.
- For tax year 2016-17 – from the post-alignment tax year, the pre-alignment tax year, 2014-15, 2013-14.
- For tax year 2017-18 – from 2016-17, the post-alignment tax year, the pre-alignment tax year, 2014-15.
- For tax year 2018-19 – from 2017-18, 2016-17, the post-alignment tax year, the pre-alignment tax year.
It is usually not possible to carry forward any unused annual allowance from the post-alignment tax year. Typically, this means individuals can carry forward unused allowance from up to three of the four previous tax years.