Clause 5 — Power to repeal high income excess relief charge

Part of Bill Presented — Superannuation Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 15th July 2010.

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Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Economic Secretary to the Treasury 4:15 pm, 15th July 2010

I was just about to come to that. One thing that we know right now about the existing plans is that if they came in from April 2011, they would curtail, but still give, basic rate tax relief to people who can afford to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds into a pension every year. Our alternative approach looks principally at significantly reducing the annual allowance to curtail that effect. We think that the annual tax relief available will potentially be restricted to less than half that available under the previous Government's plan, significantly curtailing the ability of the super-rich to benefit from pensions tax relief. That alternative approach is supported by the pensions industry, including the National Association of Pension Funds, as well as employers and their representatives, including the CBI. The Government are keen to continue to engage with the pensions industry, employers and other interested parties to specify the level of the annual allowance, and other relevant design features.

Let me leave no uncertainty about our fiscal objectives. The Government are clear that a reduced annual allowance approach would have to raise no less revenue than the existing plans to restrict pensions tax relief in order to enable us to meet our commitment to deficit reduction. That is why we are not repealing the existing regime at this point, while we are finding a better way of achieving our objectives.

Ms Eagle asked for more detail. Our provisional analysis suggests that the appropriate level for the annual allowance could be in the region of £30,000 to £45,000 in order to deliver the necessary yield to the Treasury. However, the level required would be influenced by a number of policy design features in the revised regime. Once those have been decided, we can repeal the measures in the previous Government's Finance Act 2010. Clause 5 therefore gives the Treasury a power to make an order repealing section 23 and schedule 2 in that Act.

Those measures, which are known as the high income excess relief charge, restrict pensions tax relief to the basic rate for high-income individuals, with effect from 6 April 2011. Let us be clear, however, that they still give basic rate tax relief to high-income individuals. The Government want to consult on a new approach. We want to discuss how best to design an alternative approach to make sure that it can operate fairly and effectively. The power to repeal is time-limited, because we recognise the need to resolve the design of the restriction of pensions tax relief as quickly as possible. We have already begun discussions with groups, which will continue through the summer.

Amendment 60 proposes that we should publish a report outlining the new arrangements and details of the yield implications and distributional impacts. I have some sympathy with the thrust of the amendment, but it will ultimately be unnecessary, because there will clearly be a chance for people to look over the draft legislation, and we will not repeal the high income excess relief charge until details of the alternative regime have been finalised and set out in public.

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