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

A whole range of analyses and impact statements will come out with the legislation. I suspect that, as my hon. Friend Greg Hands behind me is saying, any work that is done would give an answer that Opposition Members would not like, because it would show that we are no longer going to give basic rate tax relief to people who can afford to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds into a pension pot every year.

Let me address some of the issues that have been raised. I have set out the time frame within which we want to progress towards a better alternative to the current system. We all agree that, for pensions tax relief to remain affordable, we have to limit high levels of tax-privileged pensions saving, but we think that there is a better way of doing it than the one set out by the previous Government. We believe it is important to reduce the annual allowance to prevent people from saving £255,000 a year tax free.

The hon. Member for Wallasey mentioned instances of people suddenly being able to pay a large amount into a pension fund on a one-off basis. She was right to raise that matter, and we shall be looking at options for protecting basic rate taxpayers and supporting any hard cases caused by such one-off spikes in pension accruals. She also asked about the lifetime allowance being changed. We have not ruled that out, but it is obviously a key mechanism that sits alongside the annual allowance. We shall therefore have to look at it in the context of where we end up going with the annual allowance limit. I should say that all this is subject to being able to work with key stakeholders to get something that we believe we can rely on. That is why the provisions will give us the power to repeal that measure, if we can find a better way.

I particularly want to respond to the argument from Labour Members that our proposals would somehow give a tax break to the most well-off people in the country. Let us have a look at some of the figures involved. Of course, the minute I say that, I lose the relevant bit of paper. Ah, here it is. Under the terms of the Finance Act 2010, someone who is contributing £283,000 to their pension fund on an annual basis would have had a tax charge, net of pension relief, of £85,000. Someone making the same contribution to their pension pot under a potential annual allowance level of £35,000 would have a tax charge, net of relief, of £124,000. The reason for that is that they would get 20% tax relief on the income that they would otherwise have paid a much higher rate of tax on. That is why they would pay just under £40,000 a year more under our proposed scheme than they would have done under the previous Government's arrangements.

I wonder whether those Labour MPs who are so concerned about the impact of tax policy on the better-off people in this country will go through the Lobby today and vote for a measure that means that people who can afford to pay £283,000 a year into their pension pot will pay £40,000 less tax than they would previously have done. I do not know what Labour Members think "good" looks like in relation to taxing better-off people, but I guess I will find out when we have a Division on this amendment shortly.

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