Pensions

Helping you navigate the complex world of pensions.

Withers offers the advantage of the advice of a dedicated pensions team. With in-depth knowledge of pension arrangements in the UK and how UK regulations impact offshore pension arrangements, we help individuals, employers and advisors to navigate a complex regulatory and tax regime, to create financial security and to help deal with issues.

Advice for individuals

Our core focus is on helping you to achieve your retirement aims, whether that is providing for your future or using your retirement savings to provide for your family or other nominated beneficiaries on your death.

We offer an integrated service that focuses on each individual’s needs and plans. That may entail advising on pensions and estate planning; looking at how your savings could be affected by the tax laws of different jurisdictions; pensions in the context of a divorce settlement, or managing a change in employment.

“Often, we are contacted by individuals who have reached their lifetime allowance (the maximum for tax-relieved pension savings in the UK),” says Gillian Johnson, who focuses on pensions. “We look at what each individual’s options are, guiding them through the complex benefit provisions, which tend to be different from scheme to scheme. A key part of the planning is to ensure that the most flexible and tax efficient death benefit options are available for their beneficiaries.”

Where a bespoke solution is needed, we have the knowledge and experience to craft one. For example, we recently persuaded a well-known pension provider to amend its scheme rules for an individual who was nearing the end of his life. This allowed our client to transfer his final salary pension to its money purchase scheme (generating a capital sum of more than thirty times the value of his annual final salary pension) and preventing an inheritance tax burden for his family on his death.

As an international firm we are adept at helping people who have interests in different countries or who do not intend to remain in the UK for retirement. One Singaporean client, based in the Middle East, sought our advice on when and how best to draw his UK pension, which had exceeded the standard lifetime allowance for pensions savings. We were able to talk through the advantages and disadvantages of each different scenario, helping him to plan his retirement and implement his succession planning in a tax-efficient way.

In the UK Elaine Aarons, is particularly sought-after by senior executives and industry leaders for her ability to negotiate incentives, and has acted for the chief executives of no fewer than 13 banks. Senior advertising executives often consult our team on contracts and share options when they move between agencies.

Our team also has the expertise to advise on more complex scenarios, including in relation to international pension plans and other offshore arrangements and always stay at the forefront of the latest developments. For example, we recently advised a US individual, who is UK resident but likely to retire overseas, on the ability to transfer funds from an international pension plan to another offshore fund with more flexible investment and benefit options. A key part of that advice related to the income tax implications of the transfer under UK pensions and disguised remuneration rules and also the inheritance tax implications of such a transfer in light of the 6 April 2017 changes to the rules governing offshore pension plans.

Advice for employers

We provide a full-spectrum service to employers, from setting up pension schemes to handling legacy arrangements. Our reputation is such that we are often asked to advise other professional services firms on their own pension arrangements. We are particularly adept at helping employers to balance their pensions and life assurance commitments with their key objectives.

We help clients meet their auto-enrolment requirements and where a company is concerned to help senior executives benefit in a tax-efficient way, we can advise on solutions. Excepted group life schemes are, for example, commonly used to provide lump sum death benefits, which are outside the scope of the lifetime allowance. We have advised numerous clients on how to amend their pension contribution arrangements for high earners affected by the tapered annual allowance.

We also have nearly two decades of experience advising employers on legacy final salary schemes, including negotiating with the scheme’s board of trustees in relation to funding and governance requirements and updating scheme rules in line with the latest statutory changes.

In particular, we can help clients plan for funding risks. For instance, one charity we advise participates in a public sector pension scheme and we are helping them ensure that it can call on its government-backed guarantee to enable it to meet its funding responsibilities to the scheme – and avoid a large debt being payable from charitable funds in future.

Advice for intermediaries

Pensions advisors, wealth managers and consultants frequently call on Withers for legal support. Our in-depth understanding of scheme rules and governance means that we are able to assist with the development of new products, such as excepted group life trusts and SIPPs – providing not just documentation but also insights into the requirements of successful people.

We can also help pensions advisors to speak with confidence about the options available to their clients – for example if an overseas saver has a sizeable UK pension and has questions on the tax implications of drawing it abroad.

For further help or information

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26 June 2017 - Article

Employer debt in Defined Benefit pension schemes: DWP consults on new deferred debt arrangement


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Track record

Employee pensions advice to US law firm

Advising a major US law firm in London in relation to changes in the pensions tax allowances for individuals from April 2016. This included advising on how employee pension benefits, including life cover arrangements, could be varied to allow for the reduced allowances.

Well-known UK charities

Advising several large, well-known, UK charities in relation to their pension obligations, including in the context on a transfer of former public sector employees under a business sale, and in another case, how a regional branch office might manage its risks and liabilities in relation to a final salary pension scheme in which it participated for non-associated employers in the voluntary sector.

UK resident who worked overseas

Advising a UK resident individual on the UK tax treatment of the pension benefits he accrued whilst working overseas, the death benefit options available under those overseas arrangements and how these benefits could be taken into account as part of his wider estate planning.

Charity trust pension

Advised a large charity-sector master trust pension trustee on ways in which it could adapt and improve its business model in light of changes in the pensions legal and regulatory arenas, as well as changes in the requirements of, and challenges faced by, charitable employers.

Pension fraud

Tessa Lorimer, a member of our tax investigation team in London, advised on a £5 million pension fraud involving accountants who were acting as trustees and administrators of Pension schemes which were investigated by HMRC, FSA and the Pension Regulator.

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