Taxman could pocket £700m from new pension freedoms

Summer Budget

The taxman could rake in as much as £700 million this tax year as thousands of Brits rush to access their pension cash.

As of April, anyone aged 55 and over have been able to access all or part of their pension pot, rather than taking out an annuity at retirement.

It's believed as many as 60,000 people took advantage of the new rules in the first two months alone, providing the Treasury with a massive income tax boost.

They had initially expected to pocket around £320 million during the 2015/16 tax year. However, research conducted by Hargreaves Lansdowne for the BBC, shows that figure is likely to be around £700 million.

Just bringing tax receipts forward

That will no doubt provide a boost to chancellor Osborne as he seeks to tackle the national deficit, But as Hargreaves' head of pensions research Tom McPhail points out, this isn't a case of generating new revenue, rather bringing forward revenue that would have been available in the future.

"It looks as if the chancellor could be in for a handy windfall, thanks to his pension reforms," McPhail told the BBC.

"It is important to bear in mind, though, that this will simply bring forward tax revenues and consumer spending which would otherwise have been paid out over the years and decades to come.

"It also underlines the importance of maintaining a stable pension system which continues to encourage and reward responsible long-term savings habits."

Spending plans

So what are those who access their pension spending their cash on? A survey by Hargreaves found that a third wanted to use it to provide an income and meet general living expenses, while almost a quarter wanted to reinvest it in an ISA.

Unsurprisingly a holiday was the next most common reason for taking cash, followed by home improvements.

This isn't a huge surprise, as these large one-off costs are most likely to prove a struggle for those on a pension, so the ability to access a lump sum to pay these bills will be very useful.

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Dream retirement destinations
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Taxman could pocket £700m from new pension freedoms

A study by MGM Advantage discovered that Portugal is the 10th most popular dream retirement destination among Brits.

You get the attractions of the sun, a more relaxed way of life, lower living costs and cheaper property. You can also benefit from pension arrangements that mean your pension rises with inflation.

And if you choose to, you can spend your time with the enormous expat population, feeling like you never left.

In the tradition of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, there’s a large number of people keen to move to India, partly in order to enjoy a much higher standard of living than they would be able to afford in the UK.

If course it’s important to consider that your state pension will not rise in line with inflation - so will halve in real terms during your retirement.

This part of Europe offers a great combination of some of the lowest living and housing costs on the continent, along with a more forgiving climate than the UK.

For that reason Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Greece and Turkey are a big draw for retirees.

However, state pension provision varies across the region, so you will need to check whether retiring to these locations will mean your pension continues to rise in line with increases in the UK, or will be frozen when you move overseas.

Italy is a country of contrasts, so anyone planing a retirement there needs to think carefully about whether they want to call a bustling city home, or whether they would be happiest in the mountains or by the sea.

Housing tends to cost less than in the UK, and in some regions it's incredibly cheap. Living costs are also lower than in Britain, and your pension will rise in line with increases in the UK.

Canada is a big draw for British expats of all ages. This spectacular country is known for being welcoming to people from all over the world, and in many cases has no language barrier for Brits. The quality of life is high, and the cost of housing lower than in the UK.

However, you will need to factor in the fact that your UK state pension will be frozen on the day you leave, and you will need some health insurance if you want to replicate the sorts of things that are available for free on the NHS.

As with India, the Far East offers an exciting and dramatic change from life in the UK, with much lower costs, which can buy you a higher standard of living (although bear in mind your state pension will be frozen).

You will need to consider the cultural and practical differences associated with the move, but you will have the opportunity to live in one of the most exciting places in the world.

The weather, lifestyle, space, and lower cost of living means that British expats of all ages are keen to move to Australia.

Property can be a bit of a stumbling block in some areas, as prices have gone up so much. The currency is also strong, which has posed some issues for those who receive their income in pounds, and there’s the fact that the UK state pension will be frozen if you move. However, if you can overcome these things, then a new life in the sun awaits.

The US offers much more affordable housing, and in many respects a lower cost of living than in the UK.

It appeals to those who don’t want to live with a language barrier, but want more space, possibly more sun, and an American Dream of their own.

There are some important things to factor in before you move, such as the additional cost of healthcare, and the exchange rate. However, one bonus is that your state pension will rise at the same rate it does in the UK.

France is close to home, and yet offers cheaper accommodation than the UK, a lower cost of living, and in many regions there’s better weather too.

Your pension will rise at the same rate it would in the UK, and at any time friends and family are just a short boat or plane ride away. It’s no wonder France is the second most popular dream destination for retirees.

It will come as little surprise that Spain tops the list - largely because it’s already the most common overseas retirement destination for Brits.

Millions of us have experienced the delights of the sun, sea, and the lower cost of living while we were on holiday in the country, so it’s hardly a shock that so many want to experience it on a full-time basis in retirement.

Huge falls in the price of property has made this a cheap place to buy, and the fact that your state pension will keep pace with rises in the UK means you’ll be able to maintain your standard of living throughout your retirement.

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