Firefighters Court of Appeal case
On 20 December 2018 the Court of Appeal handed down the judgment in the firefighters' transitional appeals case, finding that the transitional protections introduced with the new pension scheme in 2015 were unlawfully discriminatory on grounds of age.
It is important to note that the case relates only to the transitional protection arrangements in the 2015 Firefighters’ Pension Scheme, and whether these are discriminatory. It does not address the introduction of that scheme itself by the primary legislation of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013.
What happens next
We realise that scheme members want to understand what this means for their pension, however we cannot yet speculate on what remedy might involve. The judgment remits it to the employment tribunal to consider remedy, but before that step Government can apply for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. It will most likely be many months before we are able to understand what this means for pension scheme benefits.
In the immediate future, your pension benefits will remain calculated under the current regulations.
We will endeavour to keep you informed as things progress.
Pension fund update for members
The administration of West Sussex Pension Fund is moving in March 2019 from Capita to our new administration partners, Hampshire Pension Services. Find details below.
Voluntary Scheme Pays
This policy sets out the facility for West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service (WSFRS) to utilise Voluntary Scheme Pays (VSP) for members of the firefighters pension schemes who breach HMRC’s annual allowance limit on pension savings growth in a financial year.
Beware cold-calls from fraudsters claiming to be from The Pensions Regulator (TPR), who are trying to steal the savings of workers.
The scam concerns pension holders being cold-called by individuals posing as TPR staff who are offering a ‘free pension review’. TPR have confirmed that this is a common warning sign of a scam as they never cold-call individuals about their pensions.
TPR have reported such cases to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for investigation and will also report any future cases.
If you are cold-called about your pension, or believe you could be the victim of pension fraud, phone Action Fraud on 0330 123 2040.
For more details see TPR's press release.
The newsletter will provide you with an overview of matters which impact you as a member of the Firefighters' Pension Scheme (1992, 2006, Modified 2006 and 2015).
New data protection regulation
On 25 May 2018 the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force. On the whole, you will enjoy the same rights under the GDPR as you do under the Data Protection Act but with some significant enhancements.
You can find out more on the County Council’s Your rights page.
The deadline for submitting 2016/17 self-assessment tax returns was 31 January 2018.
Declaring annual allowance charges for tax year 2016/17
In October 2017, Capita wrote to all members who have exceeded their 2016/17 annual allowance. It was explained that they would be liable for a tax charge if they do not have sufficient unused annual allowance to carry forward from previous tax years.
If this apples to you, please be aware that you will need to declare your annual allowance charge on your self-assessment tax return as you will have to pay a tax charge.
You can find more information about the annual allowance and paying the tax charge on GOV.UK.
Lifetime allowance scheme administrator look-up service
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have launched a Lifetime allowance look-up service online allowing members to check their protection status. To do so, members will need their protection notification number and scheme administrator reference number which can be found through the 'view it online' link on Pension schemes: protect your lifetime allowance (GOV.UK).
Autumn budget 2017
After the last budget, the Lifetime Allowance (LTA) has increased from £1,000,000 to £1,030,000. This is used to determine whether there is a tax charge payable on your benefits.
Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) benefits are tested against the LTA when they become payable and the value of benefits (20 x pension plus any lump sum) must not exceed the LTA, otherwise tax may be payable. However, there are certain measures that can be taken to protect benefits and members should contact the Pensions Team if they are concerned they may exceed the LTA.
2018 pensions increase
HM Treasury confirmed that the rate of Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) for September 2017 was 3.0%. The CPI is used to determine the increases applied to the annual pension accrued each year whilst an active member of the scheme, as well as the increases applied to pensions whilst in deferment (frozen) and pensions in payment.
HMRC’s Countdown bulletin 30
As part of the ending of contracting-out, pension schemes have been carrying out a reconciliation of their records to ensure the details held with regards to contracted out pension scheme membership agree with those details held by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Originally, DWP intended to send statements out to members setting out what details are held for them, however members are now expected to use the Check your State Pension (GOV.UK) service to check these details themselves.
Widows, widowers and surviving civil partners' pensions
An amendment order was laid in the House of Commons on 11 September 2017 which confirmed that widows, widowers and surviving partners of firefighters who died or die on duty in England and Wales will no longer lose their survivor benefits if they remarry or form a civil partnership.
Additional pension contributions
As no determination was made this year by the Treasury on the overall limit of extra pension for 2017/18, the amount from the previous scheme year (£6,500) should therefore be increased by Pension Increase Orders.
New Firefighters Scheme member website
The Local Government Association (LGA) are in the process of developing a Firefighters Pension Scheme member website.
If you are thinking about how to invest your retirement savings, follow the Pensions Regulators' five steps to protect your pension.
The Government are introducing three measures to tackle pension scams:
- a ban on cold calling in relation to pensions
- limiting the statutory right to a transfer to a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) authorised personal pension, an authorised master trust scheme and where a genuine employment link to the occupational scheme can be evidenced
- allowing only active companies to register a pension scheme (and de-registering pension schemes for dormant companies).
Abatement is the ability of the Authority to reduce or stop a member’s pension if that member is re-employed by any Fire and Rescue Authority in any capacity after retiring.
Further information can be found within the attachment below.
Protected pension age (PPA)
Members taking a pension and/or lump sum benefit before normal minimum pension age are liable for a tax charge, unless they retire on the grounds of ill health.
Further information can be found in the attachment below in respect of the normal minimum pension age increasing from age 50 to age 55, as well as the following subject areas:
- Loss of protected pension age - Re-employment
- Loss of protected pension age - Concurrent employment
- Sponsoring employer
- Effect of losing protected pension age
- Keeping a protected pension age