The federal government is eager to encourage individuals to avoid wasting into non-public pension pots.

Due to this, some beneficiant tax breaks can be found. One in every of these, often known as wage sacrifice, may even profit the employer.

On this article, we check out wage sacrifice pensions and the way they work, and reply a sequence of questions you could have about them.

Right here’s what we cowl:

What’s a wage sacrifice pension?

Salary sacrifice is a method of notionally decreasing a wage to pay for advantages provided by an employer.

These advantages are engaging to an worker, similar to paying for an electrical automotive, or utilizing the Cycle to Work scheme to rent a motorcycle.

Generally these are known as benefits-in-kind, or BIK. Some BIKs are taxed, however others aren’t.

Wage sacrifice may also be used for worker pension funds, and isn’t taxed.

To know the advantages, we first have to debate the prevailing method staff usually pay into their pensions.

Tax aid is already obtainable on personal pension contributions. To make it easy, many employers supply a internet pay association.

This implies the pension contribution is taken from the wage earlier than tax is calculated, and so much less tax is deducted from the pay. Because of this, the worker receives tax aid on the pension contributions with out having to do something.

Salary sacrifice pension contributions are a substitute for the online pay association that usually works out higher for each worker and employer.

Additionally it is often known as wage alternate, and, much less generally, SMART (Save Extra and Scale back Tax).

With salary sacrifice pension contributions, a brand new contractual wage is agreed by decreasing the unique wage by the quantity the worker needs to make as a pension contribution.

In alternate, the employer pays the identical worth as employer pension contributions on high of any current employer pension contributions (e.g. a minimal of three% as per auto-enrolment guidelines).

As a result of their wage is now successfully decrease, staff not solely probably cut back the tax they pay—similar to with the online pay association—but additionally cut back their Class 1 Nationwide Insurance coverage contribution (NIC) funds (and, as of 2023/24, funds for the Health and Social Care Levy).

The worker can use the lowered NICs to fund an elevated pension fee, or cut back the price of contributing total.

Both method, it’s often extra helpful than utilizing the online pay association, or the choice aid at supply association.

As a result of employers additionally pay a separate Class 1 NIC (and Well being and Social Care Levy contributions as of 2023/24), that is additionally lowered.

This saving is immediate, with no requirement to assert it again at a future date.

On payslips, it may possibly seem as if the employer has made one bigger contribution, with the worker seemingly having contributed nothing.

After all, this isn’t really the case.

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How does a wage sacrifice pension work?

There’s at the very least 4 levels concerned in making use of wage sacrifice pension contributions.

1. How possible is a wage sacrifice pension?

Making wage sacrifice pension contributions isn’t appropriate for everyone.

It could’t cut back the worker’s pay beneath the Nationwide Minimal Wage (NMW), regardless of what the worker may request.

Different common or irregular deductions additionally have to be taken under consideration at this level to make sure that they plus the wage sacrifice don’t ever take the wage beneath this authorized requirement.

Paying lower than the NMW can get an employer in vital authorized hassle.

Due to this fact, that is one thing employers might want to consistently monitor if an worker makes use of wage sacrifice (though this may be folded into ongoing payroll duties monitoring auto-enrolment pension standards, similar to whether or not youthful or lower-earning workers turn out to be eligible).

2. Choices for wage sacrifice pensions

Secondly, the worker should lend a hand that wage sacrifice needs to be used and that it doesn’t have an effect on any statutory funds (see ‘Disadvantages for workers’, beneath).

Wage sacrifice pension contributions can’t be unilaterally imposed by employers, though they might default to such a system and ask the worker in the event that they agree. This may be performed throughout current discussions round pension auto-enrolment.

If the worker disagrees (or just opts out of the pension scheme) then it should be attainable to work with out wage sacrifice deductions.

If the worker agrees to wage sacrifice, they’ll additionally must resolve what proportion of their wage to surrender as wage sacrifice (e.g 5%, 10%).

This may increasingly contain them calculating how a lot their gross pay shall be lowered, and due to this fact how a lot they’ll save through decrease earnings tax and NICs.

The employer must resolve in the event that they’re going to cross any financial savings they obtain with regard to decrease employer NICs (and Well being and Social Care Levy as of April 2023) to the worker’s pension contributions.

Some employers look to cross on financial savings they might make after scheme prices, but it surely isn’t obligatory.

3. Adjusting the employment contract for a wage sacrifice pension

Thirdly, any current employment contract must be adjusted to say that the worker is in receipt of the profit that’s wage sacrifice pension profit.

Normally, that is performed by including a clause to the employment contract, which is communicated to staff after they join wage sacrifice, however employers ought to search authorized recommendation on the wording.

It’s value noting that HMRC doesn’t often enable staff to modify out and in of wage sacrifice greater than as soon as in a 12-month interval except there’s a serious life occasion, similar to marriage, divorce, delivery of a kid, and so forth.

When you’re not sure, test with HMRC’s rules and guidelines.

4. Making use of wage sacrifice weekly/month-to-month in payroll software program

Lastly, the payroll software should be configured in order that the wage sacrifice is utilized.

Not all payroll software program is suitable with wage sacrifice, so employers ought to test with the software program vendor.

Sage Payroll can be utilized for salary sacrifice pension contributions.

If wage sacrifice pension contributions haven’t been undertaken earlier than, it will in all probability contain creating a brand new fee/deduction for wage sacrifice.

It will then be utilized within the pensions setup space, with each the employer and worker contributions specified.

Then, throughout payroll, a brand new wage sacrifice line will seem for the worker, with the calculations robotically utilized to the online wage quantities.

Benefits of a wage sacrifice pension

Everyone enjoys saving on tax and Nationwide Insurance coverage contributions in a method that’s not solely authorized however inspired.

HMRC didn’t contact the wage sacrifice pension association when it clamped down in 2017 on tax aid for different kinds of wage sacrifice (e.g. benefits-in-kind schemes similar to low-emission automobiles).

That’s as constructive a thumbs-up as you’ll get.

Listed here are the precise advantages for workers and employers.

Advantages for workers

Workers get to spice up their pensions through intelligent efficiencies in a method that’s simpler in comparison with alternate options.

Or they get to take dwelling extra pay.

For these paying right into a pension later in life, when their earnings could also be increased, wage sacrifice pension contributions supply a great way to make up for misplaced floor or poor pension efficiency by making bigger funds with out decreasing take-home pay.

It’s additionally attainable for workers so as to add a wage sacrifice bonus or extra wage funds.

Once more, these paying right into a pension later in life usually put a lot or all of any yearly bonus straight into their pension to keep away from paying tax on it, or to keep away from pushing their wage into a better tax bracket.

To remain on the correct aspect of the legislation with regard to when a bonus is taken into account to be obtained, a call should be made for the sacrifice of the bonus nicely forward of time.

In follow, it’s usually performed earlier than the entitlement to the bonus is revealed.

Advantages for employers

Employers probably get to avoid wasting vital quantities on wage funds in the event that they hold the NIC financial savings for themselves.

Moreover, pension contributions are an allowable tax deduction.

So with successfully elevated employer contributions, employers might save right here too (though recommendation needs to be sought from a tax skilled).

However employers want to take a look at the larger image.

Workers are more and more conscious of wage sacrifice, so employers that don’t supply it are at a possible aggressive drawback with regards to recruitment.

If the employer agrees to cross on their Class 1 NIC financial savings to the worker’s pension contributions then this will type one other extremely engaging recruitment issue.

As soon as once more, the worker will get to spice up their contributions with no lack of earnings.

This comes at no extra outlay for the employer in comparison with a non-salary-sacrifice association.

Disadvantages of a wage sacrifice pension

As tempting as they’re, it’s improper to consider that wage sacrifice pension contributions are with out points.

And that’s one thing that needs to be thought-about forward of time.

Right here’s what you want to pay attention to.

Disadvantages for workers

Workers must take care that wage sacrifice doesn’t carry their wage beneath the decrease earnings restrict (£6,396 per 12 months in 2022/23).

If that occurs, it means they lose future entitlement to the likes of statutory sick pay, maternity pay, paternity pay, incapacity profit, and extra.

Moreover, as a result of the contractual earnings at the moment are lowered, the extent of borrowing the worker may be capable of entry may very well be lowered.

This will affect mortgages particularly. The likes of life assurance may also be affected after they’re set at a a number of of the contractual wage.

Disadvantages for employers

Employers face a probably increased administrative burden round establishing wage sacrifice schemes after which sustaining them.

Nonetheless, it’s attainable to argue that this needs to be thought-about as half and parcel of any current work carried out for auto-enrolment pensions.

Notably, HMRC doesn’t often take an curiosity in wage sacrifice pension preparations by employers, but it surely’s sensible to maintain any documentation simply in case.

Many companies contemplating wage sacrifice focus on it through the HMRC helpline first, or get different skilled steerage to make sure compliance.

The admin duties for employers contain at the very least the next:

  • Educating staff about the potential of wage sacrifice. This consists of the disadvantages talked about above (though this may end up in a win-win for each employers and staff if the latter comply with a wage sacrifice pension). Nonetheless, your pension supplier could have sources you possibly can deploy.
  • Offering a strategy to decide in or out, similar to on-line, or by finishing a paper type. On-line varieties usually have a wage and pensions calculator to assist staff make the most effective choice. When opting out, it needs to be made clear that that is opting in or out of wage sacrifice pension contributions and NOT auto-enrolment (though opting out of auto-enrolment robotically means giving up wage sacrifice, after all).
  • Making use of an accurate employment contract clause for workers that decide in. Guaranteeing that it’s issued to staff, that they signal it by the use of settlement and authorisation, and that this settlement is saved securely alongside different payroll document maintaining.
  • Monitoring worker wages that utilise wage sacrifice. That is to make sure the wage doesn’t fall beneath Nationwide Residing Wage or Nationwide Minimal Wage ranges (though payroll software program may assist with this and make this process simpler).

Instance of how a wage sacrifice pension works

Jane Smith earns £25,000 a 12 months.

Her employer operates a primary auto-enrolment pension scheme the place it contributes the minimal 3% employer contribution, whereas all its staff contribute 5% utilizing the online pay system.

Utilizing HMRC’s Class 1 NIC payroll checker calculator, we are able to see that earlier than wage sacrifice, the month-to-month Class 1 NICs are as follows:

  • Employer NICs: £199.46
  • Worker NICs: £166.99

Following wage sacrifice of 5% of her earnings, and with Jane now contractually incomes £23,750 a 12 months, the month-to-month NICs are lowered as follows:

  • Employer NICs: £183.78 (saving £15.68 per 30 days)
  • Worker NICs: £153.19 (saving £13.80 per 30 days)

Wage sacrifice pension FAQs

Listed here are the solutions to ceaselessly requested questions on wage sacrifice in follow:

How a lot ought to your staff sacrifice for his or her pensions?

The auto-enrolment minimal of 5% worker contribution should proceed to be noticed.

Most staff sacrifice between 5% to fifteen%, relying on their circumstances and necessities with regard to pension financial savings.

What’s the restrict to a wage sacrifice pension?

There’s no limitations on the utmost that may be sacrificed.

Though to keep up tax aid, contributions can’t exceed £40,000 every year for most individuals.

Can staff decide out of a wage sacrifice pension?

Wage should be a voluntary settlement between employer and worker.

As soon as underway, staff can opt-out, though HMRC could penalise the employer if this occurs greater than as soon as in a 12-month interval except the worker has a superb purpose.

These embody childbirth, redundancy of the person’s associate, and different life-changing occasions.

Closing ideas on wage sacrifice pensions

Wage sacrifice pension contributions supply loads for everyone concerned, with only a few drawbacks.

Whether or not it’s best for you and your staff is a call that you just’ll must make, maybe by discussing it with HMRC first, or getting different skilled steerage.

These discussions must also assist guarantee compliance with laws.

Nonetheless, supplied the constraints mentioned above are noticed, and assuming employers can spare the executive capability to deploy it, each staff and employers stand to achieve with out there being any ache.

Editor’s observe: This text was first printed in June 2022 and has been up to date for relevance.

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