Savers slapped with ’emergency’ tax when making pension withdrawals are overcharged £3,350 on average

  • HMRC returned £44.7m to those overtaxed when taking lump sums this summer 
  • Some £794m has been refunded since pension freedoms were launched in 2015
  • What should you do when you are caught in an ’emergency” tax? Find out below 

The taxman has repaid another £44.7million to people who were overtaxed when taking a lump sum from their pension pot, new figures show.

The sum covering July to September takes the total refunded since the beginning of pension freedoms in 2015 to almost £800million.

HMRC applies an Emergency Tax Code to savers who make a first pension withdrawal. It assumes they will take out a whole set of sums in that tax period even though they do not intend to do so.  

Overtaxed: HMRC applies an emergency tax code to savers who make their first withdrawal

Overtaxed – HMRC applies an emergency tax code for savers who make their first withdrawal

They are taxed as though they would take the same amount each month. Therefore, those who only take a lump sum end up paying more tax. 

They can then either reclaim the tax or wait for HMRC. The average tax refund between July and September was £3,352, HMRC figures show. 

HMRC has indicated that it is not planning to change the system in the past, as stated by This is Money’s agony uncle Steve Webb, former Pensions Minister.

Refunds to people who overpaid tax on their pension withdrawals have increased steadily, from £23million at the start of the year, to £33million between April and June, and now £44.6million in the most recent quarter. 

'Unacceptable': This is Money's columnist Steve Webb

Steve Webb, columnist at Money, calls it ‘unacceptable’

Jon Greer, Quilter’s head of retirement policy, commented, “The fact that overpayments have been on the rise throughout this year suggests that more pension savers will be dipping into their pension,” 

Tom Selby from AJ Bell’s retirement policy department said that the Government should automate paybacks. 

‘At the moment, savers run the risk of being out of pocket to the tune a thousands of pounds when they access retirement pots.

“If this process could become automated and the need for a complicated reclaim form eliminated, it would greatly improve the tax system to retirees.” 

What should you do if HMRC tries to raid your pension funds?

Steve Webb, columnist at This is Money, responded to a question by a reader here.

He explained that people who receive a regular income from a pension pot should have their tax code automatically adjusted. 

However, anyone withdrawing money in any tax year must fill out one of the three HMRC forms. This will allow them to get their money back in 30 days.  

Webb stated that those who have taken a partial draw but still have money in their pension pots will need to complete form Form P55.

The form is for someone who has finished their work and is now out of work.

For someone who has filled their pot but continues to work, the P53Z is for you.

Aegon’s head of pensions, Kate Smith, suggested that people take two withdrawals to avoid being overtaxed.

HMRC seems to have little interest in resolving this complicated way of overpaying and claiming tax. Individuals should consider taking out a small first pension payment, then taking out another higher payment in the same year. This will adjust the income tax. 

“This will save you the hassle of filing a tax reclaim. It will also allow you to have more money in your pocket quicker.