Your pension annual allowance (AA) is the maximum amount you and/or your employer can contribute to your pension fund in one tax year, without incurring tax charges.
From 6 April 2016 the standard AA will be cut from £40,000 to a minimum of £10,000 for ‘top earners’. Individuals affected will have their AA reduced by £1 for every £2 of their adjusted income over £150,000, until a minimum AA of £10,000 is achieved. However, any pension contributions made by the individual’s employer are counted as part of adjusted income, so people on salaries of less than £150,000 could be caught.
To avoid an unwelcome tax charge on pension contributions you need to estimate your annual adjusted income before making large pension contributions within that same tax year. However, that will be difficult for anyone with a variable annual income, such as business profits or dividends.
As a high earning employee you should talk to your employer about the level of pension contributions due to be made by you and the employer in the year, to check that the total does not exceed your pension AA. You may need to opt out of the company pension scheme and negotiate compensation for that opt-out.
You may also consider transferring income-generating assets such as property or shares to a lower-earning spouse or civil partner before 6 April 2016. A transfer to an unmarried partner will trigger a disposal subject to capital gains tax.
A third option is to maximise your pension contributions in 2015-16 by making use of any unused pension AA brought forward from the previous three tax years.