Online applications launched for LTA protections
On 28 July 2016, HMRC launched its online application service for members wishing to apply for Individual Protection 2014 (IP14), Individual Protection 2016 (IP16) or Fixed Protection 2016 (FP16).
The launch of this service comes despite the fact that the legislation (Finance Bill 2016) to introduce IP16 and FP16 retrospectively from 6 April 2016 has still not received Royal Assent and this is not expected to happen until Parliament returns from its summer recess.
This service replaces the interim process for applying for IP16 and FP16 which gave members a temporary protection reference number to rely on if they wished to take their benefits prior to the launch of the full application service. It also replaces the online form previously used by members to apply for IP14.
Going forward, members who want to apply for IP14, IP16 or FP16 will have to do so online at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pension-schemes-protect-your-lifetime-allowance
As this is an online service, members will be able to view their protection details online and they will be able to print their protection details as necessary to give to their Scheme Administrator but they will not receive a paper certificate.
To complement the new online service, HMRC has also published more guidance to assist members who wish to apply for protection, including information on how to value pension savings for the purposes of applying for Individual Protection.
Interim protection application process and temporary reference numbers
Members who previously obtained a temporary protection reference number for IP16 and FP16 under the interim process will now need to use this service to obtain a permanent protection reference number.
HMRC has confirmed that any members who used a temporary reference number to draw benefits prior to the online service going live, will continue to have their pension savings protected if they meet the conditions to retain the protection even if they fail to make a permanent protection application online. However, if they do wish to crystallise further benefits at a later date, they will need to be in possession of a permanent reference number because HMRC will only recognise permanent reference numbers from August 2016 onwards.
Any applications made after 31 July 2016 using the interim process will be rejected and HMRC will direct the member to the online service to make their application. However, HMRC will issue permanent reference numbers in respect of any temporary applications they have in progress at 31 July 2016.
A protection look-up service for pension scheme administrators
HMRC is continuing to develop a look up service for pension scheme administrators to check the lifetime allowance protection status of their members. It is expected that this will be available later in the year.
In the meantime, members will need to continue to provide the scheme administrator with evidence of their form of lifetime allowance protection before benefits can be processed.