Conference Season

It is conference season and I my diary is suitably full of my selection of those that I believe merit attention. I’m not attending any of the political conferences and have recently returned from what might be best described as the Premier League of Financial Planners Conference – the annual CISI conference at Celtic Manor.

Yes Minister

Whilst being a non-political conference, clearly insight from the occasional politician or a former one can be valuable. Step forward Steve Webb, who was a LibDem MP and the Minister for Pensions in the Coalition Government, back in the day when politics offered some semblance of common sense.

The Autumn Budget – 22 November 2017

Whilst understandably providing various caveats to his talk, Mr Webb made clear that given the Queen’s Speech, the current Government have essentially given themselves a 2-year timeframe.


Not Enough Hours in the Day

He explained that due to the workings of Parliament, this means about 40 weeks in the year that is given over to Parliamentary work. However, 1 day a week is set aside for the Opposition to make their case and another is for MPs to actually work with their own constituents. Given the amount of time that Brexit will consume, there is precious little likelihood that anything significant will change, unless it is populist, garnering all-party support within the available 120 days a year.

Why Tax Rules Are Daft

Aas tax legislation does not have to go via the House of Lords, unlike other acts (for approval or sense check) much can be altered quickly, even with a tiny majority. He made the point that it is precisely because tax legislation bypasses the House of Lords, that so much of it is so complex and poorly thought through. So that in mind, what could the Government possibly muck around with?

What you can pay in

The Annual Allowance – could be reduced further from the current £40,000, despite acknowledging the complexity of the Tapered Annual Allowance, he thought it more likely that this would be extended rather than abolished, perhaps bringing it in for those earning £100,000 rather than £150,000.

What you can get out

Whilst the Lifetime Allowance has already been thrashed to £1m and is meant to now be linked to inflationary increases, he said that cutting it further is an option as “it passes the Daily Mail test – where people think a £1m pension fund is a lot”. He made the point that the Treasury appears to hate pensions (see all recent changes over the last 15 years) but love ISAs, for which they attempt to invent a new one almost each year now.

Employer’s beware

Whilst he thought it unlikely, he also proposed that the Government could apply employers National Insurance contributions to their pension contributions, which would effectively end salary sacrifice arrangements. He also felt it improbable that the tax-free cash lump sum from pensions would end or be reduced, due to the complexity it would create for those that have had, are having or due to have it and rules are difficult to apply retrospectively.

No F-Bombs

Without a single interruption from anyone handing in a P45 or the stage falling apart, the room of delegates was impressed with his delivery and rationale, but sanguine about the prospect of further pension meddling. Everyone I spoke with conceded that ISAs certainly seem to be the favoured investment vehicle for the Treasury as they only give up future tax revenue, rather than current tax revenues. However, reliance on any future Government to maintain promises about ISAs seems probably unwise.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email