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Revenue Commissioners Target High Income Pensioners

6th January 2012

Revenue have been involved in an exchange of information exercise with the Department of Social Protection, which this week resulted in Revenue stating that 115,000 pensioners will pay extra tax in 2012. It is important to note that no change in tax law has occurred as a result of this initiative, rather due to technological advances the Revenue Commissioners are able to integrate information received from the Department of Social Protection into tax credit certificates from 2012.

It is important to distinguish between the self-assessed and the PAYE worker in this scenario.

Self-Assessed persons are obliged to complete an income tax return annually as they have significant non-PAYE income, e.g. trade or rental income. On an income tax return you are obliged to complete and have assessed all your income sources, not just your self-employed income. Therefore, you should be recording all your pension income on the form to ensure it is being taxed correctly.

PAYE Workers are not obliged to complete an income tax return each year as their income tax is deducted at source. For occupational pensions, the administrators of the fund are obliged to operate any pension payments through the payroll. However, in a lot of cases they would be issued with a tax deduction certificate for the recipient stating income up to €18,000 is tax exempt in 2011/2012 for a single individual, and up to €36,000 for a married couple.

Comparing this to the state pensions (Contributory Pension, Transitional Pension, Widows Pension, Invalidity Pension), these are liable to tax in the same way as occupational pensions, but due to the easing of the administrative burden, tax was never deducted at source on these pensions. An administrative burden would arise as the vast majority of such recipients would be under the threshold to be tax exempt, and therefore large refunds would be issued at the end of the tax year to repay the recipient for tax deducted at source. Such a position relies on the taxpayer being aware of whether their have any tax liability on their total income, and the need to inform the Revenue Commissioners of the amount of their state pension. The complexity of the tax system means that professional advice is often needed, not something which is often available to PAYE workers.

In order to ensure that the state pensions are appropriately taxed, the occupational pension administrators are advised of how much they must reduce the tax exempt limit of the recipient. Previously this was not done automatically by Revenue, which resulted in underpayments by certain tax payers. This is corrected for the tax year 2012 onwards, but arrears may be due for previous years in some cases.

Should you have any queries on this do not hesitate to contact us.