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Avoiding the 60%...

29 September 2015

3 min read

Avoiding the 60% tax trap

Ellen is the chief executive of a design agency with an income of £125,000 p.a. in the current tax year.

Katharine Lindley
Katharine Lindley,

Chartered Financial Planner

Ellen is the chief executive of a design agency with an income of £125,140 p.a. in the current tax year.

At the moment she doesn’t make any pension contributions, but is attracted by the new flexibility she has read about online. She also feels that she is paying more Income Tax than expected and has asked EQ for help.

Ellen’s current income tax position

Ellen’s adjusted net income is more than £100,000 which means that her Personal Allowance (the part she pays no Income Tax on) will reduce by £1 for every £2 over this threshold. This means that Ellen’s Personal Allowance will reduce from £12,570 to nil (£25,140/2=£12,570).

Ellen pays Income Tax at 20% on the next £37,700 and £40% on the rest. The table below shows how her Income Tax is calculated.

  Income in this band Tax due
Personal Allowance @0% £0 £0
Basic Rate Band @ 20% £37,700 £7,540
Higher Rate Band @ 40% £87,440 £34,976
Total £125,140 £42,516

The £25,140 that Ellen earned over £100,000 has been taxed as follows:

  • 40% tax on the lost Personal Allowance (£12,570 x 40% = £5,028)
  • 40% tax on the £25,140 which is within the higher rate band (£25,140 x 40% = £10,056)

So this part of Ellen’s income is taxed at 60% (£15,084 tax on £25,140 income).

As Ellen earned more than £100,000 in the tax year it is also likely that HMRC will require her to complete a tax return.

Make a pension contribution

If Ellen makes a pension contribution of £20,112 net, before the end of the tax year, she could save this tax and make provision for her future retirement.

The contribution of £20,112 net will benefit from basic rate tax relief in her pension making it worth £25,140 (the gross amount). This reduces her ‘adjusted net income’ from £125,140 to £100,000 which means that she will get her Personal Allowance back. Not only this, but her Basic Rate Band will grow from £37,700 to £62,840.

As a result of paying £20,112 into her pension (which will immediately increase to £25,140) Ellen’s Income Tax will be calculated as follows:

  Income in this band Tax due
Personal Allowance @0% £12,570 £0
Basic Rate Band @ 20% £62,840 £12,568
Higher Rate Band @ 40% £49,730 £19,892
Total £125,140 £32,460

Ellen will pay £10,056 less Income Tax and gain £5,028 within her pension following her contribution; she has effectively received 60% tax relief on her contribution!

When Ellen completes her tax return, she will be able to regain her personal allowance and claim higher rate tax relief on her pension contributions.


» If you require any further clarity on any of the points raised above, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Katharine Lindley

Katharine Lindley


Chartered Financial Planner

Katharine started her career in 1998 in PwC’s financial planning team. She joined EQ Investors from Tilney Bestinvest where she worked closely with investment managers and professional advisers to deliver cohesive financial plans for clients. Katharine’s areas of expertise are wealth management, retirement planning and pensions, investments, estate planning and tax planning. She is a Chartered Financial Planner, Certified Financial Planner, Taxation Technician Fellow and Chartered Tax Adviser. Away from the office, Katharine enjoys spending time with family, gardening, theatre and is learning the piano after a 30 year break. Katharine is a charitable trustee of the Association of Taxation Technicians and represents them on technical pension discussions with HMRC and HM Treasury.

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