The vast majority of this week’s 120 Pensions Buzz respondents rejected the idea that the NHS should bear any responsibility for members facing tax bills due to the tapered annual allowance.
They also answered questions on how they would vote in the general election if it was based solely on pensions policies, GMP equalisation timescales, and Pension Protection Fund benefits.
The NHS should not be responsible for taking emergency action on the tapered annual allowance, said 72% of this week's 120 respondents.
The NHS Pension Scheme has said it will use the ‘scheme pays' method, which allows the fund to pay tax liabilities, with members recompensed at retirement.
However, many respondents said the buck rested with the government. One such commentator said: "The tapered allowance is not fit for purpose and should be replaced by HM Revenue & Customs. It shouldn't be down to one employer to compensate staff for poor tax rules."
Another said the NHS was "essentially signing a blank cheque" as the "cost can't be accurately quantified in advance".
A further participant said: "It's a government matter and not something which impacts only NHS employees. Private sector employees with ‘real world' defined contribution schemes are already treated like second-class citizens."
Yet, a fifth felt it was the NHS' responsibility, with one stating: "The NHS should already have been acting responsibly… allowing scheme pays on actuarial reduction basis to assist affected members."
The largest proportion (39%) of respondents said they would not vote for any political party if the upcoming general election was based solely on pensions policies.
One such respondent said: "None of them are showing any real grasp of the real issues in pensions, and all of them are making unsustainable promises that they actually have no intention of keeping."
Another added: "All three major parties pledge to keep the triple lock, which is an illogical, unsustainable and unfair policy. None of them are taking a long-term view that is necessary for good pension policy."
However, 36% opted for the Conservatives, with one noting: "They are most likely to recognise the need to encourage the importance of long-term saving and individual financial responsibility."
Others cited Labour's "unrealistic" or "farcical" policies.
The Lib Dems secured 13% of the vote, Labour on 7%, and other parties on 5%.
Several said Sir Steve Webb should return as pensions minister, with one saying he was "the best politician for pensions that we have had in 50 years".
The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) is paying out the right level of benefits, according to 53% of this week's respondents.
"It is meant to be a safety net, giving members of failed employers some pension, not a scheme funded by well-run employers to fully bail out those that are less bothered or well-run," one said.
Another noted: "It's an insurance policy where the cover is clearly defined and that should be the end of it. Increasing payments for any other reason should be rejected out of hand."
A further respondent said: "It's important to strike a balance between an appropriate level of compensation versus affordability. The current level feels broadly reasonable."
However, a fifth felt the opposite, although said compensation was too high, and others said it was too low.
"It should pay out full benefits," said one, while another said: "Too high, especially for affluent pensioners."
Just over a third (36%) of respondents said it was unlikely that their schemes' GMP equalisation exercises would be completed by the end of next year.
Many mentioned the need for further tax guidance from HM Revenue & Customs, with one stating the tax office was also "dragging its heels on the rectification front, which is causing a backlog which will feed into the equalisation work".
Another respondent said: "Many of our smaller clients are taking a ‘wait and see what everyone else does' approach. I suspect many won't have really got started by the middle of 2020 and certainly won't be finished by the end of the year."
Several others said the follow-up legal case was necessary to resolve some of the outstanding issues, including how to treat transfers.
However, 18% said it was likely, although several said this was a "hope" rather than a certainty.
A quarter said they were unsure, with one stating: "It depends on when HMRC will realise its guidance on the impacts of GMP conversion."
An overwhelming majority (75%) said lump sum death in service benefits written in registered pension schemes should be exempted from the lifetime allowance calculation, as suggested by a Buzz peer.
One said: "There should not be any vague wording that inadvertently traps someone at the lower end of the earnings scale or leads to some innovative solutions for higher earners to avoid it. Something clear and concise is required."
Another added: "This benefit covers a very different unplanned event, and cannot be counted in the calculation. The pension is saving for retirement and should be covered by the tax rules of the day."
"I'd rather get rid of the lifetime allowance and keep a sensible annual allowance, but otherwise we should keep it, but at a capped multiple (say, four or five)," a further respondent said.
Just 17% disagreed, with one arguing: "Pensions are not an inheritance tax avoidance mechanism and the focus should be on using any spare funding to support pension saving and not to reduce the bills of older people with large pension pots."
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