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GPs go forth

No details about how GPs’ winter pension tax charges will be paid, warns BMA

Details about how NHS England will pay GPs' pension tax charges this winter have still not been revealed despite the changes having been announced two months ago, the BMA has warned.

Stop-gap proposals approved by health secretary Matt Hancock in November were aimed at ensuring doctors could take on extra shifts without being charged for breaching their annual tax-free pension limit. 

GPs and other doctors should be able to defer the tax charges this winter by making use of a 'scheme pays' option when submitting pension forms from April onwards, so that the NHS later pays for the costs at the point of retirement.

But the BMA said NHS England had so far provided no information on how the policy would work 'despite repeated requests' - and said the delay meant GPs will be 'hesitant' to take on extra work. 

NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), responsible for handling pension forms in England and Wales, also told Pulse it had 'no indication' to date as to 'what all of this means in terms of administration'. 

GPs added it was 'extremely worrying' there were no details so far - and echoed concerns previously raised by the health secretary that the stop-gap plans could constitute tax avoidance.

A BMA spokesperson said: 'NHS England and Improvement made a commitment to deliver this short-term fix for GPs facing pension tax charges this winter, but despite repeated requests they have so far failed to provide details of how it will work.'

They added: 'While we have been given a commitment that this scheme will apply to general practice, it’s understandable that, without details on precisely how it will work for those in primary care, GPs will be hesitant to commit to extra work this year that could risk triggering significant annual allowance charges.

'This is why we continue to push for these details, so that family doctors can get back to treating patients.'

NHSBSA said it had had some interest from NHS pension members wanting to use the 'scheme pays' option - which will be available to doctors from April - but had no information about how the policy would work. 

An NHSBSA spokesperson said: 'We have already seen communication from members that suggests they intend to use the "scheme pays" option because of payment redress but at this time we have no details as to what this means, in terms of numbers and administration.'

GP Survival chair and pensions expert Dr Nicholas Grundy said he fears the proposals could potentially constitute tax avoidance.

He said: 'It's extremely worrying that there's still no detail around how scheme pays will work.

'Dealing with the annual allowance tax charges is a significant, complex workload on NHS staff already, and adding in a loan to defer the problem until retirement, in a way which no one appears to understand and for the 2019/20 year - which may constitute tax evasion - does not encourage NHS staff to take on more work. I've just reduced my sessions as a result.'

NHS England previously confirmed it will work through a 'detailed implementation mechanism' with GPs and GP representatives to achieve the 'intended' benefits.

Meanwhile, the Government has begun its review of how problems with pension tax charges can be resolved in the long term, with unconfirmed reports suggesting it will raise the threshold income at which high earners see their tax-free allowance tapered.

NHS England has been approached for comment. 

Readers' comments (12)

  • Big surprise. The BMA should expect this. Trust in the pension is gone. The readers have already predicted this. They will probably drag it and not pay it until the year 2120 if it does happen. In a sarcastic way:
    "The state knows how to best spend the money you've earned as clearly the idiots that managed to earn it are clueless".

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  • "Simples"

    I wouldn't buy a 5 year old second hand car without MOT and ideally a service history so why would I volunteer for extra shifts when no one can answer how much I would earn or even hand back to tax man!

    I think I could have a more rational/coherent/useful conversation with my dog!

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  • Also the age discrimination case seems to have gone quiet. This is obviously huge. Any update pulse.

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  • Having done an appraisal today on a great Hospital Consultant who has moved abroad, it’s not just GPs who are treated badly by the NHS. . She looks back on NHS changes in the last 10 years and says she would rather move to the Middle East than return to UK. Her colleagues have all reduced their sessions due to tax issues and she noted how colleagues were stepping back from anything outside their standard clinical work because you don’t get enough time to do it and then a load of grief when you have dont your best. She spoke of ‘impossible demands’.
    The NHS is creating ( actively or subconsciously) a salaried workforce in hospitals. She lamented the loss of the team, pride, support, going the extra mile.
    This is not the first doctor I have had with the same story.

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  • I have completely left as FT partner and much better option.

    Overall tax on pension contributions is madness.

    Income tax
    AA tax
    Scheme pays
    LTA tax
    Income tax again

    Much much better to take full profit share and put into holiday let, spouses pension, Lisa and Sipp

    No need to bother about capita / nhsba anymore. No more enforced change of pension age. No more failing to pay pension contributions to nhsba in appropriate tax year
    Let the nhs pension scheme fail - I for one will not care anymore

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  • the winter pensions tax "scheme" was an election bluff. It was never real and all those who worked additional sessions out of the hope it was and the GPC who took this "back of the envelop" idea as genuine have been gullible suckers. I can understand the nativity of some colleagues but for the GPC to fall for the same trick over and over again demonstrates a remarkable wish for recurrent self flagellation.

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  • David Banner

    Moving to Scheme Pays was always a trap.
    Yes, you don’t receive an AA Bill this year, but does anyone seriously believe that Crapita will be competent enough to deduct this amount when you finally retire?
    And since nothing was nailed down, expect HMG to backtrack on this verbal promise in years to come, with huge reductions in your pension on retirement.
    It was a short term con to keep doctors on the front line during an election December.
    Now they are free to renege on their promises.
    A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

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  • Trust has completely gone which is the only logical conclusion to these dishonest lies.
    Nobody knows how much the pension will grow without a crystal ball and yet you are expected to pay the tax for that! I have left the scheme and will not go back to it or work any harder as it does not pay to work. If I mess up at least I can blame myself and rather than leaving my future to Crapita.
    Doctors from abroad do not come here for 2 main reasons.
    1) Look at how much you get take home after all the tax, land registry tax, inheritance tax and pension tax etc. They will con you with the initial figure.
    2) The blame + compensation culture. You get not just being struck off but jail time in a high pressure, high workload environment with your scans, referrals, investigations being rejected due to poor resourcing and staffing but they expect world class outcomes. In short they want a Bentley paying Ford money.
    Recent BBC news of the Billions the NHS is due for legal fees, it is just a matter of time before the whole system collapses.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Well , as I wrote before , NHSE is now evidently not fit for purpose and ready to be dissolved.
    The animosity between us and them is irrevocable?

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