UK: "I Used To Be Indecisive But Now I'm Not So Sure" – Government Consults On Creating A Secondary Annuity Market But How Will Current Annuity Holders Decide What To Do?

Last Updated: 1 May 2015
Article by Justin McGilloway and Marcus Kealey

March 2015 saw the publication of the Government Consultation on the creation of a secondary market for annuity sales, giving over five million existing pensioners the same right to access their pensions as that extended to those reaching retirement on 6 April 2015. Here we look at some of the issues raised in the Consultation and offer our own views.

An annuity is a policy from an insurance company that converts a pension fund, or part of a pension fund, into a regular pension income. The Government plans to remove existing restrictions on buying and selling annuities from April 2016, allowing the annuity holder to sell the right to the income that they receive without unwinding the original annuity contract. The annuity holder would receive a cash sum, which they would be able to take on a lump sum or place into a drawdown product, while the provider would continue to make regular annuity payments to the purchaser.

In short....

The Government's consultation proposes the withdrawal of the current punitive "unauthorised payment" tax charge usually levied at 55% (but which can run as high as 70%), thereby allowing annuity holders to assign their policy to institutional third parties like insurers and pension funds without a tax penalty. Instead, individuals would be taxed at their marginal rate.

In return, annuity holders can expect to receive a capital value which they will then be able to apply in one of three ways under the new pension freedoms including opting for an immediate lump sum, designating the funds for flexi-access drawdown, and/or the purchase of a flexible annuity. The new death benefit rules (pre and post age 75) will apply to former annuity holders and their beneficiaries.

Purchasers (e.g. insurers) will receive the income streams deriving from the annuity for the remainder of the annuity holder's life. Income will be treated as trading income or miscellaneous income for tax purposes depending on the purchaser's business activities.

So what's it worth?

The immediate question that springs to mind is how an annuity holder will determine whether a third party's offer to purchase represents good value. Clearly, without performing complex calculations and having regard to the investment environment, establishing fair value will prove difficult.

One option would be to impose a requirement on annuity purchasers to offer a benchmark "selling price" giving potential sellers a comparison figure. However, the level of detail required would clearly impact on the accuracy of the resulting figure: less information results in a quicker and less costly result but at the risk of inaccuracy; more information results in higher costs which will ultimately be put back on the selling annuity holder.

The provision of benchmark figures would however enable a purchaser to check and establish that the selling annuity holder has shopped around and obtained a number of quotes before choosing the particular provider, offering a further degree of consumer protection.

Equally, as the Consultation notes, considering whether to sell an annuity is not solely confined to establishing whether the offer represents fair value. The selling annuitant will also need to consider their own personal circumstances, financial needs, other income, existing wealth and any future provision for dependants.

Looking at it another way there's also going to be a tension between the need to establish certain levels of consumer protection on the one hand, and cost on the other, so that the development of the new secondary annuity market is not overly restricted.

The Consultation hints at a multi-layered approach to consumer protection: A formal regulated advice regime requiring annuity holders to take financial advice from an IFA. Separately, access to free and impartial tailored advice (possibly from the newly established Pension Wise service). Finally, standardised risk warnings delivered by the original annuity provider alerting potential sellers to the risks involved in disposing of their annuity and relevant factors they should consider.

And no, Mr Insurer, you can't buy your own annuity back!

The original annuity provider will not be able to re-purchase the annuity it issued from the annuity holder. The Consultation cites two reasons. 

The first is that although an annuity provider would be under no requirement to re-purchase the annuity, a provider might come under public pressure to re-purchase a whole raft of annuities thought to offer poor value. In seeking to meet such a public demand, a provider could be forced to sell illiquid investments at short notice potentially resulting in the provider's solvency being compromised.

The second reason is the risk that consumers adopt tunnel vision, believing that the only way they can access the new pension freedoms is by selling their annuity back to their original provider, which would reduce shopping around to get the best deal and allow providers to be less competitive in their quotes. So for now, original providers will not be able to have their cake and eat it!

Wedlake Bell comment

Rather like the pension freedoms that have gone before it, the possibility of creating a secondary annuity market strikes us as innovative and forward thinking. Whether the apparent barriers to such a market can be overcome is another matter. The Government has stated that annuity providers and potential buyers should be allowed to develop the market, and that Westminster has no intention to "dictate a rigid mechanism".

This is certainly a positive sentiment but one wonders if it is wishful thinking considering the regulated world in which we live and the plethora of "gatekeepers" with a vested interest in ensuring an efficient and fair secondary market for consumers (e.g. FCA, ABI etc...). The Consultation is open for 12 weeks with responses due by 18 June. Clearly, whether the proposals will be taken forward will depend in large part on the outcome of the General Election on 7 May. As always, we will keep you updated.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.