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Updated on 6 April 2024

Pension withdrawals: thinking ahead

If possible, it is a good idea to plan ahead before taking money from your pension. Here we look at why this is important and introduce some of the key considerations to be aware of. 

A dark coloured background with 2 wooden blocks, each block has a word written on it, together this reads 'THINK AHEAD'
Dmitry Demidovich /

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It is important not to rush a decision on your pensions, if you can avoid it.

It is a good idea to consider a range of factors, including:

  • your current circumstances (personal and financial)
  • future plans
  • the method of withdrawal (for example, for defined contribution pensions this would mean thinking about whether to purchase an annuity or draw down on your pension pot flexibly)
  • investment choices
  • the consequences for tax, tax credits, universal credit and other state benefits
  • charges you might incur if you take pensions early.

It is recommended that you consider taking professional advice when making decisions.

Tax considerations

As set out above, there are many reasons why it is good to plan. We are not able to discuss all of these in detail, but we draw out some of the important tax issues that you will need to think about, such as:

  • You might pay less tax on money from pensions if you take it in stages, spread it out over a number of tax years, or wait until after you have stopped work. We look at this is the example below.
  • You can trigger a large tax bill when you take taxable lump sums from pensions under flexi-access arrangements.
  • You might also incur a further cost by creating a tax credits overpayment, a high income child benefit charge, or by affecting your entitlement to means-tested state benefits. We discuss these in more detail in our page Pension income: impact on state benefits.
  • Taking a large taxable lump sum might cause you to become a higher or additional rate taxpayer, you may also lose the ability to claim the marriage allowance, lose all or part of your personal allowance and you may also face restrictions to your personal savings allowance.
  • If you are repaying a student loan and you have to fill in a self assessment tax return, taxable amounts that you take out of pensions can affect your repayments.

Planning ahead could therefore save you a great deal in potentially unnecessary tax charges and adverse impacts to your benefits position.

For example, if you can afford to wait to take pension monies until the tax year after you retire from work, you might be liable to tax at a lower rate.

Example – taking pension in stages

Hamish is 60 and retired in March 2024. He has a personal pension pot of £80,000 which he is now able to access.

Having taken advice, Hamish decides that he wishes to draw on his pension under the ‘pensions flexibility’ rules rather than purchase an annuity.

He initially takes 25% from his pension as a tax-free lump sum, leaving £60,000. Hamish decides to draw the remaining £60,000 over the next six tax years. He has no other taxable income in those years and will therefore pay no tax at all on the pension withdrawals (with the standard personal tax allowance set at £12,570 for 2024/25).

Hamish must remember that his state pension will be fully taxable, but he will not start receiving this until he is aged 67 – which will be after he has finished drawing his personal pension pot.

For more information on the tax implications of making pension withdrawals, see our page Tax on pension income.

Non-tax considerations

As already mentioned, tax is not the only factor – there might be other reasons you need more money sooner, you will need to take into account possible future changes in your circumstances and you will have other investment-based issues to think about. We cannot cover those on this website, but we do strongly suggest you take advice and think about the tax situation very carefully before acting.


If someone contacts you out of the blue about your pension or accessing your money, this might point to it being a scam so be very careful.

Thinking ahead and having a clear plan, might help you steer of such scams.

Further sources of help

The government’s MoneyHelper website may be useful for:

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