Tax code problems on retirement

Updated on 7 April 2018

When you reach state pension age, you might encounter problems with your tax code which may result in you paying the wrong amount of tax during the tax year. This guide explains the various tax code problems you may encounter and what to do when you do.

One of the main causes for tax code problems is that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) do not operate Pay As You Earn (PAYE) on your state pension.

This forces the PAYE system to collect tax on two sources of income through one tax code – for example, you may pay tax on both your state pension and an occupational pension through the tax code issued for your occupational pension.

What do HM Revenue & Customs do when my state pension starts?

The DWP notifies HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) automatically once you have decided to claim your state pension. However, you should also let HMRC know, so that they can ensure their records are correct.

This automatic notification should happen about five weeks before the date when you reach state pension age.

In the first year you get your state pension, you will more than likely receive payment for only part of the year. HMRC will normally include a full year's pension in your coding notice and then tell your employer or pension payer to use a special type of code – called a week 1 or month 1 code – to make sure that you only pay the right amount of tax.

If you are unhappy with this, ask HMRC to include the correct amount of state pension that you will be receiving in that tax year – tell them what you think the amount should be and then check the revised coding notice when you get it. You can find contact details for HMRC on the GOV.UK website.

You can see how this works in the example, Wes.

Note – you do not get a form P60 after the end of each tax year for your state pension, so you must keep your own records of your state pension income.

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What if I have more than one source of pension income?

When you start getting your pensions, you may have more than one occupational or personal pension. Each pension will need its own tax code, which should all appear on your coding notice and you should check them to make sure that they are correct.

You need to make sure that you are not getting too many or too few allowances by looking at all of your tax codes for a tax year together. You can see what allowances you should be entitled to in total by referring to the page on tax allowances and then using this to help you check the forms.

Depending on how you take money out of your pension, you may not necessarily pay the right tax at the right time, so keep an eye on how much you are paying. If you take money flexibly from your pensions, you might pay too much (or sometimes not enough) tax when you take the money out. Read our separate guide to flexible pensions.

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What if I had employment benefits and expenses included in my PAYE code but I have now retired?

Many adjustments caused by employment, such as taxable benefits, special work allowances or subscriptions, may need to be reduced in the final year of work. This is because if you retire part way through a tax year, you are unlikely to require a full year’s adjustment to your tax code.

In the second year after retirement, make sure that any adjustments that were due in earlier years from your prior employment are not being simply carried forward by HMRC, just because you had them last year. For example, if your previous employer provided you with private medical insurance, you need to check that this benefit is not included in your coding notice for your pension.

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Wes has his 69th birthday on 1 October 2018 during the 2018/19 tax year. He starts to receive his state pension of £7,500 per year from that date, as he had deferred his state pension while he continued to work.

His total income on which he will pay tax is £14,000 including the state pension. Whilst he will only actually receive around £3,750 pension in 2018/19 – 6 months’ worth – the full £7,500 will be shown in his coding notice and his pension payer will operate a special tax code so that Wes is in fact only taxed on £3,750.

If Wes does not like this arrangement he can contact HMRC and ask them to include £3,750 in his coding instead. The special coding will not then apply, but it is possible that a tax underpayment will arise at the year end.

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Where can I find more information?

You can find more information on checking your coding notice on our page ‘how do I check my coding notice?’ and in the 'employed section' of this website.

If you do not understand your PAYE coding notice or think it is wrong, you should contact HMRC.

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