What income is taxable?

Updated on 11 November 2017

You do not have to pay tax on all of your income. In tax terms, some income is called ‘taxable’ – you have to pay tax on it, and some is ‘non taxable’, ‘not taxable’, ‘exempt’ or ‘tax free’ – you do not have to pay tax on it. This page deals only with income that you get from pensions and related items.

Normally, income from pensions, including the state pension, is taxable.

If you want to know whether other different types of income are taxable or not, go to the ‘tax basics section’ of our website. Tax credits are not taxable income but some other state benefits are – to find out the details, visit our section on ‘tax credits and benefits’.

If you have income from savings, look at our section on ‘savings and tax’, and if you have rental income from a property or from a lodger in your own home, look at our section on ‘property income’.

This page deals only with income that you get from pensions and related items.

What ‘pensions’ income is taxable?

The following list includes ‘pensions’ income that is normally taxable.

  • Pension income – from occupational pensions, private pension schemes, personal pension plans or retirement annuity policies. Your pension provider takes off tax under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system, before paying you the pension. It does not matter how frequently you receive your pension. Your pension provider should give you a form P60 at the end of each tax year, showing your pension and the tax taken off. If you have taken out the full pension fund and nothing is left, your pension provider should give you a form P45. You do not pay National Insurance contributions (NIC) on your pension income. There is more information on forms P60 and P45 on GOV.UK. Although the GOV.UK page refers to employers only, pension providers are required to provide the same forms.
  • Foreign pensions and lump sums paid under overseas pension schemes although you may have been entitled to a deduction of 10% in tax years up to and including 2016/17. This may depend on your residence and domicile position and the terms of any relevant double taxation agreement.
  • Industrial death benefit (IDB) – pensions payable under the scheme are taxable as pension income. IDB was abolished with effect from 11 April 1988. Pensions already in payment at that date continue to be paid.
  • State pension and most other state pensions –  for those who reached state pension age before 6 April 2016, the state pension is made up of a few elements:
    • the basic pension;
    • additional pension;
    • up rating of guaranteed minimum pension;
    • graduated retirement benefit or pension;
    • age addition;
    • increase for dependants; and
    • extra pension as a result of deferral.
      Most of these elements are taxable, but increases for dependent children are not taxable.
      For those who reach state pension on or after 6 April 2016, the new state pension is paid, which is paid at a flat rate and does no include the above elements.
  • State pension lump sums, arising as a result of deferral.
  • Purchased life annuities – income element – purchased life annuities are not pension annuities. You can buy them using your own savings, rather than savings from a pension fund. Part of the money you receive is treated as income, and the other part is treated as a repayment of your investment. Only the income element is taxable. As it is taxed as savings income, it can count towards your personal savings allowance (also called ‘savings nil rate’). Any part of it within that allowance is therefore taxed at 0%, with the balance being taxed at 20% if you are a basic rate taxpayer. You normally receive the income element net of 20% tax.

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What ‘pensions’ income is tax free?

The following list includes income that is normally tax free.

  • Child dependency additions paid with state pension or other social security pensions.
  • Christmas bonus for pensioners.
  • Cold weather payments.
  • Pension credit – there is more information on pension credit on the GOV.UK website. You can also use the pension credit calculator on GOV.UK to see how much pension credit you might get.
  • War widow's or dependant's pension.
  • Winter fuel payment.
  • For tax years up to and including 2016/17, foreign pensions and lump sums paid under overseas pension schemes in certain circumstances – 10% of the pension or lump sum. This may depend on your residence and domicile position and the terms of any relevant double taxation agreement.
  • Gallantry awards – annuities and additional pensions paid to holders of the Victoria Cross, George Cross and most other gallantry medals are free from tax.
  • German and Austrian annuities and pensions for victims of Nazi persecution.
  • Lump sums from UK approved pension schemes up to 25% of the capital value.
  • Wounds and disability pensions of members of the armed forces are tax free.
  • Any increased pension awarded to an employee on retirement because of an injury at work is free of tax.
  • Purchased life annuities – capital element – purchased life annuities are not pension annuities. You can buy them using your own savings, rather than savings from a pension fund. Part of the money you receive is treated as income, and the other part is treated as a repayment of your investment (capital element). Only the income element is taxable; the capital element is tax free.

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Where can I find more information?

For more information on various different types of taxable and tax free income, you may find these sections of our website helpful:

There is more information on the taxation of savings income in our ‘other tax issues section’.

There is more information on the taxation of property income in our ‘other tax issues section’.

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