Understanding the fundamentals of financial planning is essential for making informed decisions about how to manage, save and invest money in preparation for retirement. When it comes to companies, making the right decision about your pension scheme could translate to significant cost savings, chiefly in the form of tax relief as well as other key benefits.

Small self-administered schemes (SSASs) are a special type of occupational pension scheme. They are set up under trust by a company and offer a range of unique benefits. Each SSAS has no more than 11 members, usually the company’s directors and/or senior staff members. The scheme can also be open to other employees, including family members who work for the company. Contributions are normally made by the company but may also be made by the individual members with ample tax relief opportunities available.

Designed predominantly for private and family-owned businesses whose directors wish to take more control over investment decisions and use their pension fund to invest back into their business, the members’ pension funds can be pooled. Each member has a share of the SSAS fund based on the contributions/transfer paid in for them, allowing them to share in the fund’s investment growth or loss.

Versatility and Investment Opportunities

While a SSAS offers all the benefits and tax advantages of a traditional pension scheme, it is especially attractive for its additional flexibility. Every member is also a trustee, allowing them to collectively manage the investment policy and key assets. This structure provides access to a wide range of investment opportunities with the possibility for higher returns, albeit with more risk, than more mainstream products.

Common investment options include listed stocks and shares, including overseas equities, shares in investment trusts and FCA-recognised offshore funds. With investment income and capital gains generally exempt from UK income tax and capital gains tax, this means even more benefits for members.

Tax Efficiency

SSASs are also renowned for their tax efficiency where employer and member contributions usually qualify for tax relief. When it comes to taking retirement benefits, members can take out a tax-free lump sum, typically up to 25% of the member’s share of the SSAS fund although this will be subject to various conditions.

In addition to reducing corporation tax, employer contributions to a SSAS can be lent back to the business, and SSAS and administration fees can be treated as an allowable expense.

Investing in commercial property that is let to the employer is a very popular way that SSAS members can enjoy all the benefits of a SSAS whilst at the same time helping the business. And a SSAS can borrow up 50% of the scheme’s total net value to help fund the property purchase. No tax is payable in the SSAS on the property’s rental income and capital growth and any mortgage repayments would normally be met by the rental income that is paid into the SSAS.

Making the Most of your SSAS

One key point to remember is that the SSAS is controlled by the trustees of the scheme who are also the members of the SSAS. SSASs have made the headlines in recent weeks as advisers have reportedly been encouraging their clients to switch advisers in order to save on charges and ensure that they are receiving the most cost-effective service. With so many businesses taking a thorough cost review in the wake of COVID-19, it comes as no surprise that many SSAS advisers have seen not only an increase in takeovers but also in the formation of new schemes.

Companies are recognising how to utilise and maximise their pension fund in order to benefit the business. In line with this development, the number of switches (i.e. changing the SSAS adviser) has risen significantly – some adviser firms have seen as much as a 20% increase as clients seek to ensure they are gaining the best value for money.

In addition, a “lack of flexibility from legacy providers” has been suggested as another key reason for the increase in transfers, as clients are seeking out advisers who can offer both advanced technology and competitive prices. While the cost of running a SSAS will vary, it depends heavily on the complexity of the scheme in terms of members, benefits and range of investments.

Unique Service Offering

Transferring SSAS advisers can be complex and may mean re-registering the investments if the previous adviser was appointed as trustee. This makes the switch an even more important decision. Back in 2006, a key change was made to the SSAS regulations when the requirement for SSASs to have a professional trustee was removed. Our team at Vintage SSAS Services offer a uniquely flexible service in comparison to many other SSAS advisers as we give clients the option not to appoint us as trustee.

Whilst this is appropriate for some SSAS clients, others prefer to avoid the additional responsibility and stress of the role and choose to appoint a professional trustee. We are expertly qualified to act in the position of independent trustee but we understand that this is not always the route that clients wish to take, which is why we let our clients make the ultimate decision. For guidance and further advice, get in touch today.

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