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Statement sees Chancellor allow older generation to top up pensions

IT WAS not all bad news on state pensions this week - at least not for members of the older generation.

In future, it will be possible for people to continue topping up their state pension even if they are past retirement age. Some increases in tax breaks for other types of savings were also announced in the Autumn Statement, but there was disappointment the position of Child Trust Funds was not improved.

For those approaching pension age, one of the Chancellor's most unexpected announcements was that the Government is planning to introduce a new class of voluntary National Insurance (NI) contri- bution, Class 3A, to enable pensioners to top up their state pension.

Currently, when you get to pension age, no further NI contributions are payable so you can't add to your pension.

Details of the new scheme have yet to be announced but it is expected to begin in October 2015 and will be available to all pensioners who reach state pension age before the introduction of the single-tier pension in April 2016.

Commenting on the proposals, Malcolm McLean of consultants Barnett Waddingham said: "This could be very beneficial to many pensioners, particularly women, who may not have an opportunity to build up an additional pension to supplement their basic pension in the past.

"There are a sizeable number of women who narrowly missed out on qualifying for the new higher single-tier pension because their state pension age fell shortly before the start date of April 2016.

"Many felt aggrieved that men with exactly the same dates of birth would qualify on the basis that their state pension age would be after April 2016.

"This new scheme ought to allow this group of women, along with others, to boost their state pension entitlement."

Another means of saving that can yield no-risk, tax-free returns are SAYE Employee Savings Schemes and the Chancellor announced that the monthly limit for these schemes is being doubled to £500 from April 2014.

These schemes give employees the right to buy shares in their company at a predetermined price at the end of a three- or five-year savings term. Any gains are normally tax free.

As The Herald predicted a fortnight ago, a new tax relief is to be introduced from April 2014 for social impact bonds, where individuals and businesses subscribe to projects with social outcomes, which may deliver a return but allow the capital to be recycled to a new project.

It will also cover investments in social enterprises, though tax experts have expressed caution about how this will work in practice.

Although the Treasury had floated the idea of a lifetime cap on the amount anyone can shelter in a tax-free Isa, no limit has been proposed.

But among those who are not happy are parents of children with Child Trust Funds.

It had been expected that these would be merged with Junior ISAs which offer better deals.

There is still hope that the Chancellor may announce this change in the March budget.

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