Officers Should Be Warned Of The Tax Implications On Pensions

In a recent court case, several recently retired officers from Essex Police and the Avon and Somerset Constabulary brought a joint action by way of judicial review against a decision made by the Pensions Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman had received numerous complaints that both forces had incorrectly told them their retirement lump sums (commutation) would be tax free. The individuals concerned had retired on full ordinary pensions, and had then taken up new employment within one month of leaving their force. The Finance Act of 2004 penalises people under certain conditions for taking pension benefits where they have retired under the normal minimum pension age, this being 55.

The pensioners found themselves liable to pay a substantial tax charge on the lump sum as well as their annual pension until they reached the age of 55.

The Home Office had issued a circular on the issue, and HMRC had published the changes in their Registered Pension Scheme
Manual and so the respective forces should have been well aware of the tax implications to their ex-employees.

The High Court found that the Chief Constables were not liable for the adverse tax consequences, but the Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset Constabulary was in their particular case. Additionally, due to the fact that certain papers submitted in the Avon and Somerset case, were found to be missing in the Essex case, the Judge remitted the case for the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner back to the Pension Ombudsman for a decision. The Judge concluded that had the unseen Essex papers been found to be similar to those of Avon & Somerset, then he would have made the same decision for the Essex claimants.

The case is Corsham and others v Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, Hazel and others v Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police and others (2019) EWCA Civ 676, a copy of which may be read here –


Officers Should Be Warned Of The Tax Implications On Pensions

3 thoughts on “Officers Should Be Warned Of The Tax Implications On Pensions

  • 2019-09-01 at 8:14 am

    I am not sure that either the Forces/Courts/HMRC are fully aware of the sudden drastic change to IOD’s upon sudden retirement often without valuable information.

    The welfare of the retired officer has never been at the forefront. I can only speak for my own individual experience in that I was given no information at all when I was retired. I was informed I was to be medically retired and told to see a HR clerk immediately after seeing the SMP who would tell me when I was being retired and all the information I needed (and they were unable to inform me of anything at all just my retirement date) and all I got through the post was one sheet of paper which (I still have) and it was not completed correctly.

    The injuries received were (to me) mind blowing (I was struggling with both physical and mental injuries and I still do) then the panic (as the major wage earner) with a mortgage to pay I still remember not knowing whether I could meet financial commitments (the torture was unreal) small children to support, it does not surprise me that some IOD’s even Ill and clearly unwell, pretended they were well enough to find a job immediately…….. to try and support their family and not end up on benefits. Our Force not Essex or Avon and Somerset also gave no information.

    It doesn’t surprise me that they were not given the information required as many (I certainly wasn’t) even invited to ‘the pre-retirement courses’, officers who completed their 30 years were and I am sure they were given valuable financial/pension advice, even not to come out of the Federation. We (IOD’s in my Force) were never considered to attend and many were unable to do so.

    My own circumstances were after the award ( which took months to conclude) it did not meet my (meagre) financial commitments, thankfully I lived north of Watford so my mortgage was small in comparison to those colleagues living in much more affluent areas but Fed expenses, life insurance, holidays all had to be stopped). It should also be remembered when I joined permission had to be granted to live in your own house! One former colleague was told to move as their home was not in an area that the Force deemed suitable (bearing in mind it was what they could afford!). Several years passed, I was so unwell, hospital appointments, physio appointments, occupational health appointments and the 5 years of mental health appointments which have been on and off over the last decade, unable to work.

    I was not affected by the above ruling. However, they were the worst years of my life, trying to put a brave face on for all, shopping at charity shops to clothe the children, shopping in Lidl’s for food (before it was fashionable) depending on family to feed my kids, all so I could remain living in the family home. Eventually I had to mask all my difficulties and the Mental Health Team encourages me to apply for a job (a menial job, little pay to supplement my small iod pension)

    I totally agree with the above comments, keep everything! Important documents (not that they ever willingly give them to you!) they do have a habit of disappearing when they are looked after by Force’s, you never know when you will need them.

    Trust and transparency are sadly words just bounced about by some Forces but in reality they do not exist in some.


  • 2019-08-09 at 6:55 am

    Important papers going missing in Police cases have happened before. In my case some years ago important documents disappeared but I was lucky in that I took a photocopy of the Occurrence Book report made at the time relating to my injury on duty. I would suggest that any officer retiring even at the end of impeccable full time service makes sure he/she has a copy of all documents relating to their service they can get their hands on and does not destroy them for years, you never know what can happen. In my case it took 9 years to settle and then only the day before a High Court hearing was listed. They finally admitted liability and settled out of court only because I still had a copy of that crucial report someone had in the meantime lost. Now I have to accept that over 9 years papers can go missing but it happened to be an important document that proved my case.

    • 2019-08-09 at 11:09 am

      This is good advice. We would advise all officers who have recently retired to obtain a full copy of everything that is held on them via a Subject Access Request.

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