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How much can I pay into my pension?

Everyone knows that the more you save for the future, the better. But when it comes to your pension, there are a few limits that will affect your contributions.

In this article, we'll explain all the UK pension contribution limits that you need to be aware of.

How much can I pay into my pension each year?

Once, you've worked out how much you should be paying into your pension, it can be tempting to increase your payments over time.

You might not be aware that there is no hard limit on pension contributions - you can add as much as you like into your pot. There is, however, a cap on how much tax relief you can get on your contributions.

Every time you pay into your pension, you'll receive a 25% tax bonus on your contribution from the government. Higher and additional rate taxpayers can enjoy an even greater refund via their self-assessment tax return.

The government offers this bonus to encourage you to save for your future. However, there's a limit on how much you can get back.

What is the maximum pension contribution?

There are two maximum pension contribution limits in the UK that put a ceiling on how much tax relief you can enjoy.

  • Annual allowance
  • Lifetime allowance

Annual pension allowance

Today, you can get tax relief on pension contributions up to £40,000 or 100% of your earned income each tax year, whichever is lower.

This applies across all your pensions and includes:

  • Contributes by you
  • Contributions by your employer
  • Contributions from someone else made on your behalf
  • Tax relief added to your pot

For example, if you earned £30,000 a year, you can pay £22,500 into your pension, and receive the government's 25% tax relief contribution of £7,500, to make the total annual earning amount of £30,000. If your income is £40,000 or higher, then £32,000 is the maximum amount you’re allowed to contribute into your pension a year - as you'll also be receiving an £8,000 tax top-up. 

If your pension contributions add up to more than this across the year, then you'll need to pay tax on the amount you’ve gone over. Essentially, you'll have to give back any tax relief you received on the excess amount. This is known as the Annual Allowance Charge (AAC).

If you aren’t employed or earn under £3,600 annually then the most you can pay into a pension is £2,880 (or £3,600 with the tax relief applied).

If you earn over £240,000 a year, you'll fall into the tapered annual allowance. For every £2 you earn above £240,000 each year, you’ll lose £1 from your annual pension allowance - up to a maximum of £36,000.

This means that anyone earning over £312,000 will have an annual allowance of just £4,000.

Lifetime pension allowance

There’s also a maximum you can pay into pension savings over your lifetime, known as the Lifetime Allowance (LTA).

The current max on pension contributions over your life (while still enjoying tax relief) is £1,073,100. This applies to your contributions and any growth on your investments.

If your savings go over this cap, you may need to pay extra tax when you come to withdraw your pension. You'll be charged 55% tax on any funds you take out above the LTA, as well as income tax at your standard rate

It's worth noting that Lifetime Allowance has changed over the last 10 years and may change further in the future. If you're concerned that you might go over the limit, HMRC does offer certain protections that guard against these charges.

We recommend speaking to a financial adviser to discuss your options.

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Can you backdate pension contributions?

In some cases, you can carry forward your unused annual pension allowance from the previous 3 years.

This means you can go over your annual allowance and still receive tax relief on your contributions, up to a maximum of £120,000 (if you or your employer haven't paid into a pension at all for the last 3 tax years).

Backdating pension contributions is relatively straightforward, as long as you have had a pension open for the entire period - but there is a catch.

You still won't be able to go above the other annual limit - 100% of your earnings for the year.

For example, if you earn £50,000 a year, that is the maximum you'll be able to add to your pension and still get tax relief - even if you haven't used up your allowance in the years prior.

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