by Benjamin Elks, fundraising, operations and events assistant
For many people, pensions aren’t worth worrying about until they’re nearing retirement. A focus on their careers, saving to buy a home or start a family more often take precedence over saving for the golden years.
In 2012, the government introduced auto-enrolment to encourage more people to save for their retirement, by requiring companies to open pension schemes for their employees. In the private sector, most of these schemes are Defined Contribution schemes. Typically, the employer and employee both contribute a set amount to the scheme and, at retirement, the employee can use the money they’ve built up to purchase an income or take advantage of the pension freedom rules introduced in 2015 and take a lump sum or draw it down.
The government imposes limits on how much can be paid into a pension each year and still receive tax relief in the form of the Annual Allowance, and it limits how much can be taken out without punitive tax charges in the form of the Lifetime Allowance.
But not all pensions were made equal. You may be surprised to learn that our judges, those appointed to uphold the law and ensure fairness in our legal system, have access to a far more generous pension. One that is not bound by the same limits ordinary taxpayers have to live with.
First and foremost, the scheme is what’s called a Defined Benefit, Career Average Revalued Earnings pension scheme. These pensions are almost exclusively available to the public sector, and provide guaranteed income to their members in retirement. Unlike their private sector counterparts, whose pensions are subject to market movements and uncertainty, Defined Benefit schemes offer generous incomes to their public sector members, backed up and guaranteed by the taxpayer.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The Judicial Pension Scheme 2022 offers yet more advantages. As it is tax-unregistered, there is no Annual Allowance limiting the contributions a member can make to the scheme, nor is the scheme subject to the Lifetime Allowance. This means that judges, who are already highly remunerated with a starting salary of around £90,000, receive extremely generous pension benefits that are simply not attainable for the average Brit.
The TPA has long railed against the discrepancies in pensions between the public and private sectors, but these princely pensions for the judiciary go above and beyond. It cannot be right that a single elite group enjoys such extravagant benefits that are unimaginable to the taxpayers who pay for them. The government should bring the gavel down on this pension bung - a welcome step towards a more just pension system.