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Pension Schemes, Taxation and Stakeholder Wealth: The USS Rule Changes

Although tax relief on pensions is a controversial area of government expenditure, this is the first study of the tax effects of a real world defined benefit pension scheme - the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). First, we estimate the tax and national insurance contribution (NIC) effects of the rule changes in 2011 on the gross and net wealth of the sponsor, government, and 16 age cohorts of members, deferred pensioners and pensioners. Second, we measure the size of the twelve income tax and NIC payments and reliefs for members and the sponsor, both before and after the rule changes. We find the total subsidy split is roughly: 40% income tax subsidy; 30% members’ NIC subsidy; and 30% sponsor NIC subsidy. However government proposals for reform have concentrated exclusively on the income tax relief, neglecting the substantially larger NIC relief, possibly because they have overestimated the size of the income tax relief.

Key words: Pension schemes, Taxation, Subsidy, National Insurance Contributions, Universities Superannuation Scheme, Redistribution, Rule changes

JEL: G22, H20, J32

Published on 8th November 2017
Authors Professor Charles Sutcliffe
Series Reference ICM-2017-08