How to Claim Tax Relief for Your UK Personal Pension Contributions

Pension tax relief is a valuable incentive provided by the UK government to encourage individuals to save for their retirement. It allows taxpayers to receive tax benefits on…
by Yuki Shrestha
August 23, 2023

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Pension tax relief is a valuable incentive provided by the UK government to encourage individuals to save for their retirement. It allows taxpayers to receive tax benefits on their pension contributions, effectively reducing the amount of income tax they need to pay.

The concept behind pension tax relief is to encourage individuals to save for their retirement by providing them with a financial incentive. The government recognises the importance of individuals building sufficient savings to support themselves during their retirement years, rather than relying solely on the state pension.

In this article, we will explore the UK pension system, understand how pension tax relief works, learn how to claim tax relief and discover tips for maximising your pension contributions.

Understanding the UK Pension System

Understanding the UK Pension System

At the heart of the UK pension system is the role of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). They oversee tax-related matters, including pension tax relief. The HMRC sets the rules and regulations that govern pension contributions and tax relief eligibility. Claiming tax relief on pension contributions is vital, as it allows individuals to reduce their income tax liability, boosting their retirement savings.

How Pension Tax Relief Works

Pension tax relief is granted based on different income levels. The UK operates on a tiered system, with tax relief rates varying depending on your earnings. The higher your income, the greater the potential tax relief you can claim. Here’s how pension tax relief works:

1. Basic-Rate Tax Relief

The government provides tax relief on your pension contributions by granting you relief at the basic-rate, which is currently set at 20%. This means that for every £100 you contribute to your pension, the government adds £25 as tax relief, making the total gross contribution £125.

2. Automatic Tax Relief

For most individuals, tax relief is provided automatically through the “relief at source” method. With this method, if you contribute to a pension scheme through your employer’s payroll, your pension contributions are deducted from your salary before income tax is calculated. This ensures that you receive the basic-rate tax relief immediately, and your pension provider claims it from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on your behalf.

3. Higher-Rate and Additional-Rate Taxpayers

If you are a higher-rate (40%) or additional-rate (45%) taxpayer, you may be eligible for additional tax relief. This is because the basic-rate tax relief (20%) may not fully cover the tax rate at which you are taxed.

The amount of gross pension contribution extends the basic rate tax band and higher rate tax band. By making gross pension contributions, individuals can shift a greater portion of their income into the basic rate tax band, where it is taxed at a lower rate of 20%. As a result, more income is taxed at 20% rather than at the higher rates of 40% or 45%.

How to Claim Tax Relief on Pension Contributions

Maintain accurate records of all your pension contributions, including those made by your employer and any personal contributions.

If you are a higher or additional rate taxpayer, ensure you complete a self-assessment tax return, reporting your pension contributions and claiming the additional tax relief.

Understanding contribution limits: Annual Allowance

The annual allowance sets a limit on the amount of money you can contribute to your pension each year while still benefiting from tax relief. Contributions below the annual allowance receive tax relief at your marginal tax rate. However, if your contributions exceed the annual allowance, you may face tax charges on the excess amount.

Understanding Pension tax relief contribution limits for Annual Allowance

The annual allowance for 2023/24 is £60,000 per tax year. It’s worth noting that the annual allowance can be subject to tapering for high earners, reducing the allowance by £1 for every £2 of adjusted income above a certain threshold (known as the threshold income).

Carry forward rules also allow you to utilise any unused annual allowance from the previous three tax years as long as you were a member of a registered pension scheme during those years. This can help individuals with higher earnings make larger contributions while still benefiting from tax relief.

Mistakes to Avoid When Claiming Pension Tax Relief

When claiming pension tax relief, it is important to avoid common errors that could lead to potential loss of tax benefits. Here are some mistakes to avoid:

  • Failing to keep records: Keep detailed records of all pension contributions to accurately calculate and claim tax relief.
  • Missing the self-assessment deadline: Ensure you submit your self-assessment tax return on time to claim additional tax relief if you are a higher or additional rate taxpayer.


Pension tax relief in the UK is a powerful tool for boosting retirement savings. By understanding how it works, claiming tax relief, and avoiding common mistakes, you can maximise your pension contributions and create a secure financial future. Take control of your retirement planning today and reap the rewards of pension tax relief in the years to come.


  • Yuki Shrestha

    Yuki is a Certified Accountant & she looks after customer service at UK Property Accountants. She is well-versed in delivering a brilliant client service experience. When she's not helping clients, you will find her hiking on the trails of the hills.

    View all posts Analyst / Content Collaborator

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