BMA Northern Ireland plans to tackle doctors’ pensions issues

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The British Medical Association, the union for doctors, has formed a new pensions subcommittee for BMA members in Northern Ireland “to address and progress change on pension issues”. 
There are a range of issues around pensions, some specific to Northern Ireland, said Anne Carson, chair of the BMA Northern Ireland consultants committee. 
While doctors across the UK could be impacted by the lifetime allowance being frozen until 2026, Northern Ireland’s doctors received two pay uplifts in one year, which meant that many ended up with a bigger annual allowance tax bill. 
“This year’s pay uplift was, once again, paid late despite the [Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration] asking the department to ensure this didn’t happen again,” said Carson. 
She added that as well as delays in receiving pay rises, there was a lack of recycling of employer contributions in Northern Ireland and no assistance with annual allowance tax bills like the other devolved nations have. 
BMA research has found that 44% of doctors are saying the pensions tax situation is the reason they are considering early retirement. 
The government has increased the thresholds for the tapered annual allowance so that fewer doctors trigger it. To be subject the tapered annual allowance, a saver must be above both the income and the adjusted income thresholds. In April 2020, the income threshold went up from £110,000 to £200,000 and the adjusted income – which includes pension contributions – rose from £150,000 to £240,000. 
The ongoing dispute with doctors shows the government caught between two conflicting objectives – raising tax from high earners with generous pensions, while ensuring there are enough doctors working in a health system which is struggling to cope following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Department for Health and Social Care has been contacted. 

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