Pensions auto enrolment
Accountancy practitioners need to be up to speed on the issue of Pensions Auto Enrolment. Your clients will expect you to be able to steer them through the key issues of staging dates, which employees are eligible to be auto-enrolled and how to choose the right pension scheme. This section is aimed at assisting you get to grips with the basics so that you can be proactive with clients and not reactive.
What are Accountants able to advise on?
It had been widely thought that advising clients on the selection of an appropriate auto-enrolment pension scheme would be caught as being a regulated activity under the terms of the Financial Services and Markets Act.
However, guidance published in March 2014 jointly by the Financial Conduct Authority ("FCA") and the Pensions Regulator ("TPR") has confirmed that advising an employer in respect of scheme selection is not a regulated activity.
Advising staff on whether the scheme is appropriate for them is a regulated activity.
An updated ICAS help sheet has been produced which can be viewed here (login required) or watch the short video below
At ICAS we recommend that member firms take the lead on auto enrolment in order to ensure that the process can be implemented as smoothly as possible. This means going to clients with the information on:
- When they must have their scheme up and running by – staging dates can be found on The Pension regulator website (PAYE scheme reference numbers are required).
- Nominating a secondary contact – we would suggest that firms request that their clients nominate them as their secondary contacts.
This short video, from our practice monitoring team, highlights the key points for practitioners and we would advise all principals and staff to view it.
Auto enrolment - compliance overview Q4 2014
The latest automatic enrolment Compliance and Enforcement Bulletin published by The Pensions Regulator includes details of how many times the regulator has used its statutory powers.
This period saw a significant rise in the number of employers needing to meet their duties as around 30,000 medium sized employers, (approx 62-149 workers), who staged in April-July 2014 reached their deadline to complete their declaration of compliance by the start of December 2014.
Headline findings are as follows:
- 1,139 Compliance Notices were issued during the period. These statutory notices give employers a deadline within which to take certain actions, or risk a fine or further action from the regulator.
- 166 Fixed Penalty Notices (£400 fines) were issued in the last three months of the year.
- Experience to date shows that employers should begin gathering the information they need to complete their declaration of compliance well in advance of their deadline.
Automatic enrolment latest news and updates
The Pensions Regulator publishes its monthly e-newsletter "News-by-email - Spotlight on automatic enrolment". Click here to automatically receive the most recent news and keep up to date with your clients' automatic enrolment duties.
Auto enrolment – compliance overview Q1 2015
The Pensions Regulator has issued its automatic enrolment Compliance and Enforcement Bulletin for the first three months of 2015.
There was a significant fall in the number of employers with staging dates between October 2014 and March 2015, around 4,500, compared to around 27,000 who staged between April and September 2014.
Interesting points from the Bulletin are:
- The total number of fines issued for failing to comply with their workplace pensions duties on time reached 371 by the end of March 2015. 198 Fixed Penalty Notices of £400 were issued in the last three months.
- 213 Compliance Notices, requiring employers to take certain action within a specified time or face a fine or further action from the regulator, were issued in the quarter.
- Interventions and fines are expected to increase as large numbers of small employers reach their staging dates.
- The Regulator's research shows most employers regret not allowing more time to complete their duties.
The Bulletin also highlights new regulations aiming to reduce the administrative load with regards to assessment and issuing worker information especially for small and micro employers came into force on 1 April 2015. The changes are not mandatory and so employers can continue to follow the 'old' rules indefinitely.
These new regulations introduce new exceptions for workers including for those who have ceased active membership of a qualifying pension scheme, and also contain simplifications in relation to information to workers. The number of communications to workers required has been reduced and the information they contain simplified.