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These notes refer to the National Insurance Contributions Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 12th November 2007 [Bill 7]
NATIONAL INSURANCE CONTRIBUTIONS BILL
1. These explanatory notes relate to the National Insurance Contributions Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 12th November 2007. They have been prepared by the Treasury in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.
2. These notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.
3. At the end of these notes there is a glossary of some of the terms that are referred to in the notes. Social Security benefits are referred to by their common names rather than terms that appear in the legislation, for example basic state pension rather than Category A retirement pension.
4. In his 2007 Budget Statement, made on the 21st March 2007, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a package of changes to the tax and benefits systems. This Bill takes forward the National Insurance aspects of that package by enabling the upper earnings limit for Class 1 National Insurance contribution to be aligned with the level of earnings at which higher rate income tax becomes payable. [House of Commons Hansard, 21st March 2007, Vol 458, Column 827]
Bill 7EN 54/3
5. In his 2007 Pre Budget Report Statement, made on the 9th October 2007, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that to ensure that proposed changes to the state second pension occur as originally intended, following the alignment of the upper earnings limit with the higher rate income tax threshold, the start date for flat rating state second pension would be brought forward to April 2009. [House of Commons Hansard, 9 October 2007, Vol 464, column 174]
6. This is a short Bill. It contains two substantive measures:
7. National Insurance contributions are a reserved matter in Scotland and Wales and an excepted matter in Northern Ireland. The provisions in this Bill relating to contributions therefore extend to England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Clause 2 mirrors for Northern Ireland the provisions made in clause 1 for Great Britain. The Bill therefore amends relevant Northern Ireland legislation relating to National Insurance Contributions.
8. Social Security, child support and pensions (including the basic state pension and the state second pension) are reserved matters in Scotland and Wales but are transferred matters under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and are the responsibility of the Department for Social Development. Clause 3 and the Schedules which introduce the upper accrual point to replace the upper earnings limit from 2009/10 for state pension and contracted out rebate purposes apply to England, Wales and Scotland. Any legislation on these matters for Northern Ireland will be made by the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Specifying the amount of the Upper Earnings Limit
9. The National Insurance contribution rates and thresholds which include the upper earnings limit are reviewed each year and, where appropriate, changed each year in secondary legislation by reference to the retail price index. The power to set the upper earnings limit is conferred on the Treasury. The Treasury may increase or decrease the upper earnings limit; but so far as increases are concerned, the power is limited in that the upper earnings limit can be set at no more than seven and a half times the primary threshold. The primary threshold is the point at which primary Class 1 contributions become payable on a person's earnings.
10. In his 2007 Budget speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that from April 2009 the upper earnings limit would be aligned with the level at which higher rate income tax is payable. It is intended that this alignment will be achieved in two stages. The first stage is to increase the upper earnings limit by £75 per week above inflation for the 2008-09 tax year, by using existing powers. Subject to the usual Parliamentary process, this increase will be included as part of the normal 2008-09 up-rating exercise.
11. The second stage, subject to the usual Parliamentary process (which in this case would include Parliamentary approval) would be to increase the upper earnings limit in 2009-10 as part of the normal up-rating exercise, so that it is aligned with the level at which higher rate income tax becomes payable. To enable this second stage to take place, the existing restriction on the power to set the upper earnings limit needs to be removed. This Bill would remove that restriction in relation to tax year 2009-10 and beyond.
Bringing forward introduction of the upper accrual point
12. In broad terms, for any given tax year state second pension accrues on the portion of an employee's annual earnings between the annual value of the lower earnings limit and the upper earnings limit for Class 1 National Insurance contributions (called the "surplus earnings factor"). This amount is revalued in line with the growth in average earnings up to the last full tax year of a contributor's working life. The accumulated surplus earnings factors are then divided by the number of years in the person's working life since 1978 to produce a "lifetime average" which is multiplied by the relevant accrual rate and divided by 52 to produce a weekly rate of additional pension.
13. For state second pension purposes earnings are split into three different bands with entitlement accruing at a different rate in each earnings band. People earning, or treated as earning, between the lower earnings limit and the upper earnings limit accrue state second pension on a cumulative basis depending on the level of their earnings. Earnings above the upper earnings limit do not accrue state second pension.
14. Under the provisions of the Pensions Act 2007, state second pension is to be restructured to provide a simpler, flat-rate system. That Act provides for an upper accrual point to replace the upper earnings limit for the purpose of capping entitlement to the state second pension. On introduction the upper accrual point will be frozen in cash terms, leading to a gradual erosion of earnings-related accruals.
15. The upper accrual point was to be brought in along with a flat rate accrual amount of around £1.50 a week that would replace accruals on earnings between the lower earnings limit and the low earnings threshold. Taken together, it was expected (when the Pensions Bill that led to the Pensions Act 2007 was introduced) that these two measures would deliver entitlement to the state second pension on a completely flat rate basis by around 2030.
16. Following changes to align the upper earnings limit with the higher rate tax threshold as announced in Budget 2007, the Bill would introduce the upper accrual point from April 2009, before the introduction of the flat rate accrual amount.
17. The effect of the Budget 2007 announcements would mean that without intervention, the level of the upper accrual point upon introduction in 2012 (as previously planned) would be significantly higher than that forecast in the Regulatory Impact Assessment provided for the Pensions Act 2007. As a consequence state second pension would accrue on a greater amount of earnings than intended.
18. Bringing forward the introduction of the upper accrual point to April 2009, and fixing it at an amount broadly equivalent to the level that the upper earnings limit was projected to be at in 2012 prior to the Budget announcement, would re-align with the proposals to achieve flat rate accruals by around 2030, set out in the Government White Paper: Security in retirement: towards a new pension system.
19. The upper accrual point would replace the upper earnings limit as the weekly upper cap on earnings when determining entitlement to the state second pension. It would be set at £770 per week, the level of the upper earnings limit for 2008-09 (subject to the usual Parliamentary process). It would be frozen in cash terms and together with the flat rate accrual amount provided in the Pensions Act 2007 would remove earnings-related accruals within the original time-span.
20. These changes would have an effect on calculations relating to the contracted-out rebate. If a pension scheme member is opted out of state second pension they receive a "rebate", which is based on the amount of state second pension foregone. The rebate is calculated on the same band of earnings on which state second pension accrues, and the Bill therefore amends the rebate arrangements so as to reflect the introduction of the upper accrual point.
COMMENTARY ON CLAUSES
Clause 1: Amount to be specified as upper earnings limit: Great Britain
21. Clause 1 amends sections 5 and 176(1) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 ("the SSCBA 1992").
22. The effect of the amendment made by subsection (1) of this clause is to remove the current restriction that prevents the upper earnings limit from being set by secondary legislation at an amount greater than seven and half times the primary threshold. The amendment allows the upper earnings limit to be aligned with the higher rate income tax threshold.
23. Subsection (2) inserts new paragraph (zb) in section 176(1). This provides that draft regulations which set the upper earnings limit must be laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before the regulations can be made. The purpose of this amendment is to compensate for the removal of the restriction on the exercise of the power currently provided by section 5(3) of the SSCBA 1992. This approach is similar to that for the change made by section 7(5) of the Pensions Act 2007 in respect of the power to set the lower earnings limit once the level of the basic state pension is linked to earnings (the lower earnings limit is the point at which earnings start to count for benefit purposes).
24. Subsection (3) provides that the amendments made by subsection (1)(b) and (2) have effect in relation to regulations that specify the level of the upper earnings limit for all tax years from 2009-10 onwards.
Clause 2: Amount to be specified as upper earnings limit: Northern Ireland
25. Clause 2 replicates the provisions of clause 1 in respect of the equivalent Northern Ireland legislation.
Clause 3: Additional pension: upper accrual point to replace upper earnings limit from 2009-10
26. Currently an employee builds up entitlement to the state second pension on earnings up to the upper earnings limit and on which Class 1 National Insurance contributions have been paid or, in the case of a person earning between the lower earnings limit and the primary threshold, have been treated as paid. Such earnings give rise to earnings factors that are used in the calculation of state second pension entitlement.
27. Clause 3 brings forward introduction of the upper accrual point (as to which see paragraphs 16 to 20 above).
28. Subsection (2) amends the definition of the "applicable limit" in section 22(2B) of the SSCBA 1992 replacing "the flat rate introduction year" (as introduced in the Pensions Act 2007 and which was to have been set by order) with the tax year in which the upper accrual point is to be introduced the 2009-10 tax year. The effect of the amendment is to provide for the upper accrual point, as the cap on earnings factors in the state second pension, to be switched on from 2009-10. Prior to 2009-10 the applicable limit will remain as the upper earnings limit.
29. Subsection (3) amends section 44(7)(c) of the SSCBA 1992, as above, replacing "the flat rate introduction year" with "2009-10".
30. Subsection (4)(a) replaces the definition of the "upper accrual point" and sets it at £770, which is the level of the upper earnings limit for 2008-09 (subject to the usual parliamentary process).
31. The amendment provides for a weekly upper accrual point in contrast to the annual limit as originally defined in section 12 of the Pension Act 2007. This caters for situations where, for example, there are more or less than 52 earnings periods in a tax year. The provision of a weekly upper accrual point also maintains the current alignment between the earnings that count for state second pension and those that count for rebate purposes, and lends itself more easily to the calculation of the relevant upper accrual point figure where an employee is paid other than on a weekly basis.
32. Subsection (4)(b) inserts subsection (6A) and (6B) into section 122 of the SSCBA 1992. Subsection (6A) is a regulation making power, to be exercised by the Treasury, which allows for regulations to be made that prescribe equivalents to the upper accrual point in relation to earners paid otherwise than weekly, for example monthly paid employees. Subsection (6B) ensures that the prescribed equivalents once calculated can be rounded to a whole pound figure. As the upper accrual point, once introduced, will be fixed, so too will the prescribed equivalents.
33. Subsection (4)(c) removes subsections (7) and (8), which were inserted by the Pension Act 2007 and which defined the upper accrual point and allowed the Secretary of State to vary by order the rate of the upper accrual point before its introduction.
Schedule 1: Consequential amendments
34. Schedule 1 contains consequential amendments arising as a result of the introduction of the upper accrual point.
35. Paragraphs 1 to 6 amend the SSCBA 1992.
36. Paragraph 2 inserts new section 22(9). This is a minor technical change that delivers on the original policy intention and provides that when calculating earnings factors derived from an employee's earnings, any reference to earnings not exceeding the upper earnings limit or from 2009-10 the upper accrual point are to be read as references to earnings that do not exceed the prescribed equivalents of those thresholds.
37. Paragraph 3(3) inserts new section 23(3A), which provides that for the purpose of calculating additional pension from the tax year 2009-10 onwards the upper accrual point replaces the upper earnings limit as the cap on earnings factors.
38. Paragraphs 4 amends section 44A by replacing the reference to the upper earnings limit, as the ceiling on deemed earnings factors for state second pension purposes, with a reference to the "applicable limit" provided in section 44.
39. Paragraph 5 amends section 44B(2)(a) by replacing the now superfluous reference to the applicable limit with a reference to the upper accrual point. As the upper accrual point would be introduced from 2009-10 it would be the only ceiling relevant for earnings factors derived under the new deeming provisions for state second pension that take effect from 2010-11 onwards.
40. Paragraph 6 makes amendments to paragraph 1 of Schedule 1, which deals with the calculation of National Insurance contributions where an earner is employed in more than one employment, to reflect the introduction of the upper accrual point from 2009-10. Where earnings from two or more employments are aggregated, the separate earnings are afforded a priority order. At present any contracted-out rate contributions are assessed on contracted-out earnings up to the upper earnings limit. The amendment, which takes into account earlier amendments made to paragraph 1 by the Pensions Act 2007, ensures that where earnings from two or more employments are aggregated after 6th April 2009, any contracted-out rate contributions are assessed on contracted-out earnings up to the upper accrual point.
41. Paragraphs 7 to 13 amend the Pension Schemes Act 1993 as a result of bringing forward the introduction of the upper accruals point and setting it at the level of the 2008-09 upper earnings limit.
42. Paragraphs 8, 11 and 12 cover changes required to the contracting-out arrangements for defined contribution (money purchase) schemes as a consequence of the changes to the state second pension. The amendments have the effect of mirroring the change to the band of earnings on which state second pension accrues (ie. the upper accrual point replacing the upper earnings limit as the maximum amount of earnings on which state second pension accrues) in certain calculations connected with the contracted-out rebate. The amendments ensure that this change is reflected in:
43. Paragraphs 9, 10 and 13 cover the changes required to the arrangements for defined benefit (salary related) schemes as a consequence of the decision to introduce the upper accrual point from 2009-10. These amendments revise those made in the Pensions Act 2007 when the upper accrual point introduction date was planned for 2012. The amendments ensure that the change is reflected in:
FINANCIAL EFFECTS OF THE BILL
44. HMRC has conducted an Impact Assessment on the measures contained in this Bill. The assessment provides information on the financial effects of the Bill. Paragraph 50 explains how copies of the Assessment can be obtained.
EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON PUBLIC SECTOR MANPOWER
Public sector financial effects
45. There is no additional public expenditure.
Public sector manpower effects
46. There are no changes to public sector manpower.
SUMMARY OF REGULATORY APPRAISAL
47. The Pensions Act 2007 puts in place proposals to reform the state second pension so that it becomes a simple, flat rate weekly top up to the basic state pension by around 2030. The above indexation increases to the upper earnings limit announced at Budget 2007 will delay this timetable without further action. The Government proposes to bring forward the introduction of the upper accrual point to 2009 to ensure that it can still achieve its objectives for state pensions reform: in this case the need to make changes to the state second pension and contracting out to ensure that the National Insurance contributions changes do not impose unintended costs elsewhere.
48. To achieve this objective changes to the information reported by employers which is used to calculate contracted out rebates will be necessary. It will also mean that employers and employees in contracted out occupational pension schemes will only receive contracted out rebates between the lower earnings limit and the upper accrual point (employers and employees will pay National Insurance contributions at 12.8% and 11 % respectively on earnings between the upper accrual point and upper earnings limit).
49. The extent of the impact on employers depends on whether they have computerised or manual payrolls but it is estimated at £30 million for implementation with annual costs of £1 million thereafter. The cost to HMRC of implementing the upper accrual point is estimated to be £10.65 million.
50. Members of Parliament may obtain copies of the Impact Assessment from the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office, and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available from:
100 Parliament Street
Tel. 020 7147 2508
or on the Inland Revenue website http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/ria/
EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS (ECHR)
51. The Department's view is that the provisions of the draft Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, as defined in section 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998, and that the Minister in charge of the Bill is properly able to sign a compatibility statement under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 in respect of it. In reaching this conclusion particular consideration was given to the question of compatibility with Article 1/Protocol 1 of the Convention (concerned with protection of property).
52. Clause 6 provides that the provisions of the Bill come into force two months after Royal Assent, except for:
Glossary of terms
|© Parliamentary copyright 2007
|Prepared: 13 November 2007