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FTT determines meaning of “year” for fixed protection

In Laker v HMRC [2024] UKFTT 00568 (TC), the First Tier Tribunal upheld HMRC’s decision to revoke the appellant’s 2012 fixed protection certificate. The appellant, a member of the NHS Pension Scheme, obtained his certificate on 30 January 2012 and opted out of the scheme with effect from 1 February 2013. He rejoined the scheme with effect from 1 March 2013 before opting out for the final time on 15 August 2013 with effect from 1 September 2013.

To retain his fixed protection, the appellant had to remain below a prescribed threshold of benefit accrual from 6 April 2012. HMRC contended that the threshold was breached by reason of an increase in his final year’s pensionable pay after 5 April 2012 as a result of an increase to his pensionable pay from 1 April 2013.

“Final year’s pensionable pay” was defined in the scheme regulations as “pensionable pay in respect of the member’s last year of pensionable employment”. If, as the appellant contended, “year” meant 12 consecutive months, his last year of pensionable employment ended on 31 January 2013, and the increase in his pension was below the threshold. If, as HMRC contended, it meant a combination of 365 days aggregated to form a year, the calculation involved working backwards from 31 August 2013 until, in aggregate, the requisite number of months or days of pensionable employment was reached: that calculation put the appellant above the threshold of benefit accrual for fixed protection purposes.

The FTT held that, although logic favoured the appellant’s argument, when read in context the scheme regulations favoured HMRC’s interpretation, and that the word “year” in the phrase “last year of pensionable employment” meant a combination of periods totalling 12 months.

The decision can be read here.

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