Retirement & Pensions

Company Pension Schemes (Employees and Directors)

Annual contributions paid by an employee to a Revenue approved company pension scheme are tax-deductible.  The relevant contribution must be made from the employee’s total remuneration for the year from the employment  the relief available by reference to the allowable contribution limits laid out below is subject to a salary cap of €115,000.  It should be noted that this cap does not apply to employers’ contributions to an Occupational Pension Scheme (OPS).

The relief available is limited to the individual’s marginal rate of income tax (max 40%),

Level of Allowable Contributions

Tax relief on pension contributions can be claimed by the self-employed and by members of Occupational Pension Schemes (OPS), for self employed individuals the limit applies to Net Relevant earnings (NRE) and for employees/members of occupational pension schemes the limit applies to earnings; in a single tax year on the following basis: 

Age Limit Actual Allowed Contribution l imit
Less than 30 years 15% €17,250
Between 30 and 39 20% €23,000
Between 40 and 49 25% €28,750
Between 50 and 54* 30% €34,500
Between 55 and 59 35% €40,250
Over 60 40% €46,000

(*The 30% rate also applies to specific individuals under 50 years old who are involved in occupations with a relatively short life span e.g. professional sports persons ).

Tip: It may be worthwhile for an individual to make an additional voluntary contribution (AVC) if his or her individual contributions through the company are below the allowable limits.

Contributions paid between 1 January 2019 and the tax return filing date may, if an election is made, be treated as paid in 2018.


There is no restriction on employer tax relief so employer contributions should, where feasible, be maximized.

Self Employed Individuals

An individual who has relevant earnings from a trade, profession or non-pensionable office or employment is entitled to a deduction in respect of any premiums paid under a retirement annuity contract (“RAC”) and/or to a Personal Retirement Savings Plan (“PRSA”).

The tax deductible amount is limited to a percentage of NRE subject to the €115,000 cap referred to above. NRE includes income from trades, professions and non-pensionable employment less certain deductions e.g. qualifying interest on loans. The earnings of husband and wife are treated separately for the purpose of determining NRE and the relief is available for each spouse with non-pensionable earnings.

A self employed individual may avail of tax relief for the immediately preceding year by making a pension contribution by 31 October following that year.



Contributions to a Revenue approved Occupational Pension Scheme (“OPS”) may qualify for tax relief subject to the limits referred to above.

Remuneration means salary, bonuses, taxable share incentive plans and benefits in kind. Relief is available at the employee’s top tax rate.

Where the limits referred to in the table above have not been exceeded by virtue of regular contributions, an additional Annual Voluntary Contribution (AVC) may be made. The contribution may be made up to 31 October following the tax year in which the claim is made.


Entitlements on Retirement

Self Employed:

  1. Use the total retirement fund to purchase a retirement annuity
  2. Withdraw 25% of the fund as a tax free lump sum and with the remaining 75%, do one of the following;
    1. Purchase a retirement annuity
    2. Draw down the balance (subject to the individuals marginal rate of tax)
    3. Invest in an approved retirement fund, subject to approved minimum retirement fund restrictions.


  1. Use the fund to purchase an annuity, this is subject to a maximum of 2/3rds of the individuals final salary.
  2. Take 150% of final salary amount as a tax free lump sum and buy a retirement annuity with the balance of the fund.

Other Options/Restrictions:

Defined Contribution Schemes:

Withdraw 25% of the fund tax free and invest the remaining 75% in an ARF/AMRF.

Maximum Tax Free Lump sum payments:

  • €200,000 (reduced by tax free lump sums taken on or after 7 December 2005).
  • The next €375,000 taxed at 20%.
  • Excess over €575,000 taxed at marginal IT rate plus USC.

Approved Retirement Funds/Approved Minimum Retirement Funds

An ARF basically offers an alternative to buying an annuity on retirement, it can give more flexibility in how pension fund monies are invested, and it can form part of the individual’s estate on death. Income and gains can be rolled up within the fund. However each year an ARF is deemed to distribute 6% of the ARF asset values at 31 December. The tax applies to an individual with an aggregate asset value greater than €2m at 30 Nov in a tax year. Assets held in a PRSA from which retirement benefits have been taken are also subject to the deemed distribution rule.

From 1 January 2012 onwards;

  • A 5% deemed distribution applies to a vested PRSA where the value is<€2m on 30 November in that tax year.
  • Where the aggregate value of the fund is greater than €2m at 30 November, the 6% rate applies to the entire fund.

The limit applies cumulatively to all ARFs/vested PRSAs held by an individual.

The imputed distribution is taxed at the individuals marginal tax rate. Actual distributions are deducted from imputed distributions.

Funds invested in an ARF can be withdrawn at any stage and in any amount, either by way of lump sum or regular income. Withdrwals are subject to an individuals top rate of tax.

Where the level of annual guaranteed income at retirement does not equals 1.5 times the maximum annual rate of the State pension i.e. €18,000 an amount must be invested to provide an annuity, the amount invested must equal 10 times  the maximum annual rate of the State contributory pension at the time the ARF is being availed of ;or the remainder of the pension fund after taking the tax –free lump sum in an AMRF.

The €18,000 limit and 10 times the State pension limit of €119,800 were being set aside for three years to ensure that people impacted by the higher limits were not negatively disadvantaged. Therefore, the limits are €12,700 and €63,500.

Where, on 27 March 2013, the specified income limits were exceeded then any AMRF owned by those individuals immediately became an ARF

An AMRF locks away the minimum funds required as outlined above. No notional distribution rules apply.

With effect from 1 January 2015, 4% of the capital value of an AMRF may be withdrawn annually prior to the age of 75, income from an AMRF may be withdrawn subject to IT, the remaining capital may not be withdrawn until 75 years of age.

  • Funds may be transferred from one insurer to another.
  • Benefits may be accessed from age 60 but must be accessed before age 75 (it is not necessary to retire to access benefits).
  • An ARF can form part of an individual’s estate, in which case;
    • Payments to a child over the age of 21 at the date of death are charged to Income Tax at the 30% (prior to the passing of the 2012 Finance Act this was taxed at 20%). Full distribution is exempt from CAT if taken under will or intestacy.
    • Payments to a child under the age of 21 at the date of death are exempt from Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax, but liable to Capital Acquisitions Tax.
    • Transfer to a spouse’s ARF on death is exempt.

Standard Fund Threshold (SFT)

The maximum allowable pension fund on retirement for tax purposes has been set at €2m (originally €5.418m). An individual may apply for a personal fund threshold where the value of their fund was greater than €2m at 1 January 2014. The relevant maximum will apply to the aggregate value of all pension provisions held by an individual.

Where a fund exceeds the relevant limit, the excess will be liable to a once-off income tax charge of 40% when the individual becomes entitled to draw down (irrespective of whether or not the fund is drawn down at that point in time); this is referred to as a “benefit crystallization event”. In addition, where an individual with a PRSA decides when taking pension benefits to leave funds in a PRSA rather than opting to transfer them to an ARF, this will also trigger a “benefit crystallization event”.

When the net after-tax excess amount is drawn down from the pension scheme, it is taxed further in the hands of the pension scheme member which can increase the effective tax rate to 64% of the gross value of the fund i.e. 40% tax on the benefit crystallisation event plus 40% Income Tax on the net distributable to the individual plus 8% Universal Social Charge.

Up to 1 January 2014 the tax operated by applying a factor of 20 times the annual pension entitlement plus the lump sum; a defined contribution scheme could also rely on an actuarial valuation. However, from 1 January 2014 for benefits accruing after this date an age related valuation factor applies from the ages of 50 to 70 + as follows:

 Age  Factor  Age  Factor  Age    Factor  Age  Factor 
 50* 37 56 33 62 28 68  24
 51  36  57  32  63  27  69  23
 52  36  58  31  64  27  70+  22
 53  35  59  30  65  26
 54  34  60  30  66  25
 55  33  61  29  67  24

* includes up to 50

As the annual pension amount will also be subject to income tax, a double charge to tax arises.

Tip: It does not make sense to continue funding a pension where the fund will have an excess that is subject to a 40% tax charge. Where the value of a pension fund is likely to exceed the SFT, consideration ought to be given to alternative investments

Certain relief to reduce the immediate tax burden arising when the individual retires and their pension fund exceeds the SFT of €2m applies for public sector pensions.

Relief on Retirement for Sports Persons

An additional relief applies for certain sportspersons on retirement. It operates as a deduction of 40% against gross receipts from actual participation in the sport (excluding income from sponsorship & advertising) for any 10 of the 15 tax years of assessment prior to retirement (including year of retirement.. Relief is by way of repayment only and cannot be used to create or augment a loss. Repayments will not carry interest. It only applies to “sports” earnings and will be clawed back if the sports activity recommences.

From 1 January 2014 the relief is extended to individuals resident in the EEA or EFTA who have complied with the Income Taxes Acts. Relief must be claimed within 4 years of retirement to include the year of retirement and the fourteen years of assessment immediately preceding the retirement year so there is now a degree of flexibility in specifying the optimum ten years of assessment during the sportspersons career.


Employers are required to provide employees with access to a Personal Retirement Savings Account where they do not provide an occupational pension scheme. This involves an employer providing the facility to have pension contributions deducted from an employees’ salary and transferred to the PRSA provider. Employees may elect to pay PRSA contributions in lieu of AVCs. The retirement benefits are the same as those for RACs with the same overall contributions applying (these include contributions by the employer where applicable).

Tip: There is no requirement for an employer to contribute to the PRSA, however any contribution will be deductible from income tax/corporation tax.

Tip: It is not necessary for an individual to retire in order to access benefits from RACs and PRSAs.

Benefits are generally accessed from age 60 and must be accessed before age 75.

Employees with PRSAs may retire as early as 50

Self Administered Pension Funds

A company may provide for a director’s pension via a self-administered pension scheme with the director as trustee of the scheme. The director can influence the investment policy, for example the scheme could make an investment solely in property.

Tip: Self-administered pensions are a means by which a pension investment may be managed personally as opposed to through an insurance company and can offer greater flexibility in the type of asset that are invested in

Lump Sum Payments on Redundancy/Retirement

Retirement – Termination Lump Sum Payments

Individuals leaving employment may receive tax free payments. There are three methods of calculating the tax-free amounts:

  1. €10,160 plus €765 for each complete year of service with the employer.
  2. The amount calculated at 1) above may be increased by an additional €10,000, provided no claim for relief for increased exemption has been made in the previous 10 years;


3.Average salary for previous three years multiplied by the number of               year’s services and divided by fifteen. This is known as Standard                     Capital Superannuation Benefit (S.C.S.B)

The tax-free amounts under (2) and (3) above are reduced by tax-free amounts received/receivable from the employer’s pension fund.

The exemption available in respect of termination payments is restricted to a lifetime limit of €200,000. From 1 January 2013 this limit also applies to payments on death and disability. Top slicing relief was also removed from 1 January 2013. Any other payments will be taxable in full.

There are other exempt payments which can be made on ceasing employment, including statutory redundancy payments payable in accordance with the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2003, injury or disability payments for persons who may have to terminate employment early due to their medical condition, and also lump sums paid under approved pension schemes. Certain lump sum payments paid to employees in respect of pay restructuring schemes are also tax exempt (see below).

The entitlement to an employer rebate of statutory redundancy has been removed with effect from 1 January 2013.

Lump-Sum Payment to Employees on Company Restructuring

An exemption in respect of a lump-sum payment not exceeding €7,620 plus €255 for each full year of service applies to employees who undergo a pay restructuring where the emoluments of the employees are reduced by at least 10%. For pay reductions higher than 15% the maximum amount is increased.

The relief applies where:

  • the restructuring scheme is necessary to ensure the current or future viability of the company and
  • at least 50% of the total number of employees are involved in the restructuring scheme or more than 75% of a class of employees provided the number of participating employees in that class comprises 25% of the total number of employees in the company.

Retraining Exemption

An exemption is available where retraining (in the form of a course as opposed to cash) is provided to employees as part of a redundancy package. An exemption of up to €5,000 for each eligible employee is available where an employee has more than two years continuous service. The course must be designed to improve skills in obtaining employment or setting up a business, and it must be completed within six months of the employee being made redundant. The exemption does not apply to the spouse or dependents of the employer.

Reporting Requirement

There is a requirement to report to the Revenue Commissioners any payment made on death, or on account of injury or disability.

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