Increase in general levy postponed due to Covid-19
Following consultation, the government had made regulations which were due to increase the general levy with effect from 1 April 2020. However, in consequence of Covid-19 circumstances, the Government revoked the regulations so that levy rates did not increase.
PASA consultation on Defined Benefit Transfers Code of Good Practice
In February the Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA) launched a consultation on its draft Defined Benefit Transfers Code of Good Practice. The aims of the code are to: improve the overall member experience through faster, safer transfers; improve communications and transparency in the processing of transfers; and improve administrator efficiency in the transfer process.
In July 2019, a PASA working group produced guidance on what it defined as a "Standard" transfer case with the intention of producing a part 2 of the guidance to cover "Non Standard" cases. However, it has now decided to produce a Code of Good Practice to cover all defined benefit transfer cases instead of producing a second part to the guidance. The code will not itself have legal force, but PASA anticipates that the Pensions Ombudsman will refer to it as a source setting out what good industry practice looks like.
The draft code suggests that a guaranteed transfer value quote should be issued within 7-10 days of a member's request, or within 12-15 working days if referral to the Actuary for review or sign off is required.
Due to Covid-19, PASA has moved the consultation response deadline from 30 April 2020 to 30 September 2020. PASA plans to release the final code by the end of the year.
STEP guidance note on the effect of the GDPR on trusts and estates
STEP (the Society for Trusts and Estates Practitioners) has published a guidance note summarising its understanding of how certain aspects of the GDPR should be applied in the context of private, non-charitable, trusts and estates. The guidance has been prepared following discussions between STEP and the ICO, though has not itself been endorsed by the ICO. Although the guidance is not aimed at pension schemes, many of the issues it addresses also arise in a pension scheme context, for example how the GDPR interacts with disclosure laws when a beneficiary of a trust makes a data subject access request.
Pensions Dashboards Programme sets out broad plans for future development
On 8 April the Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP) published a report setting out how it intends to deliver pensions dashboards. The report aims to ensure transparency about the work being done and progress being made. A priority over the next six months is development of the data standards with which pension providers and schemes will have to comply. The PDP has articulated its current thinking in two documents: (a) a Data Scope Working Paper setting out options for achieving comprehensive coverage across all pension sectors, and (b) a Data Definitions Working Paper listing the set of data items that could be included in the dashboards data standards. In view of the pressures on key stakeholders as a result of Covid-19, the PDP has decided not to formally call for feedback at present, but the report says that any informal feedback would be appreciated.
Accounting bodies' guidance on preparing report and accounts during Covid-19 pandemic
Guidance on preparing their scheme reports and financial statements during the Covid-19 pandemic has been published jointly by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and Pension Research Accountants Group (PRAG). The guidance covers:
- responsibilities for reporting to TPR;
- the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the control environment of pension schemes;
- the trustees’ report and the chair’s statement;
- going concern and the trustees’ assessment of going concern;
- accounting for scheme investments;
- events after the end of the reporting period;
- audit issues;
- the auditor’s statement about contributions.