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Consumers warned over pension liberation schemes

Scams which promise to unlock pension savings early could put the retirement pots of thousands of consumers at risk, according to official warnings from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

HMRC has once again called for investors to steer clear of pension liberation schemes, which typically promise to unlock up to half an individual’s pension savings, potentially leaving pensioners financially vulnerable during retirement.

Recent research from MGM advantage showed that consumers now need £897 a year more in order to enjoy the same standard of living as one year ago. This rise may have contributed to the fact that nearly £200 million worth of pension savings have been ploughed into the ‘pension-busting’ arrangements since 2010, according to HMRC estimates.

Nigel Green, chief executive of the deVere Group, explained the pitfalls of these schemes, stating: “We have long been warning against these ‘pension-busting’ schemes which offer investors the possibility of taking enormous tax-free sums before retirement.

“The charges on unauthorised payments can easily escalate to a shocking 70 per cent, meaning there will be very little, if anything, left in your pension pot when you come to retire. Investors should steer clear of schemes which promote withdrawing vast sums out of their pensions before they reach the age of 55.”

The High Court last year ruled that a pension unlocking scheme run by a firm called Ark Consulting was in breach of pension law. Around £25m of pension savings were transferred to Ark by more than 400 people, which were then invested in a range of assets.

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