Your former pension rights can give you more in the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme
12 month transfer deadlineIf you want to make a pension transfer, it’s important to start the process as quickly as possible. To maximise your benefits, most transfers must be completed within 12 months of joining the Firefighters’ scheme and before your normal pension age, although it is possible to transfer certain occupational pension schemes outwith the 12 months deadline.
With this in mind, it’s advisable that you request a transfer within 12 months of joining or contact SPPA staff for further clarification. This will help avoid the possibility of a transfer rejection at a later date if it doesn’t meet any of the required criteria.
Unlike most other pension transfers we must provide you with an estimate of your potential benefits to allow you to make an informed choice whether to transfer or not. This is a time consuming process which is why we ask for your immediate co-operation at all times.
SPPA will not accept responsibility for any delays incurred by you or your previous pension provider.
When you join the Scottish Firefighters’ Pension Scheme, it’s well worth considering transferring any previous pension savings to your new pension scheme. We can accept transfers from most pension schemes registered with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC); including a Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (ROPS). This is an important benefit for new members as transferring your previous or former pension rights can make a valuable contribution towards your final pension from the Firefighters’ scheme.
What is a transfer value?
A transfer value (also known as a Cash Equivalent Transfer Value) is the cash value placed on your pension benefits by your former scheme. This is the amount that’s available to you to move to another pension scheme in exchange for giving up your rights under the former scheme. Using guidelines supplied by the Government Actuary’s Department, we use the transfer value amount to calculate how much additional pension rights can be provided in your new scheme. Once a transfer value has been paid you’ll have no further claim to pension rights from your former scheme or plan.
Who can apply for a pension transfer?
Transfer payments can only be accepted from active scheme members. If you opt out your scheme before a transfer payment is received the transfer will be cancelled. Any subsequent request to transfer would then be treated as a new application and will be subject to the 12 months’ timescales from your date of eligible membership.
If you leave or opt out of your new scheme with less than three months’ service, you’ll be entitled to a refund. You’ll not be entitled to a refund if you have more than three months’ service.
Transferring in: a step-by-step guide
Complete a joiner questionnaire
The process starts by completing and returning a joiner questionnaire. You should do this as quickly as possible after joining the scheme as transfers should ideally be completed within the first 12 months of membership. At this stage it’s only an enquiry and we’ll acknowledge your request and confirm whether or not you’re eligible to transfer.
Obtain your transfer values
The basic requirement of a transfer is to obtain a transfer value of your former pension rights. In some instances we’ll be able to connect with your former pension provider to obtain your transfer value.
If you’re transferring from a firefighters’ scheme elsewhere in the UK, it’s relatively straightforward. Similarly, other public sector schemes have ‘club’ arrangements with the Scottish Firefighters’ scheme.
Some pension schemes will not provide your transfer information to third parties. In these instances, we’ll provide you with a transfer pack so you can obtain the required information directly from your former pension provider. Follow the guidance closely and forward all the information you receive from them to SPPA as quickly as possible.
Once we’ve established the value and type of pension savings you have, we’ll give you an estimated illustration of extra pension or service your transfer will buy in the Firefighters’ scheme. You may want to take independent financial advice at this stage.
Decide if you want the transfer to go ahead
Once you’ve weighed up the benefits on offer, you should decide if you want to go ahead with the transfer. If you do, you’ll have to confirm your request by completing the option forms we’ve provided (and any other forms required by your former scheme) in order for the transfer to be completed. Again, acting quickly is important. Remember that transfers have to be completed with 12 months of joining the scheme. If you don’t go ahead with your initial request then subsequently make another request, it may not be allowed if it’s outside your initial 12 months’ membership.
When we receive your election for the transfer to go ahead we’ll request payment of the transfer value. After we’ve received the transfer payment from your former scheme we’ll update your pension record and confirm the completion of the transfer.
You should note that the membership credit you receive will always dependent on the actual transfer payment received from your previous scheme and, in some cases, this may differ from your estimate.
What type of transfer are you making?
There are three broad types of transfer that can be made into the Firefighters’ scheme. Choose from the options below to find out more about the type of transfer you’ll be making – bearing in mind that you may have accumulated pension savings that match more than one description!
Transferring from another UK firefighters’ scheme
If you have pension rights from a firefighters’ scheme in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can apply to transfer as soon as you join the Scottish Firefighters’ scheme. This type of transfer should be completed within 12 months of joining the scheme.
Transfers between UK schemes are not automatic, you must apply, initially by filling in the Joiner Questionnaire and returning it to us.
Once we receive your completed form, we’ll check your eligibility to transfer acknowledge your request and contact your previous scheme.
This type of transfer is calculated under Public Sector Club Transfer arrangements as long as there hasn’t been a gap in service of 5 years or more and you make your transfer request within 12 months of joining the scheme.
If you have had full or tapered protection in your former scheme (and there has not been a gap of 5 years or more) your protection status will remain in place on transfer.
If you were unprotected then any previous final salary benefits will be transferred to our last open final salary scheme which has a normal pension age of 60.
If you’re transferring from a New Firefighters Scheme (2006), you’ll be placed in our equivalent NFPS scheme with a normal pension age of 60 which should provide you with broadly comparable scheme benefits. The same principle applies to any 2015 Career Average Revalued Earnings (CARE) scheme benefits.
Transfers from UK Public Sector Pension Schemes
It is, of course, possible to transfer benefits from other UK public sector pension schemes to your new Firefighters’ scheme. Transfers from other public sector pension schemes are usually calculated using preferential terms under the Public Sector Transfer Club.
Depending on your age and the amount of time between leaving your old scheme and joining your new scheme, you may be entitled to retain a lower normal pension age.
If you have previous public sector pension rights, make sure you complete the relevant section on your Joiner Questionnaire.
Club transfer timescalesTransfer requests must be submitted within 12 months of joining the Firefighters’ scheme for Club transfer arrangements to apply. At the same time, Club terms can only be applied if the gap between you leaving your previous scheme and joining the Firefighters’ scheme is less than five years.
However, if the conditions for the Club transfer are not met, you may still be able to transfer on less beneficial non-Club terms. Again, it’s important to start the process as quickly as possible and to confirm your transfer request as soon as you’re sure you want to go ahead on the terms offered to you.
Allowable pension types
In your former scheme, your pension may have had an element of a final salary pension and also an element of career average revalued earnings (CARE) pension. If this is the case, you’ll be transferring two separate pension elements. The CARE element will be transferred into the reciprocal CARE scheme and the final salary will be transferred to our last open final salary scheme. Note that transfers of this type may not provide you with the same normal pension age or the benefit structure you had in your former scheme.
Transfers between schemes in the Public Sector Transfer Club can sometimes result in members exceeding the pension Annual Allowance threshold. Although cases are relatively rare, it can lead to a tax charge. Full details on the Annual Allowance rules can be found here.
Transfers from schemes outside the public sector
You can also transfer private personal pensions and pension schemes provided by previous employers to the Firefighters’ scheme.
Most private sector pensions tend to be ‘money purchase schemes’ which are invested in a variety of different sources – like stocks and shares, property or cash. With this type of investment, valuations fluctuate frequently and are calculated on a daily basis based on the fund’s value at the date of calculation.
Some occupational pension schemes will guarantee their transfer values for three months. If this is the case it’s important to deal with the transfer and its associated paperwork as quickly as possible. Delays in processing can lead to the expiry of guarantee dates and that can mean you may have to pay for additional transfer valuations from your former scheme.
Pension credit estimates
When we receive your transfer valuation, we’ll provide an estimate of the amount of pension credit your transfer value will provide in the Firefighters’ pension scheme. It’s worth noting that although your current provider will indicate the current value of your pension fund, our illustration will be expressed as what you’ll get as an additional yearly pension on retirement. This amount will also be index-linked to protect your pension against inflation.
Additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) and free-standing additional voluntary contributions (FSAVCs)
SPPA doesn’t accept the transfer of AVCs or FSAVCs into the Scottish Firefighters’ scheme.
Members of the FPS 1992 and NFPS 2006 (including special members)
There are a number of complex rules governing transfers into two of the older Scottish firefighters’ schemes: FPS 1992 and NFPS 2006. If you are a member of one of these schemes and wish to make a transfer, please contact the SPPA Transfer Team to check eligibility.
Contacting SPPA Transfers Team
If you’re unable to download the Joiner Questionnaire, call, email or write to us using the details below.
Telephone: 01896 893000 asking for 'Transfers' when prompted
7 Tweedside Park
If you are contacting us by letter or email please include the following information:
- Date of birth
- National Insurance number
- Superannuation reference number (if applicable)
- Current employer’s details and start date of your current employment