Who can receive a refund of pension contributions?

When you take up employment with the NHS in Scotland, you’re automatically enrolled in the NHS (Scotland) Superannuation Scheme and contributions to the scheme are taken from your salary.

However, if you leave pensionable employment in Scotland or choose to opt out of the pension scheme, you may be able to apply for a refund of the contributions you’ve paid as long as you haven’t already qualified to receive benefits from the scheme.

If you’re eligible and you have a valid National Insurance number, a refund can be made and your rights within the pension scheme will be cancelled.

Refund eligibility

In most cases, you can only apply for a refund if your period of pensionable employment is less than two calendar years.

In some rare cases, if you served less than five years’ pensionable employment before 6th April 1988, you may still be entitled to a refund.

Note that these time frames refer to the calendar period not to the number days you actually worked. This is a particularly important point for part-time members because although pension benefits are based on the number of days you actually work, the qualifying period is always based on calendar years.

Leaving or opting out with less than three months’ service

If you leave your job or choose to opt out of the pension scheme within three months of your start date, your only option is a refund of contributions. This will be arranged by your employer.

Leaving or opting out with between three months’ and two years’ service

If you leave or opt out when you’ve spent more than three months in the scheme but less than two years, you have a number of options. You can:

  • apply for a refund of contributions (which will be paid less certain deductions)
  • transfer your benefits to another public service pension scheme
  • defer taking a refund until you’ve decided on your future intentions (for example, returning to the NHS at a future date or rejoining the scheme within 5 years).

If you don’t apply for a refund of contributions and you don’t return to pensionable employment within 5 years, SPPA will contact you to organise the payment of your refund.

Deductions from refunds

If you’re due a refund, certain deductions will be made before it’s paid.

Members who receive a refund of contributions made between 6th April 1978 and 5th April 2016 will have an amount deducted for their share of what is known as the ‘Contributions Equivalent Premium’. It represents the additional National Insurance Contributions which would have been paid to the State scheme to secure their entitlement to ‘State Second Pension’.

Income tax is also deducted from all refunds at the standard rate after the deduction of any Contributions Equivalent Premium required has been made. The income tax deduction covers the tax relief which was given at the time the pension contributions were originally paid.

Applying for a refund

Opting out: If you’re opting out of the NHS pension scheme but continuing to work for the NHS in Scotland, you need to complete the relevant section on the opt out form to request a refund of contributions.

Leaving NHS Scotland: If you’re leaving NHS Scotland employment, you can request a refund of contributions by completing the refund application form.

‘Frozen’ refunds: If you’re applying for a refund of contributions made to one of the earlier sections of the NHS (Scotland) Superannuation Scheme in the past, use the refund application form.

If at any time you want to change any of the information you’ve given with your application (such as your home address or bank details) contact us as soon as possible to prevent any delays in you receiving payment.

Payments

Refund payments can only be made when the period of one month has elapsed since you either terminated employment or opted out of the pension scheme.

In some cases, SPPA may need to obtain information from your employer and/or HMRC before your refund payment can be made. Refunds are normally made within a month of all relevant information being received.

Occasionally, a refund can be overpaid – perhaps due to us receiving amended information from your employer. If this happens, we’re required to reclaim any overpaid sums to prevent a loss being made by the Agency.

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