Pensions Expert Speaks Out
Yorkshire businesses may be forced to look at alternative ways of reducing their annual Pension Protection Fund Levy as banks tighten up on charges over property, according to a leading regional pensions expert.
All companies with defined benefit schemes must pay fees to the PPF every March to support compensation payouts given to pension holders whose employers become insolvent.
Nigel Bolton, who leads the pensions team at Irwin Mitchell's Sheffield and Leeds offices, said he expects more focus to be placed on parent company guarantees and other forms of contingent assets to reduce the liability.
He urged businesses to start work now to ensure they were well placed to submit their documentation to the PPF before 31st March.
"Prior to last summer, businesses could afford to keep paying cash contributions as part of the levy. Smarter companies are now thinking far more about how they can meet their scheme liabilities without actually having to use cash which is obviously needed more than ever to meet the immediate needs of the business," he said.
"Firms must look at contingent assets to give reassurance over support for the pension scheme. That usually includes charges over properties but banks are tightening up on lending so it is more difficult for companies to use that method.
"We are predicting a move to use of slightly different contingent assets. Guarantees purchased from banks and, if your firm is part of a wider group, having guarantees from parent companies can both reduce your liability."
The liability is calculated by the PPF based on a risk assessment undertaken by business credit report agency Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) and Nigel Bolton said it was crucial firms start work as early as possible to meet all of their requirements.
He added: "D&B will take a view of your credit worthiness and all sorts of things can have an impact on that, such as changing the number of directors on the board can reduce the insolvency rating.
"And paying off county court fines can help – even major global conglomerates can receive a red marker with one outstanding judgment against its name.
"It's useful for charities to know that D&B looks at annual reports returned to Companies House – charities submit their accounts to the Charities Commission so it’s best to send another copy to D&B as well."