Drawdown is a flexible way to access your pension – you choose how to invest it and what income to take and when.
How does pension drawdown work?
First, your pension needs to be with a provider that offers drawdown. Drawdown is offered by a number of different providers – you can shop around and choose the one you prefer. Our SIPP gives you a range of options to flexibly access your pension. Find out more about consolidating your pension pots into a SIPP. Transferring a pension from an existing scheme may not always work to your benefit and if in doubt you should consult a suitably qualified financial adviser.
Next, decide how much of your pension you want to move into drawdown. You don’t have to put the whole of your fund into drawdown at one time and you can mix and match your options – setting up a drawdown fund with part of it and using the rest to provide a secure income through an annuity, for example. A lot will depend on how much income you need at different times in the future and what other income sources you have.
25% of the amount you are accessing can normally be taken as tax free cash. Whether you need access to cash or how much you need will often determine how much of your fund you put into drawdown. If you don’t need the cash at the moment you might consider leaving the fund invested or not putting all of the fund into drawdown.
Lastly, you need to decide how much income you want to take, if any, and at what frequency.
When making any decisions about your SIPP, you should always be wary of pension fraud.
How much income can I take from my pension pot?
You can take as much or as little income as you want from your drawdown fund – it’s completely up to you. Income from your SIPP can be paid on a regular basis – monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annually – or as one-off amounts. However, you need to consider how long you want your retirement income to last and make sure that the level of income you have taken doesn’t mean that you are going to be short of money later on. Income can be varied at any time and the cash needs to be available in your SIPP to pay the income to you.
Income from your SIPP will be paid to your nominated bank account. For every payment you'll receive a pension payslip, which you can view by logging in to your account. Then from the 'My account' menu, just click 'Documents', then 'Pension payslips'.
How do I go into drawdown?
It can be a good idea, first of all, to shop around to find the right drawdown provider for you. If you haven't taken income from your pension fund before, you can get more information by reading our guide to accessing your pension and drawdown guides. When you're ready to go ahead and access your pension, you'll need to log in to your account online and select 'Access my pension' from the 'My account' menu. Later, if you want to change the amount of your regular income or take a one-off payment from your drawdown fund, you can do so by logging in and visiting the ‘Access my pension’ area.
How is drawdown income taxed?
Once the tax free lump sum has been taken, income from the drawdown fund is taxed as income tax. It is added to any income you have from other sources in the tax year for calculating the rate and amount of tax to be paid.
If you withdraw too much income you may find that you have been pushed into a higher income bracket and end up paying tax at higher rates.
When a pension income is first paid, it is likely that an emergency tax code will be used. To find out more see the pensions and tax section.
When you first take income from your drawdown fund the amount of pension contributions you can pay will be limited to the money purchase annual allowance (MPAA) of £4,000 per year. This restriction does not apply if you take income under capped drawdown.
If you went into drawdown on or before 5 April 2015 and have not converted to flexi-access drawdown you will be in capped drawdown and subject to a limit on the maximum amount you can take as income from your drawdown fund. This is the GAD (Government Actuary’s Department) limit and is roughly 150% of the annual income you would receive from a basic annuity based on the value of your fund. This limit is reviewed every three years and annually after age 75.
Although capped drawdown restricts the amount of income you can take, if you stay within the GAD limits, your contributions are not restricted as they are for flexi-access drawdown.
If you do want to move to flexi-access drawdown then see Switch from capped to flexi-access drawdown
Case study: Brenda Jackson aged 65 is planning to retire
Brenda has a SIPP worth £1m and no other retirement savings. She plans to retire in December 2019 and is keen to pay off her £200,000 mortgage and buy a new car when she retires.
She decides to access her whole fund and takes £250,000 (25%) as a tax free lump sum which she uses to pay off her mortgage and buy a car, and puts the balance into flexi-access drawdown.
Mrs Jackson’s earnings mean that she is paying higher rate tax in the tax year 2019/20. As she does not want to pay higher rate tax on her pension she decides to wait until April 2020 before taking any drawdown income.
In April 2020 she decides to take an income of £35,000 a year so that she only pays basic rate tax – she also receives a state pension of £6,000 a year. Given the size of her drawdown fund (£750,000), Mrs Jackson hopes that this level of pension (under 5%) is sustainable, but she will have to review this on a regular basis, taking into account investment performance.