RPSM02101010 - Technical pages: registration and scheme administrator requirements: the scheme administrator: essential principles

[Section 270, section 153(5) and s158(zb) & (f) Finance Act 2004]

To be registered by HMRC, a pension scheme must have a scheme administrator. This is the person appointed in accordance with the scheme rules to be responsible for complying with the functions and responsibilities of a scheme administrator under Finance Act 2004.

The role of the scheme administrator
Who can be a scheme administrator?
Residency requirement for scheme administrators
Requirement to be a fit and proper person
Scheme administrator declarations 
What happens if there is no scheme administrator? 

The role of the scheme administrator

The scheme administrator duties are specified under Finance Act 2004 and supporting regulations. The scheme administrator's duties include

  • registering the pension scheme with HMRC
  • paying certain taxes to HMRC,
  • operating tax relief on contributions under the relief at source system - see RPSM05301000,
  • reporting events relating to the scheme and the scheme administrator to HMRC
  • making returns of information to HMRC
  • providing information to scheme members, and others, regarding the lifetime allowance, pension input amounts, benefits and transfers.

A scheme administrator can appoint a practitioner to act on their behalf in relation to some of these duties - RPSM02101070.

Liability to tax

The scheme administrator is liable for payment of certain tax charges under Part 4 of Finance Act 2004 in connection with the scheme. If more than one person is appointed as scheme administrator, each is jointly and severally liable for any tax charges or penalties. The scheme administrator is liable to the following tax charges:

  • Section 205: short service refund lump sum - see RPSM09104760,
  • Section 205A: serious ill-health lump sum charge - see RPSM09104640,
  • Section 206: special lump sum death benefits charge - see RPSM04101110,
  • Section 207: authorised surplus payments charge - see RPSM04102030,
  • Section 217: lifetime allowance charge (joint and several liability with the member) - see RPSM11105300,
  • Section 239: scheme sanction charge - see RPSM04104800,
  • Section 242: de-registration charge - see RPSM02103030,
  • Section 237B: annual allowance charge (joint and several liability with the member, where the member has given notice that they want to use the 'scheme pays' option - see RPSM06109030).

[Section 9(1A) Taxes Management Act 1970]

[Section 254 Finance Act 2004 and Regulations 4 and 5 The Registered Pension Schemes (Accounting and Assessment) Regulations 2005 - Statutory Instrument - SI 2005/3454] 

Scheme administrator tax charges are not within the self-assessment procedures. Therefore any tax liabilities of a scheme administrator should not be included in any self-assessment return that the trustees of the same pension scheme may complete in respect of that scheme.

Apart from the scheme sanction charge, the scheme administrator must report the tax due using the accounting for tax (AFT) return - see RPSM12301300. The deadline for paying the tax due is the same as the deadline for filing the AFT.

Where a scheme administrator does not pay the tax due on time HMRC will issue an assessment for the outstanding tax.

Where a scheme administrator is liable for a scheme sanction charge, HMRC will issue an assessment to the scheme administrator in respect of that liability.

Where the scheme administrator receives such an assessment, the administrator must pay the tax due within 30 days after the notice of the assessment.

Interest will be chargeable from the

  • AFT filing deadline for taxes due to be reported on the AFT
  • For the scheme sanction charge, 31 January following the end of the tax year in which the scheme sanction charge arose.

Penalties for late payment also apply in accordance with Schedule 56 Finance Act 2009 - see RPSM12301340.

Insurance company liable as scheme administrator in certain circumstances

[The Pension Benefits (Insurance Company Liable as Scheme Administrator) Regulations 2006 - Statutory Instrument - SI 2006/136] 

An insurance company will be treated as the scheme administrator for the purposes of section 206 Finance Act 2004 if they are paying

  • a pension protection lump sum death benefit,
  • an annuity protection lump sum death benefit, or
  • a drawdown pension lump sum death benefit

under an insurance contract or annuity purchased using sums and assets held for the purpose of a registered pension scheme.

This means the insurance company is responsible for paying the special lump sum death benefits charge tax due under section 206, must report relevant payment using the AFT, and will be liable to penalties for late payment, filing and any errors as appropriate.

Information requirements

[The Registered Pension Schemes (Provision of Information) Regulations 2006 -Statutory Instrument - SI 2006/567] [Section 250 Finance Act 2004] 

The scheme administrator is required to retain records relating to the administration of the scheme, for example records of payments into and out of the scheme, for at least six tax years following the year to which the record relates. RPSM12300020 gives full details of the record keeping requirement.

In addition to the accounting for tax return mentioned above the scheme administrator may also have to submit a Registered Pension Scheme Return (PSR) - see RPSM12301400 - or an Event Report - see RPSM12301010 to HMRC.

The Registered Pension Schemes (Provision of Information) Regulations 2006 prescribe when the scheme administrator has to submit information to HMRC, insurance companies, other scheme administrators, members and others. Guidance on these information requirements is at RPSM12301000 to RPSM12306040.

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Who can be a scheme administrator?

[Section 270 Finance Act 2004] 

The scheme administrator is the person (or persons) appointed in accordance with the pension scheme rules to be responsible for carrying out the function of the scheme administrator specified by and under Part 4 Finance Act 2004.

The scheme administrator can be an individual or an organisation such as an employer or specialist pension administration company, or a mixture of both.

More than one person can be the scheme administrator. If more than one person is appointed as scheme administrator, each is jointly and severally liable for any tax charges or penalties due on the scheme administrator.

Schemes that automatically became registered schemes on 6 April 2006

Paragraph 4 of Schedule 36 Finance Act 2004 provides for who became the scheme administrator when a scheme was automatically registered on 6 April 2006. RPSM02101020 tells you who the legislation states is the scheme administrator of such schemes.

New scheme administrators can be appointed to these schemes on or after 6 April 2006 just like a scheme that applied for and became a registered pension scheme - see RPSM02101040.

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Residency requirement for scheme administrators

[Section 270(2) Finance Act 2004] 

To be a scheme administrator you must be resident in one of the following countries

  • the United Kingdom (UK)
  • another EU member state 
  • a European Economic Area (EEA) state which is not a member of the EU (that is, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein).

Anyone who is not resident in one of these countries cannot be a scheme administrator.

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Requirement to be a fit and proper person

[Sections 153(5)(g) and s158(zb) Finance Act 2004] 

All the persons that make up the scheme administrator must be a fit and proper person to be a pension scheme administrator. HMRC can refuse to register a pension scheme if it appears that any person who makes up the scheme administrator is not a fit and proper person. HMRC can also de-register a scheme if it appears that one of the persons who make up the scheme administrator is not a fit and proper person. This requirement applies to all scheme administrators, that is

  • scheme administrators appointed on or after 6 April 2006, and
  • those persons who are the scheme administrator in accordance with paragraph 4 of Schedule 36 Finance Act 2004 (scheme administrators of schemes automatically registered on 6 April 2006).

RPSM02101030 describes the factors that HMRC will consider in deciding if someone is a fit and proper person to be a scheme administrator.

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Scheme administrator declarations

[Section 270(2) and (3) Finance Act 2004]

When someone is appointed as a scheme administrator on or after 6 April 2006 they can only be a scheme administrator if they make certain declarations to HMRC including that they

  • understand that they will be responsible for discharging the functions conferred or imposed on the scheme administrator of the pension scheme by and under Part 4 Finance Act 2004, and
  • intend to discharge those functions at all times, whether resident in the United Kingdom or another state which is a member State or a non-member EEA State.

These declarations must be made electronically using Pension Schemes Online. The scheme administrator will make this declaration either when they apply to register a pension scheme or add themselves as a scheme administrator to an existing registered pension scheme using Pension Schemes Online.

RPSM02102020 gives more information about the declaration a scheme administrator has to make when they apply to register a pension scheme.

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What happens if there is no scheme administrator?

If there is no scheme administrator HMRC can decide to de-register the pension scheme - see RPSM02103000.

The tax legislation also has specific provisions enabling

  • Someone who has resigned from the role of scheme administrator retaining liability as if they were the scheme administrator until a new scheme administrator has been appointed,
  • The duties and tax liabilities of a scheme administrator to pass onto other person(s), including the pension scheme trustees and the members, in certain circumstances.

RPSM02101040 provides more information about what can happen when a scheme administrator is changed and RPSM02101050 describes when and how scheme administrator liabilities can pass on to other persons(s).


  Glossary (RPSM20000000)