The bee side - Dr, Dr, I feel like a pair of curtains...
"Thanks for seeing me at such short notice doctor."
"Think nothing of it, it's what we're here for, and not so much of the 'doctor' stuff; think of me as your friend, someone you can talk to."
"Well thanks doc, it'd be good to get it all off my chest I guess; it's been driving me round the bend if I'm being honest!"
"Well, just start from the beginning, tell me all about it, but take your time"
"Yeah, well it all started years ago when I got involved in the pensions industry way back when. To tell you the truth, if I'd known how it was all going to pan out I'd've run a mile there and then, but I was young and had mouths to feed and well, you know the way things are. Anyway, I soon got to be some kind of expert at pension tax law; bit of a hike to get all the exams and stuff, but once I'd got my head around it I found I could kind of cope with it all. Fact is, I more than coped I suppose; became regarded as some kind of a guru really; they were magic days looking back on it but it all started to get so complicated there were times when privately I began to think I was losing it. That was when I started putting in the long nights to keep up on all the new twists and turns that were coming in all the time. I'm not being funny, but you only had to take your eye off the ball for five minutes back then and you were history in the guru game. Real pressure if you know what I mean. My marriage fell apart and my friends all gradually faded away, but I kept ahead of the game; didn't drop the ball.
"The trouble was, we had three completely different pension regimes; two basically different types of pension arrangements, money purchase and final salary, which by the way we now call defined contribution and defined benefit; we also had various types of individual pensions and even different individual pensions for people who were in occupational schemes; we had carry-forward and carry-back, which sometimes were used on their own, but could be combined too if you knew what was what; but we had no concurrency unless you counted partial- concurrency which probably only made things worse, but don't get me started on that; we had different benefit maxima and contribution maxima for each and every different regime...I mean, it was just crazy...
"And then A-day came along. I can tell you, it was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, I could see the sunlight again, hear the birds singing in short, life was good again. The old tax laws had been ditched and we got a maximum tax-relieved pot that we could save up during our lives. Everyone was the same after then and by and large the tax authorities didn't care how we filled up our lifetime pot, all they cared about was that we didn't overfill it. Simple. Absolutely brilliant. I even got back together with my ex and even some of our old friends eventually started to come around again, but then it happened"
"Take it easy; you don't have to go on if it's too difficult."
"No, I want to do this doc; I need to face up to it. As I said, everything was going just fine and then and then...this year's Budget came up with these new anti-avoidance rules"
First published in Pensions Management, September 2009