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Saving for a Pension

Understanding PSO and PSTR numbers

In brief...
PSO numbers were issued to ‘approved’ schemes before 6 April 2006.
PSTR numbers have been issued from 6 April 2006 for ‘registered’ schemes.
The scheme administrator can obtain the PSTR number online where a PSO number has been issued previously.
The scheme administrator will need to register with HMRC’s Pension Schemes Online service.
Without a PSO or PSTR number, any benefits will not be exempt from taxation.
Queries: HMRC Online Services Helpdesk 0300 200 3600
HMRC Guide to Using the Online Service:

Pension Scheme Tax Reference numbers (PSTR) are issued to occupational pension schemes, including stand-alone group life schemes, which qualify for beneficial tax treatment. These replaced Pension Schemes Office (PSO) numbers in 2006.

PSO Numbers
PSO numbers were issued for schemes that were approved by what was the Pension Schemes Office before 6 April 2006.

PSO numbers are in the format 000/000000/000000/A, where the first three digits are alphanumeric – for example, if the name of the Establishing Employer began with the letter A, the PSO number would begin ‘001/’.

Pension Simplification
On 6 April 2006, pension tax simplification introduced a new regime with an online system of registration which replaced ‘approval’. Once a scheme is registered with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) a PSTR number is issued.

PSTR numbers are in the format of eight numeric digits followed by ‘R’ and an alpha check character, e.g. 00123456RA.

The scheme has a PSO number but no PSTR number
Schemes that were approved before 6 April 2006 automatically became registered on 6 April 2006.

To obtain the new PSTR number, the scheme administrator must register online with HMRC and add themselves as the administrator of the scheme using the Superannuation Fund (SF) number from the original approval letter. The PSTR number may then be obtained from the Pension Schemes Online service.

Scheme administrator responsibilities
The scheme administrator is legally responsible for the scheme and their responsibilities for registered schemes include reporting events relating to the scheme and the scheme administrator to HMRC.

These tasks can only be undertaken online, so the scheme administrator needs to be registered with HMRC in order to carry out these tasks.


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