Questions of Cash: ‘Pension change discriminates against unmarried employees’


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The Independent Online

Q | I took partial retirement from the Civil Service in March 2012 and received a lump sum. I then completely withdrew from the pension scheme. I was told my WPS [Widow’s/Widower’s Pension Scheme] refund would be paid on full retirement. The WPS refund is paid to unmarried employees who pay the full married person’s contributions to the Civil Service Pension Scheme.

I worked part-time until full retirement in March last year. At that point, I chased my WPS refund and was told it was being dealt with. In July last year, I received a letter from the new operator of the civil service pension scheme, MyCSP, offering the payment as what was called an “unauthorised payment”.  I refused to accept it to be paid in this way, as it would have become subject to special 55 per cent tax rules.  I believe that if the payment had been paid to me at the correct time, it would have been part of my tax-free lump sum. I believe that paying the refund as an “unauthorised payment” discriminates against unmarried employees. I am frustrated by my attempts at correspondence with MyCSP. JB, London.

A | Other former civil servants are unhappy about correspondence delays with MyCSP about their pension plans. (See ‘Questions of Cash’, 28 March, 2015). Unfortunately, MyCSP declines to comment on problems with individual pensioners, beyond its spokeswoman saying: “As administrator for the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, MyCSP is required to follow the Scheme and HMRC rules regarding all refunds and payments, and we believe that we have done so in this case.” As a result of our enquiry to MyCSP, you have received additional correspondence explaining the situation. You are not happy with this, but accept MyCSP is legally correct. You explain: “The Pension Advisory Service has now checked all the rules and it seems that MyCSP is in the right. The payment will be classed as an ‘unauthorised payment’ under HMRC rules. I will be liable to pay tax as they decide between 40 and 55 per cent.” Under the “classic” Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme – to which you belonged – an active scheme member who is unmarried at time of retirement is eligible for a refund of some or all of their Widow’s/Widower’s Pension contributions.

Parcelforce didn’t deliver my phone

Q | I paid £34.86 through eBay for a phone handset, from a German company. The phone was never delivered. Tracking information shows that delivery was refused and returned to Germany, where the sellers were charged a fee of €11.90 – even though they were not to blame for the non-delivery. It is clear that ParcelForce attempted to deliver to the wrong address. I contacted ParcelForce, which said that its contract was with the seller, not with me, and would take action only if the seller contacted it. I asked the seller to do this, but, not unreasonably, they refused. I appealed to eBay, which will not help since “the recipient refused acceptance of the shipment”. Once again I contacted ParcelForce, which was sympathetic  and stated that if the seller got their own courier to contact ParcelForce, then ParcelForce would meet all of the costs of redelivery. But the seller has also refused to do this, and has offered either to refund my expenses less €11.90, or re-send the item if I pay both the extra shipping costs plus the charge they have had to lay out. So the seller has my phone and my money, and has had to pay  a return fee. I have paid £34.86 and have no phone. I can only get it by paying more, or receive a reduced refund. ParcelForce, whose mistake this is and which seems to have accepted responsibility, apparently does not need to do anything. MW, Dorset.

A | ParcelForce has agreed to send you a cheque for £20, which should cover your additional costs,  either through a refund  or redelivery.

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