independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Bosses getting big payouts as pension pots hit €2.3m

FEW people among the general workforce would complain that their pension had grown too big.

But many executives are receiving large payouts instead of pension contributions as increasing numbers of high earners reach the €2.3m pension pot limit.

Instead of building up retirement funds they are receiving direct payments from their companies, but they have to pay tax on the cash.

Leading companies have stopped making the pension contributions because managers have hit the limits on the size of retirement fund that can be accumulated.

The most a person can have in a pension fund, for tax purposes, is €2.3m. If they exceed the limit they face an effective tax rate of 70pc on the sum that is over the threshold.

The alternative is the cash payout, but this is treated as income – subject to income tax at 41pc, PRSI at 4pc and the universal social charge of up to 7pc for employees.

It has emerged that leading executives at building materials multinational CRH have had to stop putting money into their pensions.

Chief executive Myles Lee got a €980,000 cash payment last year instead of putting any more money into his pension.

His total remuneration in 2011 was €2.8m, according to the company's annual report.

CRH group finance director Maeve Carton, received a €231,954 payout, with no more company cash going into her pension fund.

Senior executives at paper and packaging group Smurfit Kappa have also hit the pensions cap, according to its annual report.

Changed

Group chief operations officer Tony Smurfit got a payment of €216,000 last year instead of the company putting more money into his retirement fund.

Chief executive Garry McGann has also built up a pension worth more than €2.3m, and got a cash payment of €325,000 last year.

The rules were changed in 2010 to cap the size of a pension that can be built up at €2.3m, down from €5m.

A fund of €2.3m would give an annual pension of around €77,000.

Head of the Irish Association of Pension Funds, Gerry Moriarty, explained that 32 of 98 executive directors in leading domestic companies were no longer accruing any pension benefits by 2011.

He said a recent academic paper by Gerry Hughes for the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found that executive directors were getting 36 times more in pension contributions than other employees.

But Mr Moriarty said the ESRI study had been overtaken by events. The research examines pension in 2009 – before the cap was introduced.

Irish Independent

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