Money Times - June 24, 2014

Posted by Jill Kerby on June 24 2014 @ 09:00




The Pensions Ombudsman in his annual report last week claimed that thousands of people have not claimed old pensions that could be worth up to €500 million.

These are pension funds that they may have contributed to as an employee or privately, but have since forgotten about because they’ve moved job, emigrated, their company went bust before formally winding up their scheme and they were under the misimpression that they were then no entitled to a claim on the money.

With times as tough as they are for many people, Paul Kenny, the Ombudsman recommended that anyone who thinks they might have a claim on a pension fund make the effort to search out their old firm, the trustees or fund provider (such a life assurance company.) 

Ideally, once you make contact with all or any of the above, you will need to provide these sources with your name, age, when you joined the scheme, and any details of your participation, like a scheme ID number or other membership evidence..

"We know that pension providers have numbers – possibly thousands – of orphan schemes on their books, that should have been wound up, but were not," said Mr Kenny. Difficulties arise when not just the participating employer has gone out of business, but the pension fund provider as well.  Several mainly UK based pension companies have wound up operations here in recent years and have sold on the administration of the ‘paid up’ schemes to specialist operators.


The ideal solution to this issue of lost pensions is for a tracing service to be set up that ex-members could apply to, as exists in the UK. The Pensions Board would be the logical organisation to provide this service.

Until then, anyone who believes  that they might have a long-lost pension could approach a good pension broker or financial adviser to help them with the search, paying them a fee for advice on how to proceed. (Since this could be a long slog requiring hours of investigation, correspondence and form filling, it might be too expensive, unless the amount in question is to turn the entire search over the adviser or broker.)

If you do find your old company/pension scheme be aware that funds that have been frozen, say if the company has closed and no further contributions have been made for many years, will have been attracting fees and charges which will most likely deplete the value, even if there has been fund growth.

That said, you should still be entitled to something at retirement date in the form of a tax free lump sum worth up to 25% of final salary and/or an annuity income.

Lost pension funds are not the only sources of dormant money you may be entitled to:  it is estimated that another €600 million is sitting in dormant deposit accounts and insurance policies (now being minded by the National Treasury Management Agency), unclaimed Lottery winnings (though only for 90 days) and 18,000 Prize Bond winnings, which can be claimed anytime and even unclaimed cash refunds, from the likes of Dublin Bus.

All the banks have now closed their safe-deposit schemes, but a treasure trove of goods exists in the great vault under the Bank of Ireland branch in the House of Lords building on Dame Street in Dublin, left, and now unclaimed by their owners dating back to the late 1700s.

A former bank employee (now head of pensions at Standard Life) Jim Connelly has been calling for many years for Bank of Ireland to either make a last concerted effort to trace the owners’ descendents or for the treasure to be donated to or claimed by the State under the National Monuments Act, for the benefit of the nation. (You might want to go through those old records if you think a relative may have left behind the paintings, gold and silver, furniture, china, jewellery, old uniforms and ceremonial swords that Connelly observed in the Bank’s vault.)

All the money in lost or dormant pension funds, dormant accounts, investment policies - or in bank vaults - can be claimed by rightful owners and heirs.  If the money can be traced it will be subject to all the usual tax or inheritance regulations that would otherwise apply: access to pensions funds will follow retirement regulations (and retirement ages), investment profits will be subject to exit tax. Prize bond winnings are tax free. 

The NTMA consider deposit accounts to be dormant after 15 years of non- activity but you can claim the money back by filling out a filling out a Dormant Account Claim Form and sending the application to the

Irish Banking Federation Nassau Street, Dublin 2, to the Dormant Accounts Division at the  Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Customs House, Dublin 1 in Dublin or to Pobal, Holbrook House, Holles Street Dublin 2.


If you have a personal finance question you would like answered, please write to Jill at jill@jillkerby.ie




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