The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) has challenged industry assumptions in the government’s consultation on how to tax pension savings.The industry organisation said it was aiming to inform the debate around tax relief on pension contributions, as the government considers its next step.In the July Budget, the Conservative government announced a complete review of pensions tax relief.It is considering moving away from providing relief on contributions and taxing retirement income, to taxing contributions and allowing tax-free income. The NAPF said pension members needed to understand that taxing contributions would not necessarily mean more income for the government.The organisation also said a move away from the current tiered system to a single rate of tax relief would not necessarily make the system fairer.The NAPF said this move would produce a “relatively small additional benefit” for lower-income pension scheme members, while “greatly reducing the attractiveness” of pension savings for the 4.6m higher-rate tax-payers.In other news, the number of active members saving in UK pension funds has increased by 2.4m since the rollout of auto-enrolment, reaching heights not seen since 2000, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).Figures from the UK government statistics office showed active pension fund membership was 10.2m at the end of 2014, up from 8.1m a year earlier.Pension fund membership had been steadily falling over the previous 15 years, with the 2014 figure now surpassing the 10.1m seen in 2000.The advent of auto-enrolment saw private sector membership rise from 2.8m in 2013 to 4.9m in 2014.Public sector membership also rose, by 0.1m to 5.4m.The ONS also said the biggest increase in private sector membership was reported by defined contribution schemes, which rose by 2m to 3.2m.Defined benefit membership remained stagnant at 1.6m.
Tommy O’Donnell has saluted the role Munster coach Rob Penney has played in his breakthrough season that he hopes will end with a debut for Ireland. The 25-year-old flanker was voted Munster’s player of the year for 2012-13 on the strength of several outstanding performances, and having been selected for Ireland’s tour to North America he is on the brink of winning his first cap – even if Penney does believe he should be on the British and Irish Lions tour. “Rob would be a bit biased because he sees me every day, but it’s great to have his confidence,” O’Donnell said. “He’s like that as a coach – he just wants you to go out and have a lash, and that’s what I did this year. He backed me all the way.” Press Association O’Donnell added: “He’s coached Richie McCaw so knows what the back row is about. He also played there himself. “It was a real honour to get the player-of-the-year award at Munster. I didn’t really think about what it meant until the awards night itself. “When you hear the names of the lads who won it, you realise what a prestigious award it is. It meant a lot to me and was a great confidence boost.” O’Donnell hopes to make his name in the Tests against the United States and Canada as the squad prepares to depart Dublin on Saturday, with the first match staged in Houston on June 8. “It will be a new experience for me. I’ve been involved in under-age tours but this is something completely different. It has a different feel to it,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be capped and everything will go well with me on the tour, but we can’t take the United States for granted. They’ve pumped a whole lot of money into their sevens team, which is getting better and better. “They have players who are based in Europe, so they have some quality guys who can mix it at world level. It will be tough. Canada will be the same – both are very direct teams who will be looking for a scalp.”
Eriksen produced two superb free-kick strikes as Spurs twice fought back from deficits to draw 2-2 at Swansea in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday. They were the Denmark midfielder’s first goals of the season after an injury-hit start to the campaign, but the 23-year-old has underlined his reputation as one of the best free-kick exponents in English football – even if he spoke about an Italian influence. “I’ve watched Pirlo taking free-kicks and he makes it look so easy,” Eriksen said. “When he’s there (over the ball) he knows what to do. “But everybody has a different position of doing it. I know I have my own and it’s working.” Eriksen said that he had not even been practising free-kicks because of a knee injury which ruled him out for a month until mid-September. “I’ve done it for many years but I haven’t really done it since I was injured – I think my practice was in the game because we had a lot of free-kicks. “But I know what feeling I have to step over the ball and score. I’ve always had a good shot and take free-kicks. “At Ajax I only took them at the end of my time there, but at some point it turned after a lot of training and a bit of focusing.” Spurs have lost only once this season, away to Manchester United on the opening day, and have now gone 10 games without defeat in all competitions. And Eriksen believes Spurs can maintain their progress with Mauricio Pochettino now in his second season at White Hart Lane. “There’s always been a good spirit here and, although some new lads have come in, everyone knows what they have to do,” Eriksen said. “It’s a good mix and with the more games we get the more we know each other. “We have had to learn a lot of things pretty quick but now we have the time to build on something and you can see we know what we’re doing. “Everything is still open because a lot of teams are losing points, but that makes it a fun season.” Swansea have gone four games without a league win but their performance against Spurs was a marked improvement on recent defeats at Watford and Southampton. And Spurs old boy Gylfi Sigurdsson believes they are still capable of finishing in the top half of the table. “We started the season really well but we have not been like ourselves the last three or four performances,” Sigurdsson said. “We have dropped points, which is going to happen in the season, and there is still a long way to go. “But if we play our style of football we will be in the top half of the table. “We go away now for the international break but we can build on this game and performance to keep the momentum going.” Press Association Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen has revealed studying Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo is the secret behind his dead-ball brilliance.