In order to combat pensions liberation, new powers introduced from 1 September 2014 allow HMRC to refuse to register a new pension scheme or de-register an existing registered pension scheme in circumstances where HMRC believes that the scheme administrator is not a "fit and proper person".

HMRC has now published guidance on the "fit and proper person" test. The guidance sets out the non-exhaustive factors that may lead HMRC to conclude that the scheme administrator is not a "fit and proper person". These include the scheme administrator: not having sufficient working

knowledge of pensions and pensions tax legislation; previously being involved in pensions liberation; previously being the scheme administrator of, or otherwise involved with, a pension scheme which has been de-registered by HMRC; being involved in tax fraud; having a criminal conviction or being the subject of adverse civil proceedings relating to finance, corporate bodies or dishonesty; having participated in or been connected with designing and/or marketing tax avoidance schemes; being removed from acting as a trustee by the Pensions Regulator or a Court; being disqualified from acting as a company director or being a bankrupt; and/or employing as an adviser a person who has been involved in pensions liberation or tax avoidance.

The last of these points is intended to deal with the situation where an employer is scheme administrator and, whist not having a detailed knowledge of pensions and tax legislation, employs an adviser with the appropriate knowledge. Whilst HMRC accepts that this situation may arise, it will be able to treat the employer as not being a "fit and proper person" if it employs as an adviser someone who has been involved with pensions liberation or tax avoidance.

The guidance can be viewed by clicking here.