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Pensions are long term investments. You may get back less than you originally paid in because your capital is not guaranteed and charges may apply.

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Last updated: 26 May, 2021

What is a SIPP?

A Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) is pension that you're solely responsible for. This means you have to choose and manage your own investments.

SIPP providers are the companies that supply these pensions. It’s crucial to find the best SIPP provider if you’re to find the best SIPP for your needs.

A SIPP works very much like a standard personal pension, except you have more flexibility and control over your investments. A SIPP holds your investments until you retire, and then you start accessing the funds.

It is often referred to as a 'SIPP pension' or even a 'DIY pension'.

What are the different kinds of SIPPs?

There are two kinds of SIPP:

  • Full SIPP. This gives you the most choice on where to invest. This could be the best SIPP for you if you have a large pension fund and lots of experience with investing. Although the charges are high, it gets you access to a team of experts with whom you can discuss your investments.

  • Low cost SIPP. This is sometimes called a low-cost DIY SIPP or lite SIPP. It still gives a lot of choice on where you can invest, but not as much as a full SIPP. There's no option to own property or offshore funds, or to invest in unquoted shares. This could be the best SIPP for you if you have smaller pension savings. You could start one of these with a sum as small as £5,000. The charges are lower, so if you're looking for a good value pension, look out for the cheapest SIPP you can find. With this kind of SIPP, you won't get any advice from the pension provider. Low cost SIPP providers just act on your instruction.

Whichever type you choose, it's important to find the best SIPP providers for your needs. Some offer a ‘bells and whistles’ service with the latest technologies, and others are ‘no frills’. As you’d expect, the ‘no frills’ ones are likely to be cheaper.

How are SIPPs managed?

Most of the time, SIPPs are managed online, but some can be managed by phone or post. You might have to pay more for one that isn’t managed online. SIPP providers are different and have different SIPP rules, so you'd need to check the details.

Managing your self-invested pension online is usually the easiest option, so the best SIPP provider for you might be one that offers this. It works like online banking. You can buy and sell investments, and monitor their progress, at the click of a button.

What's the difference between a standard pension and SIPP pension?

With a standard personal pension, the investments are all managed for you by your pension provider and you don't need to get involved. They also have a shorter list of funds to choose from.

But with a SIPP, you're free to manage all the investments yourself. You could pay an investment manager to do it for you, but they're really designed for people who want to manage their own fund. You can switch your investments whenever – and to wherever – you like. You just instruct your SIPP provider to do what you want them to.

What can you invest in through your SIPP account?

Our SIPP comparison shows you which markets you can invest in when building your SIPP. The options include:

  • Shares in AIM and FTSE

  • Bonds

  • Permanent Interest-Bearing Shares (PIBS)

  • Personalised pension funds.

Research each market before choosing the best SIPP providers for you. SIPP providers all offer different funds, with varying investment strategies.

Here's more information on how SIPPs and SIPP providers work.

What fees do SIPP providers charge?

The costs can vary a lot, depending on how you invest in your SIPP. SIPP providers may also differ in what they charge.

There's a range of charges you might expect to see, including:

  • Annual management fees are the most common type of fee. Your annual management fees can either be a percentage charge of your entire pension pot each year, or a fixed fee.

  • Dealing charges are another type of charge you might see. These are fees for buying and selling investments in your SIPP and are usually based on how often and how many times you make trades.

  • Annual administration charges are part of some accounts, but not others. It’s either an annual flat fee, or a percentage of your investment. You might see this being called a ‘platform fee’.

  • Exit fees if you decide to transfer your SIPP to another SIPP provider. This could amount to a lot of money, depending on how many shares you have. So check carefully.

  • Drawdown charges if you start taking money from your SIPP. There could be an initial set-up fee, plus ongoing charges, so check before you choose your SIPP.

Before you start investing in a SIPP, make sure you do your research to find the best SIPP provider for your needs. Check out all the charges that apply when managing a pension with each of the SIPP providers you're looking at.

What are the pros and cons of SIPPs?

As with any pension, SIPPs come with advantages and disadvantages. Researching SIPP providers to find the best SIPP is crucial.


  • You have the freedom to control your fund and invest how you like
  • You have a long list of funds to choose from to invest in
  • You can get tax relief on your savings
  • You can pay in until you're 75
  • You can pass on some of your wealth, inheritance free
  • The SIPP withdrawal rules are flexible.


  • You're responsible for making all the decisions yourself
  • They're only suitable for people who understand investing
  • You'll need to spend time and effort choosing and managing your portfolio
  • Your money is locked in until you're at least 55
  • There's a limit on how much tax relief you can get
  • The charges can be higher than with a standard pension.

What are the SIPP pension rules in terms of how much you can pay in?

You can put as much money as you'd like into your pension, to build funds for your retirement. But there are limits on the amount you can get tax relief on.

While you're earning, you can put 100% of your earnings before tax in, up to £40,000. Over that, you won't get tax relief.

If you're a high earner, and bring in more than £240,000 a year, the amount you can put in gradually reduces. For every £2 earned over £240,000, the amount you can contribute reduces by £1, until the tax-free limit reaches £4,000.

If you're not earning money, you can still pay into a pension scheme and qualify to have tax relief added. You can put £2,280 a year into your pension and get tax relief of £720 added, which means you can add £3,600 a year to your pot.

Don't forget there's also a lifetime allowance on your pension. For the current tax year this is £1,073,100. This allowance is the maximum value of the pension benefits you can access without having to pay tax.

When can you withdraw money from a SIPP?

Once you’re 55, you’ll be able to take money from your SIPP, as with any pension. Alternatively, you can leave the money there until you need it. 

What's the situation with SIPP tax relief?

A SIPP is the same as any other kind of pension in that you'll get income tax relief on what you pay in. It’s a good way of protecting your money from the tax man.

When it's time to take the money out of your SIPP, on retirement or when you reach 55, you can take 25% as a tax-free lump sum. You can choose how you receive the rest of your money, but you’ll be taxed on it as income.

Do all SIPP providers allow you to transfer your pension?

Not always. But if your new pension company allows transfers in, and your existing pension company allows transfers out, you might be in luck. You might be able to do a pension-to-SIPP transfer, although you could be charged for it.

When SIPP providers allow transfers in, it's called 'in specie'. ‘In specie’ means that you don't need to sell the individual investments in your pension when you change pensions. Instead, you can just move the ownership of them to another company.

In specie contributions are when you transfer an asset from outside of a pension fund into your chosen company. Be aware that in specie contributions are rarely used. That's because issues often occur when transferring the actual value of each asset.

What happens to my SIPP if I die?

Most of the time, if you die, your SIPP would be inherited, tax-free, by your nominated beneficiaries.

If you die before you’re 75, your beneficiaries will get it as a tax-free lump sum.

But, if you die after you’re 75, things work a little bit differently. They’d be given three options on how they could take the money:

  • As a lump sum – and it’s subject to their current income tax rate.

  • As a regular income – and it’s subject to their current income tax rate. This option is only offered to dependents.

  • As periodical lump sums – subject to their current income tax rate.


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