UK investment platform provider A J Bell is predicting a significant increase in withdrawals from pension pots compared to the unusual circumstances caused by the Covid pandemic over the last year. 

In five of the six years since the pension freedoms launched in April 2015, the first three months of the tax year has seen the highest volume of flexible withdrawals.

The exception is the 2020/21 tax year, when withdrawals dipped to £2.3bn amid severe stock market uncertainty.

Total withdrawals have been between 10% and 33% higher between April and July than the next largest quarter in every other tax year.

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said "While most of us still have fewer things to spend our money on at the moment - particularly given restrictions on foreign travel - the success of the Coronavirus vaccine and more stable market conditions mean we should expect to see a significant jump in withdrawals in the coming quarter."

Selby emphasised how until 2020, the beginning of a new tax year has traditionally been peak pension withdrawal season, with UK savers taking advantage of a fresh set of tax allowances to access larger amounts from their retirement pots.
"In fact, before the pandemic hit withdrawals in the first three months of the financial year had been between 10% and 33% higher than in subsequent quarters.

"That all changed last year, when retirement income investors spooked by the uncertainty of lockdown - not to mention double-digit market falls - tightened their belts, with year-on-year withdrawals dropping 17%.

"This likely reflected people choosing to either delay accessing their pension, pause withdrawals or reduce the amount they were taking as income in the face of profound uncertainty.

Emergency taxation, annual allowance cuts and sustainability of withdrawals are among the bear traps people need to watch out for when taking taxable income from their retirement pot, he added.