Saving more with BRASS

Find out how you can save more towards your pension with the Scheme's main additional voluntary contribution (AVC) arrangement, BRASS.

An introduction to BRASS

BRASS is the main arrangement for Scheme members to pay Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs). 

AVCs are usually taken from your pay before tax, so anything you pay into BRASS is tax free, subject to certain limits, such as the Annual Allowance limit. That means it’s a great way to boost your pension and save more for the future.

A glass BRASS jar, holding a large amount of coins
How BRASS works

When you join BRASS, you start a Personal Retirement Account (PRA). This is a pot of money held separately to your main DB pension with the Scheme.

Your PRA is invested in a range of funds with the aim of helping it to grow over time. 

You can choose to manage your own funds or have them managed for you. You can also check and change your fund choices at any time.

When it’s time to take your benefits, the value of your BRASS pot is used to buy you extra pension in your Section of the Scheme. You normally have to take a tax-free cash lump sum equal to the value of your BRASS pot, up to the maximum allowed by HM Revenue & Customs. Or you may be able to transfer your BRASS pot to another scheme in order to access other options. 

Check the following pages for more information: 

A play button in blue
Video: Understanding BRASS 

Watch this short video for an introduction to BRASS and how saving more could boost your pension.

How much you can pay into BRASS

You can pay as little as £2 a week or £10 a month into your BRASS pot. For most Sections, the most you can pay into BRASS each tax year is the higher of either:

  • 15% of your gross pay, minus  your normal Scheme contributions; or
  • 20% of your pensionable pay plus pensionable Restructuring Premiums if you have them, minus your normal Scheme contributions.

If you want to contribute the maximum amount, you can top up your regular payments with a single amount before the end of each tax year. Your employer/payroll office will be able to work out the maximum you are able to pay into BRASS in a tax year. Find out more in the Read as You Need guide for BRASS members.

If you’re a Network Rail member the rules are different. The most you can pay into BRASS is potentially up to 100% of your annual taxable earnings, minus your normal Scheme contributions. However there are limits on how much would qualify for tax relief automatically.  Check the Read as You Need guide for Network Rail members of BRASS.

You should also be mindful of your tax limits when considering how much to pay into BRASS. You can read more about the Annual and Lifetime Allowances in the Read as You Need guides to BRASS linked above. 

Remember, you can change or stop your regular BRASS contributions if you wish. Check the managing my BRASS page to find out how.

You can also make one off payments into BRASS, which you can learn more about below.

One-off contributions

As an active member, you can make a one-off contribution to your pension if you'd like to boost your retirement savings.

A calculator with a pound sign next to it
BRASS maximum contribution calculator

If you’re an active member, i.e. still paying in to your DB pension, you can get an estimate of the maximum you can pay into BRASS by using the BRASS maximum contribution calculator in your myRPS account. Your employer should be able to give you a more exact figure if needed.

Make a one-off contribution

To make a one-off contribution directly, and not through your employer, email us at using the wording from the below template. Please also include 'One-off contribution request' in the subject line of your email. 

We cannot accept payments from other people.

As part of the process, we will need to contact your employer to check that the payment does not breach the Scheme limits. This is because you can only contribute a certain amount to BRASS each year. There are also limits on how much you can contribute overall before there are tax implications - this is known as the Annual Allowance. You can learn more about this in this Read as You Need guide, or on the pension tax limits page.

In certain circumstances, we may need to contact you to confirm details regarding the source of the funds. Once we have completed all relevant checks, we will email you with instructions to make the payment.

Your contribution will be invested in the default fund. Once completed, you can update your fund choice.

If you do make a payment this way, you will need to contact HMRC separately for any tax relief.

If you reach the maximum amount that you can pay into BRASS and still want to pay more, you may be able to apply to join AVC Extra. However, this option is currently not available to Network Rail members. Find out more on the saving more with AVC Extra page.  

Glossary: Pensionable Pay and pensionable restructing premiums 
Pensionable pay is your basic salary or wages on each 1 April, less any part which your employer decides does not qualify for pension. It may not include any bonuses, overtime or commission. Pensionable restructuring premiums are an element of your pay which is pensionable for future service from the date that your pay was restructured, or another agreed date. This is used to work out your benefits. You may have more than one restructuring premium, effective from different dates. Please speak to your employer if you unsure whether any of your pay has been restructured.
How to join BRASS

You can join BRASS as long as:

  • You’re a member of the defined benefit (DB) section
  • You’re still paying into the Scheme
  • Your normal contributions do not come to more than both 15% of your gross pay and 20% of your pensionable pay, and pensionable restructuring premiums if you have them

If you're a Network Rail member, the rules are slightly different. Check the Read as You Need guide for Network Rail members of BRASS

If you want to join BRASS please speak to your employer to set up regular payments or make a one off contribution.

Alternatively you can complete the relevant form below and then return it to your employer. Please don’t send this form to Railpen. These are standard Scheme forms and your employer may have their own form they would prefer you to use.

You may want to consider getting financial advice before you join BRASS. You can find details on where to go for advice on the guidance and advice page.

What to read next...