Inheritance Tax

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Inheritance tax (what used to be called Death Duty) is a tax levied on the value your estate when you die. It is payable at a flat rate of 40% after any exemptions and reliefs have been claimed.

Exemptions and Reliefs:

This is an individual’s IHT ‘allowance’ – currently £325,000.
A surviving spouse or civil partner can claim the unused proportion of the first spouse’s/civil partner’s NRB in addition to their own. This means that, on second death, up to £650,000 can be passed to beneficiaries before IHT becomes payable. The tNRB is not available to unmarried or cohabiting couples – they do still have 2 NRBs available but they cannot be aggregated on second death, so careful Will-planning is needed to ensure that both NRBs are utilised effectively.
There is now a further IHT allowance available if you own a residence, or have done so in the past. The rNRB – £175,000 in the 2020/21 tax year – can be claimed in addition to your NRB but there are strict conditions that must be met before the rNRB can be claimed.

Gifts between spouses and civil partners are generally exempt from IHT, whether they are lifetime gifts or gifts by Will. There is usually no limit on the size of such gifts.

If you make a gift, for example to reduce the size of your estate for IHT purposes, the general rule is that you must survive for further 7 years before the value of your taxable estate is reduced by the value of the gift – even though the actual gift is received immediately by the recipient. There is a catch though – the 7-year clock only starts ticking if you take no further benefit from what has been given away.
If you own (or have a share in) a business, providing certain conditions it may qualify for 100% BPR so its value can be passed to your beneficiaries free of IHT. Careful planning and a properly-structured Will can ensure that this generous relief is used to maximum advantage.
A similar relief is available for a farm or an interest in a farming business. Again, careful planning is required as the conditions are complex.
If you make a gift out of your surplus income – in other words income you do not need to maintain your normal standard of living in a given tax year – this can be immediately exempt from IHT (rather than having to wait the normal 7 years). There is potentially no limit to the size of the gifts so it can be a very effective form if IHT-planning.
Every individual has an annual gift allowance of £3,000. If you make gifts totalling less than this amount in any tax year they are immediately exempt from IHT (no 7 year rule). It is £3,000 per year, not per recipient. This may not sound a lot in the grand scheme of things, but if a couple use their full gift allowances for 10 years they can give away £60,000 – saving £24,000 of IHT.
The annual gift allowance can be increased where the gift is to a qualifying relative (eg. a child) who is getting married.
Gifts of up to £250 to an individual are also generally exempt from IHT. There is no limit to the number of such gifts, provided that each recipient is different.

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