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Inheritance Tax

Taxation in the United Kingdom may involve payments to a minimum of three different levels of government i.e. The Central Government (Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs), Devolved National Government and Local Government. Inheritance tax falls under the jurisdiction of HMRC.

About HMRC Inheritance Tax UK

HMRC Inheritance Tax (IHT) as quite clear by its name itself, is a tax levied by the UK Government on the estate (money, possessions and the property ) of someone who has died. Estate and Inheritance tax are quite similar because of the reason behind them which is death. Former one is applicable on the total value i.e. net value of the deceased person on the date of their death and later one is applicable on the recipients. Various countries around the globe have different inheritance tax rate. Japan has the world's highest inheritance tax rate at 55% whereas USA and UK stand second in the number at 40%.

Inheritance Tax

However, calculation of Inheritance Tax is not as simple as its definition and history of inheritance tax in UK has gone through multiple significant changes and mutations from their original introduction which was in 1694. HMRC Inheritance tax should normally be paid under 6 months from the day of death and if failed to do so, interest will be charged on the total outstanding amount.

As quoted by Benjamin Franklin, there are two things in life which are certain, which are taxes and death and Inheritance Tax touches on both.

Death and Tax

On the Event of Death, HMRC Calculates Net Worth of Your Estate Based on Your Assets, Which Include The Following: -

  1. Investments made by the deceased.
  2. Total cash in the bank in his account.
  3. Properties listed / owned by him.
  4. Vehicles registered under his name.
  5. Life Insurance Policies

Normally, There Is No HMRC Inheritance Tax to be Paid If Either :

  1. As per the update in 2019-2020, if the net worth of your assets is below the declared IHT threshold i.e. £ 325,000.

In case, asset value is above the threshold i.e. £ 325,000, the tax is set at the rate of 40% of the value over the threshold and its reduced to 36% if more than 10% of the estate has been given to a registered charity.

  1. If you leave everything to your spouse or civil partner. If you are married or have a civil partner, your spouse can inherit your entire estate without facing any IHT.

As per the update of 2019-2020, most of the married duo or civil spouses can pass on up to £650,000, or £950,000 if your estate comprises your home, successfully doubling the amount the enduring partner can leave behind tax-free without the requirement for special tax planning.

IHT Threshold or Nil Rate Band

IHT Threshold or Nil Rate Band (NRB) is the amount up to which IHT is not applicable. Each individual has their own NRB which means that their estate and taxable gifts are exempt from IHT up to a certain level /threshold, which currently is £325,000.

2019/20 2018/19

Standard threshold



Combined threshold maximum for married couples and civil partners



Rate of tax on balance

Chargeable lifetime transfers

Transfers on, or within 7 years of, death

20%*   40%

20%*   40%

*A lower rate of 36% applies where 10% or more of a deceased person's net estate is left to charity

Individuals with direct descendants who have an estate including a main residence with total value of more than Inheritance tax Threshold i.e.£325,000 and personal representatives of the deceased individuals will have to pay the Inheritance Tax at the rate of 40% , which means:

Any part of the estate, which is left behind by the individual at the time of his death up to the IHT threshold is chargeable at the rate of 0% and part of the estate which exceeds the IHT threshold is chargeable to IHT at 40%.

IHT Nil Rate Band is applicable to all property together with any taxable gifts made within/before 7 years of death.

for example : Hypothetically, if Fred gives £50,000 each to his son and daughter after taking account of annual exemptions). In 2017 he dies leaving an estate worth £350,000. His will gives a legacy of £100,000 to his wife. His estate is held in cash and stocks and shares, and he has never owned a residence, as he was a tenant farmer all his life and lived in rented accommodation. IHT is payable as follows:

Headers £

Gifts within 7 years of death (£50,000 x2 )


Value of Estate




Less : Exempt Bequest to Spouse


Chargeable Estate


IHT Thereon

Chargeable Estate


Deduct Nil-Rate-Band




Tax at 40% (£25,000 x 40% )


Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB):

The new IHT Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB) was announced in Summer Budget of 2015 and introduced in April 2017. It is in addition to an already existing individual’s own nil-rate-band of £325,000. However, it is applicable only on one condition that the main residence should be passed on to the direct descendants i.e. children or grand-children.

Nil Rate Band

General Description of Nil-Rate-Band and Residence Nil-Rate-Band:

Tax Year Nil-Rate Band Residence Nil-Rate Band Total for an individual Total for a married couple/civil partners


























The main idea behind introducing IHT Residence Nil-Rate-Band was to soften the blow of inheritance tax on the direct descendants and closed family members of the deceased individuals and by 2020/21, families should be able to escape IHT on up to £1M of their wealth because each parent will have a nil-rate band of £325,000 plus a residence nil-rate-band of up to £175,000 i.e. £500,000 per parent and £1,000,000 when combined.

Residence Nil Rate Band was not in effect until April 2017 and it is phased over 4 financial years. Like Nil Rate Band, Residence Nil Rate Band is transferable between spouses and civil partners on the occasion of death of one of the partner/spouse and it is the unused percentage of the residence nil rate band from the estate of the first to die which second spouse can claim.

As its name suggests, it is applicable only if main residence of the deceased individual is passed on the direct descendants i.e. children (including foster, adopted or step) or grand children. However, in case there are multiple residence on the name of the deceased individual, it will be down to the personal representatives to select/nominate one residential property out of many available.

It is not necessary that the deceased individual owned the residence at the time of death. Chances are there that he could have moved to his relative’s house etc in process of downsizing his estate. Residence nil rate band will still be applicable in this case provided the property disposed of was owned by the individual and it would have qualified for the Residence Nil Rate Band had he retained it. On properties worth between £1 million and £2 million, inheritance tax will be paid as normal on the amount above the tax-free amount.On properties worth £2 million or more, homeowners will lose £1 of the 'main residence' allowance for every £2 of value above £2 million. So for a couple, properties worth £2,350,000 or more will get no additional allowance

It is always good to keep reviewing your will(s) constantly to cater for changing circumstances, taxation rules and policies.

Residence Nil Rate Band

Inheritance Tax Rates & Inheritance Tax in 2015

United Kingdom has 2nd highest Inheritance Tax Rate after Japan. The standard Inheritance Tax is 40% and it is only charged on that part of asset, over and above the declared threshold value, i.e. £325,000.

Hypothetically, if the net worth of assets is £650,000, so IHT charged will be 40% of £325,000 (Net worth amount – Threshold Amount)

Net Worth Charge

However, IHT is reduced to 36% on certain assets if 10% or more of the net value has been given to the charity as per the will.

Summer budget of 2015 introduced a new provision which allowed individuals and married couples to pass on to their main home with a smaller tax liability. It introduced a new measure to reduce the burden of IHT for the families by making it convenient to pass on the family home to the direct descendants without any tax.

It was then decided to set a new limit in April 2017 which will eventually allow each individual to pass on estates valued up to £500,000 without any tax.

What is Death Duty

In UK, death duty was first introduced as a tax on estates in England and Wales over a certain value. The value changed over time and the scope of estate duty was extended. Modern Inheritance tax dates back to 1894 when the government introduced estate duty, a tax on the capital value of land, as a measure to raise money to pay of government deficit of £4m.However, the earliest death duty can be traced back to 1694.

When it was first introduced it was intended to affect only the very wealthy section of the society but in due course of time with ever increasing cost of house and real estates, more and more families are getting directly affected.

Who Pays The HMRC Inheritance Tax

As mentioned above, Inheritance Tax is paid to HMRC after death of an individual. In case there is a will declared by the deceased, it’s on the executor of the will to arrange for the IHT. In UK, the person who is making the will can appoint up to four executors, so that the responsibility of IHT can be mutually shared. It also ensures that the property of the deceased person is in safe and secure hands immediately after his/her death.

Inheritance subject tax

For the year 2017/18, everyone is allowed to leave an estate of worth up to £425,000, which includes normal nil rate band/threshold up to £325,000 plus additional residence nil rate band of £100,000. However, this additional residence nil rate band is applicable only if the residence of the deceased individual is passed on to the direct descendants.

Tax Bureau

If there is a will declared by the deceased person, then depending on who has got what and it’s estate value, he or she has to pay the IHT. It’s your heirs who must pay the inheritance tax by the end of six months after the death of the person. However, to pay the Inheritance tax, you need to get Inheritance Tax Reference Number from HMRC at least 3 weeks prior before you make the payment.

You need to fill up Form IHT422 to apply for Inheritance Reference Number along with form Form IHT400 (in case the death has happened after 18th March 1986). You can either apply or fill the forms online or you can send them by post to the postal address mentioned on the form.

In case there is no will declared by the deceased, the administrator of the estate has to make the necessary arrangement for payment of necessary IHT.Chances are high that the individual has planned well in advance for the payment of IHT through various sources like Life Insurance Policy. In any other case, IHT is paid from the money left in the estate, in case there is any or from the money raised by the sale of assets.

Net Worth Charge

Smart Cheat Guide to Save/Avoid IHT: How to Give More to Your Family and Less to the Taxman:-

Without proper and prudent IHT planning, you would be leaving less for your beneficiaries and more for the taxman, HMRC in UK. In recent years, more and more families have been stung by Inheritance Tax after steep rises in house prices. However, with little bit of advance planning, you can ensure that the people you actually wanted to get benefit from your estate, do get that benefit after your death.

Following are some tips from the expert financial planners that can help you avoid the pitfalls that surround IHT: -

Last Bill and Statement
  1. Write a Will :-

Setting up a will should be your first step in IHT Planning, not only to make certain that matters are dealt with in a tax-efficient way but also to ensure that your wishes are carried out in a proper and efficient manner. Even if you have a will, it must be up-to-date and reflect your wishes, assets and current tax position in a clear manner. Any kind of civil partnership, marriage, divorce or dissolution can have an impact on your will.

In case a person dies without declaring his/ her will, then he is said to have died ‘intestate and it gives birth to lot of issues.

Write a Will

Effectively it’s the Law which decides what happens to the estate, which can lead to financial anxiety for the surviving for the surviving spouse. In most of the cases, HMRC becomes the largest beneficiary of your estate.

  1. Calculate your actual IHT Liability

Irrespective of how obvious it sounds, it’s actually quite a prudent step to consider and know well in advance where all IHT is applicable for you to plan better. As per current IHT threshold and nil-rate-band, every individual has a tax-free allowance of £325,000. IHT is applicable on the value of the estate over and above this value at the rate of 40%.

Calculating Your Potential IHT Liability:


Value of main home


Other properties , business, property / land


Car(s), boat, etc


Household contents and personal effects


Bank and Building Society Accounts


Investments ( stocks & shares , bonds, offshore accounts, ISAs )


Life Insurance Policies  (if not under trust )


Pension Lump sum ( if not under trust )


Other assets, including gifts




Less any liabilities:



Loans, hire purchase, credit cards




Calculating your IHT Liability

Subtract available nil-rate-band, taking into account any transferrable unused allowance from deceased spouse or civil partner and any residence nil-rate-band available to you

Subtract any exemptions (Refer point 3 )



X 40% ( potential liability)

  1. Gifts and Exemptions from Inheritance Tax

The main approach to IHT mitigation is to reduce the value of your estate over a period of time. The smaller the value of your estate when you die, the less your IHT bill is likely to be. There are a lot of ways for doing so, few of them are listed below:-

  1. Pass your estate to your spouse / civil partner: - Married couples and civil partners are allowed to pass their estate to their spouse tax free. In other words, the surviving spouse can inherit the entire estate without paying any IHT (unless your spouse was born outside the UK, in which case the amount you can give away might be limited.

What if I am not married to my partner:

In case of married couples, transfers of property and other assets don’t attract inheritance tax, however this is not the case with unmarried individuals. If you are not married but own the assets jointly with your partner, then your liability to pay the IHT will depend on whether you and your partner own the property as joint tenants or tenants in common or if there is a will. Even if your partner has left everything on your name in his/her will, his or her family members would still have a claim to your partner’s share of assets like insurance policies and pensions investments.

  1. Annual Exemption :-
    Individuals are entitled to give away £3,000 in total, in any tax year without any IHT applicable on it. In case, in one tax year full amount of £3,000 is not utilized, it can be carried forward to the next. This means that a married couple could give away a total of £6,000 a year to their children without incurring any IHT and a total of £12,000 if the previous year’s allowances were unused.
  2. Small Gift Exemption :-
    Gifts up to £250 in total, to any number of people in one year, are exempted from IHT. However, it cannot be a part of any larger gift.
  3. Marriage or Civil Partnership Gifts Exemption :-

    Gifts made in consideration of a marriage or civil partnership can be considered for IHT exemption, however amount of gift varies on the type of donor, as described below:-



Up to £5,000


Up to £2,500


Up to £1,000

  1. Normal Expenditures from Income :-

    To benefit from this particular exemption, the gifts need to be made regularly i.e. yearly and it has to be out of true income i.e. dividends and interest from investments. There is no maximum limit on the amount which can qualify for this exemption and it can only be worked out on death of an individual.

  2. Other Exemptions :-

    Lifetime gifts for the upbringing of children and other dependants, if any, are free from IHT liability. Few other exempts on gifts and bequests are as below:

    • to charities
    • to political parties
    • to universities
    • for national purpose
    • for public health
  3. 7-year rule : ( Benefit of Tapering) :-

    If a person gives away more than £3,000 each tax year - or the other exemptions - and dies within seven years of making that gift, leaving an estate worth more than the nil rate band, it is eligible for inheritance tax.

Years Between Gift and Death Tax Paid

Less than 3 years


3 to 4 years


4 to 5 years


5 to 6 years


6 to 7 years


7 or more


  1. Make use of Trusts

Another intelligent way to mitigate your IHT is use of trust. If you put some of your cash, property or investments into a trust, which you, your spouse and none of your children under 18 years of age can benefit from, they’re no longer part of your estate for IHT purpose. However, there are certain trusts which are subject to their own tax regimes and they might have to pay IHT themselves.

One can put all manner of assets in the trust, including investments, life assurance policies and death benefits.

Trust in Inheritance Tax Planning

If trust has been established correctly, it not only help you in reducing your IHT liability by transferring your assets progressively out of your estate but can also give you access to regular income while you are alive, in the form of withdrawals.

The rules around trusts are a bit complicated and there are lots of factors that come into play so it is always better to take an expert advice.

  1. Gifts to Charity :-

If you leave some or entire estate to a charity, it can help in reducing your IHT and in some cases, it might even eliminate IHT liability. However, you can choose to donate to a charity while you are alive or you can allocate desired amount in your will. If you leave something to charity in your will, then it’s called as charitable legacy.

As per a study conducted on charitable legacy, about £150 of every £1,000 received by charities in UK comes from charitable legacies.

In case you have allocated 10% of your net estate to a charity, then in that case IHT rate can cut down to 36% from 40% on rest of your estate value.

  1. Tax Reliefs :-

Certain assets are exempt from Inheritance Tax and if case they are not exempted, IHT is charged at reduced rate. Exemptions of these kinds are known as tax reliefs. Few of them are listed below:-

  1. Business Relief: Depending on how you own the business and its type, you can get either 50% or 100% tax relief on it.
  2. Agricultural Property Relief: You can pass on a farm free from IHT, however not all farms fall under this category.
  3. Woodland Property: If you leave a woodland property, the land itself is not subject to Inheritance Tax. But the trees on the property are subject to the tax if it’s sold or given away as timber.
    The executor of your estate will have to include the value of the woodland when applying for probate even though it’s not considered for Inheritance Tax.
  4. Heritage Assets: If you own a building, land, or objects of national scientific, historic or artistic importance, you could claim relief from Inheritance Tax.


HMRC inheritance tax, mostly called as death tax is triggered by death and its payable on the net value of estate (money, possessions, property) of an individual on his death. However, a careful and advance planning with help of an expert financial advisor will help you to utilize and distribute your estate between your loved ones. There are various financial firms whose services you can avail for better planning of your Inheritance Tax Liability and Tax.

One of such renowned firm is DNS Accountants, who have created a niche for themselves in the market with their expert domain knowledge in taxation and financial accounting. At DNS Accountants, with its team of expert taxation professionals and Chartered Accountants, they have been helping individuals with their queries on Inheritance Tax.

The primary concern/issue behind IHT planning is that they should be able to pass on as much as possible to the desired benefactors without imposing much of liability on them.

Tax Liability

The politics behind IHT are amongst the most controversial around whereas the basic idea was to redistribute the income so that some of the money goes to the state to get further redistributed for the benefit of all. However Government policies and regulations keep on changing and it is difficult for a normal citizen to keep pace with it and this is where DNS accountants have their expertise on. Their guidance/ service covers:

  1. Advice on IHT and family wealth succession.
  2. Calculations and predictions of IHT.
  3. Guidance on Capital Gains Tax Liabilities.
  4. Guidance on transfer of gifts with pre-owned assets.

It is better to have 50 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing – Suze Orman.

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