What is the inheritance tax threshold?

If you’re planning to pass on money or assets to your loved ones when you’re gone, your heirs could be facing an inheritance tax bill bigger than ever before. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, families will pay an extra £900 million in inheritance tax over the next five years.

But what does inheritance tax actually mean?

Who is responsible? And how can you gift money without being taxed? 

Ellis Bates answer some common questions on the inheritance tax threshold, including how your family may be liable without even realizing it.

What is inheritance tax?

Inheritance Tax (IHT) is the tax that your beneficiaries may have to pay if your estate (or everything you own) exceeds a certain threshold. Inheritance tax is usually a one-off payment, due after your death, usually payable on all assets you owned during your lifetime, unless there is the benefit of any relief such as business property or agricultural relief.

How much is the inheritance tax threshold?

The current basic inheritance tax threshold is £325,000 for an individual. If the value of your estate exceeds this amount and does not have the benefit of any tax reliefs, inheritance tax will be payable at 40% on the amount that exceeds the threshold.

The threshold can be transferred to the estate of a surviving spouse, therefore a married couple or civil partner can benefit from a combined basic inheritance tax threshold of £650,000.

Although there were talks of raising the tax threshold to £500,000, the government chose to instead introduce a complex piece of legislation called the Residential Nil Rate Band (RNRB) as of 6 April 2017, available for residences inherited by direct descendants in addition to the existing nil rate band (NRB).

How does my property effect my inheritance tax?

If the value of your estate is above the NRB, then part of your estate that is above this threshold will be liable for tax at the rate of 40%.

This therefore means that larger estates can incur a large bill.

The residential nil rate band (RNRB) currently adds a further £100,000 to the NRB.

This will then increase by £25,000 each year up to 2020/21, when it will reach £175,000.

Each person will therefore have a maximum allowance of £500,000, with surviving spouses potentially having an allowance of £1 million to offset against IHT when their partner’s allowance is transferred to them.

Should you pass a property onto your spouse or civil partner when you die, there will be no inheritance tax to pay. However, leaving a property to another person in your will counts towards the value of your estate.

How do I gift money without being taxed?

Providing any money that is gifted is done so seven years or more before your death, neither parties will incur a charge. You can also make up to £3,000 worth of gifts in any tax year without incurring a IHT charge. This allowance carries through to the next year if you haven’t used the previous year’s allowance.

Who pays the inheritance tax bill?

The most common method of paying inheritance tax is from the estate – or everything you own minus mortgage debt, and funeral expenses. However, if the tax is due on the gifts you made during the last seven years of your life, the people who receive the gifts must pay the amount due.

How does the RNRB differ from the NRB?

The RNRB differs from the NRB in that it doesn’t apply to lifetime transfers, such as transfers into trusts or gifts given by an individual within a period of seven years before they died. This means that whilst the NRB could potentially be consumed through gift-giving in the last seven years of a person’s life, the RNRB would still be fully available.

What does the future look like for inheritance tax?

Although the threshold remains steady, the property market is continuing to rise, meaning that many families will continue to face larger inheritance tax payments. Those in the South of England, where property prices have risen dramatically over the past 20 years, will undoubtedly feel ensnared by the 40% charge.

What can I do to help?

By making sure your will is up to date and tax efficient, you may be able to maximise the amount you are able to pass onto your loved ones after your death.

However, as each person’s circumstances can greatly differ, it’s important to seek professional guidance on all inheritance tax matters, to ensure you are taking all the steps you need to minimalise your inheritance tax bill after you pass.


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