Inheritance Tax on Gifts: Considerations for Estate Planning

Inheritance Tax (IHT) extends beyond the assets and belongings of a deceased individual. It encompasses gifts made during their lifetime.

While the majority associate IHT with the assets left upon one’s demise, it’s vital to also comprehend the implications of gifts distributed before death.

Recent statistics highlight a rising trend: an increasing number of families have been proactively distributing assets before their demise to navigate around IHT.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) data, acquired through a Freedom of Information inquiry, indicates a 48 per cent increase in families capitalising on this exemption over the last decade.

Understanding the seven-year rule and taper relief

Gifts from a deceased individual carry a tax implication based on the time elapsed between the gifting and their death.

Here’s a concise breakdown of the rate depending on when the gift is made:

Should an individual die within seven years of gifting, the aforementioned taper relief progressively reduces the IHT due.

Who pays the IHT on gifts?

Generally, the deceased’s estate settles any IHT owed on gifts. Nonetheless, if gifts valued over £325,000 were distributed in the seven years preceding the individual’s death, the recipient might be liable to cover the tax instead.

Gift Categories Subject to IHT

Per governmental guidelines, the subsequent assets attract IHT:

Exemptions from IHT

Gifts exchanged between spouses and civil partners typically remain exempt from IHT. Furthermore, customary gifts such as festive or birthday presents, and contributions to charities, political organisations, and housing groups are excluded from IHT considerations.

Additional Gift Allowances

An annual non-taxable allowance of £3,000 is permissible. Unused portions can be transitioned to the succeeding year, though only once.

There are also allowances for small gifts, up to £250 per recipient annually, without overlapping other allowances.

Wedding gifts have their own categorisation: £5,000 from parents, £2,500 from grandparents, and £1,000 from others.

IHT regulations surrounding gifts can be intricate. If in doubt, our proficient team is available for consultation.

The complexities of Inheritance Tax (IHT) and the rules surrounding gifts have significant implications for drafting a Will and undertaking estate planning. Here’s a look at the primary considerations:

  1. Strategic Gifting: Understanding the seven-year rule allows for strategic gifting. By giving away assets while alive, individuals can potentially reduce the IHT liability on their estate, provided they survive for seven years post-gifting. For those with substantial estates, early and structured gifting can be a vital tool in estate planning.
  2. Documenting Gifts: It’s prudent for individuals to maintain records of gifts they’ve made, including the date, value, and recipient. This will simplify the executor’s task when determining potential IHT liabilities.
  3. Gifts Reservations: If someone gives away a home but continues to live in it (known as a ‘gift with reservation of benefit’), it will still count as part of the estate and therefore be subject to IHT. This factor is vital to consider when gifting property.
  4. Leveraging Allowances: Maximising the annual gift allowances, wedding gift allowances, and understanding which gifts are IHT-exempt can be pivotal. Estate planning can incorporate a regular gifting strategy to use these allowances fully.
  5. Spousal Exemptions: For couples, assets can often be passed to the surviving spouse or civil partner without incurring IHT. This defers the IHT liability until the second partner’s death, which might be a strategic choice in estate planning.
  6. Considering Life Insurance: Some people take out life insurance policies to cover potential IHT liabilities. The payout can offset the tax, ensuring beneficiaries receive more of the estate’s actual assets.
  7. Establishing Trusts: Trusts can be an effective tool in estate planning to manage assets, ensure they go to the intended recipients and potentially mitigate IHT implications. Different types of trusts have their own tax rules and can be leveraged for different purposes.
  8. Review and Update: Given that personal circumstances, asset values, and tax regulations can change, it’s essential to review Wills and estate plans regularly. This ensures they remain aligned with the individual’s wishes and the most current tax strategies.
  9. Professional Advice: Due to the complexities of IHT and estate planning, engaging a solicitor and financial advisor with expertise in these areas can provide tailored advice. This ensures the estate is managed in the most tax-efficient manner while fulfilling the individual’s wishes.
  10. Mitigating Potential Conflicts: Clarity in a Will, especially when assets are distributed before death, can help avoid potential conflicts among beneficiaries. Clear documentation and communication can prevent misunderstandings and legal challenges.

In summary, the nuances of IHT, especially concerning gifts, make it crucial for individuals to approach their Will drafting and estate planning with care.

Professional guidance ensures not only that assets are distributed according to the individual’s wishes but also that the estate is managed in a tax-efficient manner.

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