What Are The Latest Inheritance Tax Changes?


Inheritance tax changes can affect reliefs, exemptions and other ways you are able to plan for and manage your inheritance tax liability. This means ensuring your will and any other estate planning are up to date with the latest changes and take account of the latest changes and their impact on how much inheritance tax will be taken from your estate.

Inheritance tax changes for residential property

As the law currently stands we are all entitled to an inheritance tax allowance of £325,000. This is known as the inheritance tax nil-rate band. When we die, anything over and above this amount is liable to inheritance tax, generally at a rate of 40%.

However, the net effect is that you are able to pass on up to £325,000 tax-free.

While the existing nil-rate band has been frozen until 2020-2021, recent inheritance tax changes mean that the amount you are able to pass on tax-free can be increased significantly by way of the residence nil-rate band.

Residence nil-rate band

The residence nil-rate band was an inheritance tax change brought in in April 2017, allowing individuals a tax-free amount on the value of their home. Since the introduction of the residence nil-rate band in 2017 the maximum amounts available are as follows:

• £100,000 (2017-18)
• £125,000 (2018-19)
• £150,000 (2019-20)
• £175,000 (2020-21)

This means that, in the 2020-21 tax year, assuming the qualifying conditions are met, an individual will be able to pass on as much as £500,000 – £325,000 nil rate band plus £175,000 relating to the value of their home – without their estate incurring any inheritance tax liability.

For those with estates with a net value of more than £2million, there is a tapered withdrawal of the residence nil-rate band. Here the amount of available relief will be reduced by £1 for every £2 of value by which the estate exceeds the tapered threshold.

Qualifying for the residence nil-rate band

To qualify for the new residence nil-rate band, your estate must include a qualifying residential interest immediately prior to your death.

You do not need to be living in the property at that time, but you do need to have used the property as a residence at some point during your lifetime.

Further, for the estate to benefit from the new inheritance tax changes, the qualifying property must also be inherited by a direct descendant, namely a child or grandchild, or their spouse or civil partner.

The new residence nil-rate band does not, however, benefit lineal ancestors such as parents or grandparents, nor siblings, nieces or nephews.

Calculating the residence nil-rate band

Inheritance tax is paid on your estate after you die. Your estate comprises any money, property and possessions once funeral expenses, administration costs, debts and liabilities have been paid.

Any inheritance tax liability will be assessed on the basis of the net value of your estate, having taking into account any available exemptions or property relief.

However, the residence nil-rate band is not an exemption or relief on residential property itself, rather it is set off against the entire estate of the deceased.

The amount of the residence nil-rate band due for an estate will be the lower of:

  • the value of the home, or the share that is passed to any direct descendants, or
  • the maximum additional threshold available for the estate when the person died.

The rules on downsizing before you die

As we get older, it is not uncommon for many of us to want to downsize the family home or even sell up. It may be that we can no longer cope with the upkeep of a larger property, or that we are unable to live unassisted and need to fund care fees.

Luckily, there are downsizing provisions included in the latest inheritance tax changes to help ensure that direct descendants will still benefit from some or all of the new residence nil-rate band where you have recently sold or downsized your home.

The rules provide that where a person dies after 5 April 2017 and has disposed of or downsized their residence on or after 8 July 2015, the downsizing provisions may apply.

In broad terms, the rules provide that if both the downsized residence and other assets in the estate are inherited by direct descendants, the estate will still qualify for an additional amount of property relief.

This will be broadly equal to the lower of the amount of the residence nil-rate band and the value of the other assets inherited by the children or grandchildren.

However, the rules can become quite complicated depending on whether you have sold your home and bought a smaller residence, or disposed of your residence without acquiring an alternative property.

Inheritance tax changes for married couples

If you are married or in a civil partnership you are allowed to pass your money, possessions and property to each other entirely tax-free.

Furthermore, the nil-rate band is transferable as between spouses. In other words, where one spouse or civil partner passes away and any part of the nil-rate band remains unused, this can be added to the allowance of the other.

This means, with the nil-rate residence band, married couples and civil partners will be able to pass on up to £1 million tax-free to their children and grandchildren where a qualifying residential interest forms part of their estate.

Unfortunately, these rules do not currently apply to unmarried couples, although a potentially imminent government shake-up of the entire inheritance tax system may lead to further changes.

Inheritance tax changes for lifetime gifts

As it currently stands you can make tax-free gifts during your lifetime to your spouse or civil partner, or to charity, but there are strict rules preventing you from gifting large chunks of your estate to your direct descendants.

The annual gift exemption stands at just £3,000.

In broad terms, any gifts that you make within seven years of your death over and above the annual gift exemption may still be liable for inheritance tax, albeit on a sliding scale.

The amount of taper relief increases with the number of calendar years between the date of the gift and the date of death. This can be as little as 8% where the gift is made between 6-7 years, but as much as 32% where the gift is made between 3-4 years of the date of death.

That said, the rather complex rules relating to PETs are currently under review by the Independent Office of Tax Simplification, so further inheritance changes may again be imminent.

In particular, the annual gift exemption has stood at the same rate of £3,000 for over 30 years. Although it is widely anticipated that this may be increased, any further changes are yet to be announced.

Key takeaway – inheritance tax changes

The rules relating to the latest inheritance tax changes can be complex, not least those relating to optimum use of reliefs and exemptions. With tax planning advice, you can ensure your estate is afforded maximum shelter from inheritance tax liability.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute tax, financial or legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the rules and should not be treated as such.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission.

Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert tax, financial, legal or other advice should be sought.