IHT and domicile

Domicile is a general legal concept which in basic terms is taken to mean the country where you permanently belong but actually determining domicile status can be complex. HMRC guidance states that domicile cannot be defined precisely, but the concept rests on various basic principles.

Although domicile can change, there is generally a presumption in favour of the continuation of an existing domicile. To change a domicile, lots of factors are considered, for example, the location family, property and business interests.

There is also a concept in the UK of deemed domicile, whereby under rules introduced from 6 April 2017, any person who has been resident in the UK for more than 15 of the previous 20 years are deemed to be domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. This makes them liable to Inheritance Tax (IHT) on their worldwide assets.

IHT is generally chargeable to people domiciled (or deemed domiciled) in the UK or with assets sited in the UK. For example, HMRC’s manuals states that if someone creates a settlement with assets outside the UK, when they are not domiciled in the UK, the settlement could be excluded from the charge to IHT. There are also many double tax agreements that can, depending on the circumstances, change a person’s liability to IHT.

IHT change of domicile

It is possible in certain circumstances for an individual to have two domiciles although this is unusual. There is a concept in the UK of deemed domicile, whereby any person who has been resident in the UK for more than 15 of the previous 20 years will be deemed to be domiciled in the UK for tax purposes.

Before 6 April 2017, a person was treated as UK domiciled if they were resident in the UK for 17 of the 20 years of assessment ending with the year in which the relevant time fell. These rules are intended to prevent those with the most significant links to the UK from claiming non-dom status.

There is also a three-year rule that applies to a taxpayer who was domiciled in the UK on or after 10 December 1974 and at any time within the three calendar years before the relevant event (the death or gift). If either rule applies then, in most cases, HMRC will treat the person as domiciled (deemed domicile) within the UK for Inheritance Tax purposes.

The deemed domicile rules, or an election to be treated as domiciled in the UK, do not apply under certain limited circumstances. This includes double tax treaties and means that individuals from France, Italy, India or Pakistan cannot usually become deemed domiciles.

Who pays Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance Tax (IHT) is commonly collected on a person’s estate when they die but can also be payable during a person’s lifetime on certain trusts and gifts. The rate of IHT currently payable is 40% on death and 20% on lifetime gifts.  IHT is payable at a reduced rate on some assets if 10% or more of the 'net value' of their estate is left to charities.

Funds from the estate of the deceased are usually applied to pay IHT. If there is a will, it is usually the executor who deals with paying any IHT due to HMRC. IHT can be paid from funds within the estate, or from money raised from the sale of the assets. The deceased may also have used a life insurance policy to fund the payment of some / all the IHT due.

There is a nil-rate band, currently £325,000 below which no IHT is payable. In addition, there is an IHT residence nil-rate band (RNRB) which relates to a main residence passed down to a direct descendent such as children or grandchildren. The RNRB of £175,000 (where available) is on top of the £325,000 IHT nil-rate band.

The recipient of gifts from the deceased may be personally liable to IHT if the deceased gave away more than £325,000 in the 7 years before their death. These lifetime transfers are known as 'potentially exempt transfers' or 'PETs'. The rate of IHT gradually reduces over the 7-year period becoming exempt from IHT after 7 years have passed.

Some gifts will typically be tax-free from the time they are made such as regular gifts made from excess income, the first £3,000 worth of gifts each tax year and gifts between spouses and civil partners.

Inheritance Tax Business Relief

There are a number of reliefs available that can reduce liability to IHT if you inherit the estate of someone who has died. One of these reliefs is known as Business Relief and is a valuable tax relief for taxpayers with business interests, offering either 50% or 100% relief from IHT on the value of the business assets if certain conditions are met.

  • 100% Business Relief can be claimed on a business or interest in a business or on shares held in an unlisted company.
  • 50% Business Relief can be claimed on:
    – shares controlling more than 50% of the voting rights in a listed company
    – land, buildings or machinery owned by the deceased and used in a business they were a partner in or controlled
    – land, buildings or machinery used in the business and held in a trust that it has the right to benefit from

Relief is only available if the deceased owned the business or asset for at least 2 years before they died. There are a number of restrictions to the relief, for example if the company in question mainly deals with securities, stocks or shares, land or buildings, or in making or holding investments. In some cases, partial Business Relief may be available.

Claiming the relief can be a complicated process. We can of course help review the facts and advise.

IHT – settled and excluded property

A trust is an obligation that binds a trustee, an individual or a company, to deal with the assets such as land, money and shares which form part of the trust. The person who places assets into a trust is known as a settlor and the trust is for the benefit of one or more 'beneficiaries'. The act of transferring an asset – such as money, land or buildings – into a trust is often known as ‘making a settlement’ or ‘settling property’. For Inheritance Tax (IHT) purposes, each asset has its own separate identity. 

Some assets are classed as ‘excluded property’ and IHT is not due. However, the value of the assets may be included when calculating the rate of tax on certain exit charges and 10-year anniversary charges.

Types of excluded property can include:

  • property situated outside the UK – that is owned by trustees and settled by someone who was permanently living outside the UK at the time of making the settlement
  • government securities – known as FOTRA (free of tax to residents abroad)

This can be a complex area and specialist advice is usually required to ensure that a trust operates as effectively as intended.

The 7-year rule

Most gifts made during a person’s lifetime are not subject to Inheritance Tax at the time of the gift. These lifetime transfers are known as 'potentially exempt transfers' or 'PETs'.  These gifts or transfers achieve their potential of becoming exempt if the taxpayer survives for more than 7-years after making the gift. If the taxpayer dies within 3-years of making the gift, then the Inheritance Tax position is as if the gift was made on death. A tapered relief is available if death occurs between 3 and 7 years after the gift is made.

The rules surrounding PETs have resulted in many people wanting to make gifts long before they die. The problem in practice is that they do not want to give up control over the assets concerned.

The effective rates of tax on the excess over the nil rate band are:

  • 0 to 3 years before death            40%
  • 3 to 4 years before death            32%
  • 4 to 5 years before death            24%
  • 5 to 6 years before death            16%
  • 6 to 7 years before death              8%
  • 7 or more years before death        0%

These tapered rates cannot reduce the tax due on a lifetime chargeable transfer below the amount chargeable when the transfer was made and so are of no benefit to a transfer within the nil rate band.

We would strongly recommend that you keep a list of any PETs that you make. It is also important to keep a record of any exemptions that are used as well as details of any regular gifts made from surplus income.

IHT immediately chargeable transfers

There are special rules concerning the liability to IHT on a transfer made during a person's lifetime. Most gifts made during this period are not subject to tax at the time of the gift.

These lifetime transfers are known as 'potentially exempt transfers' or 'PETs'.  The gifts or transfers achieve their potential exempt status if the taxpayer survives for more than seven years after making the gift. If the taxpayer dies within three years of making the gift, then the IHT position is as if the gift was made on death. A tapered relief is available if death occurs between three and seven years after the gift is made.

However, if a transfer does not qualify as a PET, then IHT will become immediately chargeable on the transfer. HMRC’s internal manual lists the following scenarios where transfers may be immediately chargeable:

  • transfer into a relevant property trust, because the gift is not to an individual or a specified trust, and
  • transfer to a company.

There may also be an alternative charge on the property transferred under the gift with reservation rules.

There are four other transfers of value that are specifically prevented from being PETs. These are a

  • transfer by a close company
  • the deemed disposition on the alteration in the capital or share rights of close companies
  • the release of a life interest between 18 March 1986 and 16 March 1987, and
  • the transfer of woodlands subject to an outstanding Estate Duty charge, which only qualifies for partial PET treatment.

OTS recommended changes to IHT

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has written to the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) to confirm that HM Treasury strongly supports some key recommendations on changes to Inheritance Tax.

The government announced on 23 March 2021 that it will:

  • change reporting regulations so that from 1 January 2022 over 90 per cent of non-taxpaying estates each year will no longer have to complete Inheritance Tax forms for deaths when probate or confirmation is required; and 
  • make permanent the ability for those dealing with a trust or estate to provide an Inheritance Tax return without requiring physical signatures from all others involved, easing the administration burden in cases where an Inheritance Tax return is still required. 

These new rules will result in dramatic changes in reporting regulations from 1 January 2022 for more than 200,000 estates every year.

It was also announced that the government will continue to work on the remaining recommendations made by the OTS: for digitisation, improving processes for lifetime and trust charges, guidance, and working with court services. Some of these are longer term in nature and will be taken forward as part of the wider Tax Administration strategy.

Inheritance Tax – tax-free gifts

We wanted to remind our readers of the Inheritance Tax (IHT) implications of making cash gifts during the current tax 2020-21 tax year that ends on 5 April 2021.

You can give away up to £3,000 worth of gifts each tax year. This is known as your annual exemption. Any unused part of the annual exemption can be carried forward, but only for one year. So, if you didn’t make any cash gifts in 2019-20, you could gift up to £6,000 this tax year.

There are also generous exemptions for normal gifts made out of your income, but you must be able to maintain your standard of living after making the gift. There are also reliefs available for wedding or civil ceremony gifts. You can gift up to £1,000 per person with higher limits of £2,500 for a grandchild or great-grandchild, £5,000 for a child.

You can also give as many small gifts of up to £250 per person as you want during the tax year but only if you haven’t used another exemption on the same person.

There is no IHT to pay on lifetime gifts between you and your spouse or civil partner as long as you both live together, permanently in the UK.

Other gifts, outside these limits, count towards the value of your estate and should be carefully considered.

IHT Main Residence Nil Rate Band

The Inheritance Tax residence nil-rate band (RNRB) is a transferable allowance for married couples and civil partners (per person) when their main residence is passed down to a direct descendent such as children or grandchildren after their death. 

The RNRB came into effect on 6 April 2017 and was introduced in stages. The allowance increased to the present maximum level of £175,000 from 6 April 2020. Going forward, the allowance is set to increase in line with the Consumer Price Index. The allowance is available to the deceased person’s children or grandchildren. Any unused portion of the RNRB can be transferred to a surviving spouse or partner. The RNRB is on top of the existing £325,000 Inheritance Tax nil-rate band.

The allowance is available to the deceased person's children or grandchildren. Taken together with the current Inheritance Tax limit of £325,000 this means that married couples and civil partners can pass on property worth up to £1 million free of Inheritance Tax to their direct descendants. 

There is a tapering of the RNRB for estates worth more than £2 million even where the family home is left to direct descendants. The additional threshold will be reduced by £1 for every £2 that the estate is worth more than the £2 million taper threshold. This can result in the full amount of the RNRB being tapered away.