What is the Inheritance Threshold – Rules and Allowances?

Inheritance Threshold

When someone dies, there is a tax applied to the value of that person’s estate which is known as Inheritance Tax (IHT). The beneficiaries and/or executor of the deceased’s estate are liable to pay the tax if the value is above a tax-free allowance, which is known as the threshold.

In some cases, there will be no inheritance tax to pay but if the value of the deceased’s estate is above the threshold, IHT will be payable. There are measures that can be taken in order to reduce the level of inheritance to be paid on your death if you think that the value of your estate is likely to be above the threshold limit.

To add to the mix, the government announced a series of changes to inheritance tax in 2021 that have become applicable in January 2022. The changes are designed to make reporting IHT returns simpler for estates above and below the threshold limit. So, let’s explain the inheritance tax threshold limit, as well as the rules and allowances around IHT.

Inheritance tax thresholds

There is currently only one threshold and that is £325,000, which is called the nil rate band. So, any estates valued below this threshold limit are levied at nil tax. Any estates above the threshold must pay IHT on the sum over and above £325,000 at 40%. Let’s give you an example:

If your estate is worth £600,000, your IHT is calculated as follows:

£600,000 – £325,000 = £275,000
£275,000 x 40% = £110,000 IHT

So, based on this calculation, the estate’s beneficiaries will receive £325,000 + £165,000 which equals £490,000; this is the remainder following payment of IHT.

However, there are several situations where the threshold is different.

Married and civil partnerships – if you are married or in a civil partnership and leave your entire estate to your spouse or partner, should you die first, there is no tax to pay and in most cases, the nil rate band threshold won’t have been affected either. This means that the living spouse will be able to add the unused balance of their deceased spouse’s/partner’s threshold to their own, essentially doubling their threshold. But if your spouse/partner leaves a part of their estate to other beneficiaries, or made a lifetime gift seven years prior to their death, if the estate is of high enough value there will be IHT to pay and some of the nil rate band threshold may be taken.
Leaving a property – if you are married or in a civil partnership and leave the family home to your living spouse or a direct descendent, i.e. a child or grandchild only, in its entirety, under current rules there is a further £175,000 tax free allowance but only if the value of the property is under £1 million. Anything above this value and the allowance drops significantly. Again, any unused tax allowance balance can be added to the living spouse’s allowances on their death.

Spouses/civil partners and IHT

In most cases, you are able to leave your estate, i.e. your assets, property and any other possessions, to your spouse/partner tax free. In addition, the surviving spouse or partner is able to add any unused tax free allowance to their own tax allowances. So, in reality, you could leave your spouse/partner as much as £650,000, or £1 million if it includes a property, without them having to pay any IHT.

However, if the deceased spouse/partner used most or all of their tax free allowance by leaving a proportion of their estate to a direct descendent, the above does not apply. Also, if the spouse/partner died before 21 March 1972, the double allowance rule does not apply either.

Tax free gifts and trusts

When making gifts to spouses/partners or to charities, there is the potential they are exempt from tax but it does depend on when the gift was made. If it was given at least seven years prior to death to an individual – that means it was not gifted to a business or a trust – there will be no tax to pay on the gift. However, if the person dies before the seven years, there will be a tax levy to pay. How much tax is paid depends on when the person dies during that seven year period. For example, if the person dies within 5 years, only those five years apportioned to the gift are tax free; the remainder of the gift is included in the deceased’s estate. This is known as IHT taper relief on potentially exempt transfers (PETs).

The total amount a living person is allowed to gift a spouse/partner, another individual or a charity or a political party in any one tax year is £3,000, which is known as an annual exemption. This can be carried forward for one year only; i.e. if you didn’t make any gifts in one tax year, you can add the annual exemption allowance from that year to the next year, making a total annual exemption in the second year of £6,000, or £12,000 if making gifts as a couple.

You can also gift tax free to your children, up to the age of 18, for their training or education. In addition, parents are allowed to gift their children £5,000 tax free for their wedding and any gifts for the maintenance of relatives that are infirm or old is also tax free. Any gifts below £250 are also tax free.

It is also possible to put assets into a trust that is left to a beneficiary after your death. Whilst the trust doesn’t exempt the estate from paying IHT, it can go some way to reducing the amount of IHT paid. The reason is that assets held in a trust are managed by appointed trustees on behalf of the beneficiaries – it is worth noting here that the trust legally owns the assets and not the trustees or the person who set up the trust. If you live beyond seven years from the date the trust was established, those assets are not included in the estate upon death and may be tax free. Instead, a 20% IHT tax levy is imposed when you set up the trust and every ten years, the assets are revalued and 6% IHT is paid at the time, minus the nil rate band threshold of £325,000.

Ultimately, before you consider any of the above, you must always get professional advice and it is recommended to use a solicitor or probate firm to help you.

At Probates Online, we are able to offer a professional probate service online, including making gifts and establishing trusts on your behalf.. If you are looking for advice on inheritance tax, gifts or trusts, or need to apply for Grant of Probate, Letters of Administration or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.