Inheritance Tax to be simplified
Aug 07, 2019
The Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) has undertaken a detailed review of Inheritance Tax (IHT), which is perceived by many to be a highly complicated tax. The government normally takes account of OTS recommendations, and therefore their report is likely to lead to future changes to the rules. We will keep you posted as and when this happens, as the changes may necessitate changing your will or doing further planning to pass on your wealth.
There are also numerous misconceptions about how the tax operates, particularly in connection with gifts during someone’s lifetime. One of the proposed changes is to shorten the period for lifetime gifts to be exempt from 7 to 5 years. The OTS also recommended a single £25,000 personal allowance each year, instead of the current £3,000 annual allowance, marriage allowances and the exemption for regular gifts out of income.
No tax free CGT uplift on death
Although the OTS was tasked with simplifying Inheritance Tax, they also considered the interaction with Capital Gains Tax (CGT) as many asset transfers potentially have both CGT and IHT implications. Currently there is no CGT on assets transferred on death, and the recipient inherits the asset at its market value.
It has been suggested that the CGT uplift on death distorts decision making when it relates to assets that benefit from an exemption from Inheritance Tax. If someone holds such an asset that has risen in value, and is considering transferring it during their life, they are often advised to retain it until death rather than giving it away during lifetime, because of the tax benefits.
Where a business is retained until death, any potential capital gains are wiped out and there is no Inheritance Tax to pay. This could lead to an asset being retained rather than being transferred to the next generation at the time that is right for the business.
We will again monitor the progress of this proposed change as it is likely to have significant implications on family business succession planning.
Inheritance Tax relief for businesses and farms
There is currently a very generous 100% relief from Inheritance Tax for passing on businesses and farm land during lifetime and on death. The rationale for Business Property Relief (BPR) and Agricultural Property Relief (APR) is to enable businesses to be passed on without the need to sell off assets to pay the IHT due on the transfer.
Currently, if a business exists wholly or mainly for the purpose of investment, then it will not be eligible for BPR. This is not always straightforward to determine. Many estates include both trading and non-trading business assets, and establishing whether this test is met can be difficult to establish. The ‘wholly or mainly’ test is generally considered to be a greater than 50% test, and the OTS are suggesting that the test should be aligned with the much stricter 80:20 test that applies for CGT gift of business asset holdover and entrepreneurs’ relief. If introduced many more business transfers would be liable to IHT.
On the positive side the OTS have recommended that IHT business property relief should be extended to include Furnished Holiday Lettings, aligning the tax treatment with that of Income Tax and CGT where they are treated as ‘trading’ (as opposed to merely a ‘business’) – providing that certain conditions are met.
IHT is certainly a complicated area, and if you have any queries about how these proposed changes may affect you then please contact one of the PT team.