Should I pay inheritance tax now?
"I received a lump sum on my mother’s death in
December 2007. I divided the money up between buying a half-share in a two-bedroom flat; reducing the mortgage on my daughter’s
property; and low-risk stocks and shares with Nationwide.
"Together with owning my own home and the settlement from my divorce, my whole estate value is very high. My concern is the taxman, and I would also like to reduce the inheritance tax bill my three
daughters would have on my death.
"I’m thinking of putting a lump sum in a seven-year trust for each of my daughters to reduce the
estate, but this will still leave £379,000, from which the taxman would receive 40%.
"My financial adviser suggests I
declare this amount, receive a bill for the IHT now and pay it off at £3,000 a month from the interest earned on my stocks and shares. That way, on my death, the girls will have no IHT bill to pay. I haven’t heard of this before."
Ask the Professionals: Charles Hutton, a partner at Speechly Bircham specialising in inheritance tax planning, says:
I’m not sure what your financial adviser means by declaring this amount now, receiving a bill for the IHT and paying it off as a monthly sum. It may be that he’s suggesting that you take out a life policy (written in a suitable trust) for a sum sufficient to meet the IHT liability on your death, and that you pay monthly premiums.
Certainly, life insurance may form part of the overall tax-planning strategy, but there are other possibilities too.
If the money you have paid on your daughter’s property is a gift to her, then that falls out of estate once you have survived the gift by seven years, thus reducing your liability.
You have also bought a half-share in a two-bedroom flat. If you don’t need access to the rental income or the proceeds if the property is sold, then you could give this away.
If the flat has gone up in value since you acquired it, then your gift may trigger capital gains tax (CGT). It may be possible to defer the CGT by giving your share of the property to a trust for your adult children.
If we were still within two years of your mother’s death, you could have varied her will to pass assets direct to your daughters without the usual seven–year run off (or arranged matters so that you could still use the money you had inherited, but without it being taxed on your death).
Either approach would have saved £120,000 of IHT with immediate effect if your inheritance was £300,000.
Other possible ideas – although you would need to take investment advice before considering them
further – include a discounted gift plan or a gift-and-loan scheme.
Generally thought of as being interchangeable with life assurance, but isn’t. Life insurance insures you for a specific period of time, at a premium fixed by your age, health and the amount the life is insured for. If you die while the policy is in force, the insurance company pays the claim. However, if you survive to the end of the term or cease paying the premiums, the policy is finished and has no remaining value whatsoever as it only has any value if you have a claim. For this reason, life insurance is much cheaper than life assurance (also called whole of life).
Everything you own: all your assets (property, cars, investments, savings, insurance payouts, artwork, furniture etc) minus any liabilities (debts, current bills, payments still owed on assets like cars and houses, credit card balances and other outstanding loans). When you’re alive this is called your wealth; when you’re dead, it becomes your estate.
Capital gains tax
If you buy an asset – shares, a second home, arts and antiques – and then sell it at a later date and make a profit, that profit could be subject to CGT. You don’t pay CGT on selling your main home (which is why MPs “flipped” theirs so regularly) or any securities sheltered in an ISA. Individuals get an annual CGT allowance (£10,600 in 2010/2011) but if you have substantial assets it’s worth paying an accountant to sort it for you.
The tax levied on the total value of your estate after you die. IHT has to be paid by the beneficiaries of your estate before they can receive any of the money from it. The money can’t be taken from the value of the estate _– it has to be paid before any money can be released. There is an IHT threshold – known as the “nil-rate band” – below which no tax is levied (£325,000 in 2011/12). Any amount above the nil-rate band is subject to tax at 40%. If your estate totals £600,000, there is no tax on the first £325,000; however your estate will pay 40% tax on the remaining £275,000, a total of £110,000. Prudent tax planning can reduce your IHT liability, so always consult a specialist solicitor.